“And that’s a Red Fox goal for Samantha Caldarelli, the first of her career,” the public address announcer’s voice boomed over Tenney Stadium on a pleasant August evening.
The Marist women’s soccer team was now level at 2-2 against St. Bonaventure in their season opener, but Amanda Caldarelli, currently recovering from a concussion, had another reason to cheer– she was finally able to watch her twin sister play the game they both love.
Having dealt with COVID-19-related cancellations during her first season and recovering from pneumonia and other health issues during her sophomore season, Samantha had never made an appearance for the team.
“It was a long time coming,” Samantha said. The break from competing led to a decline in her performance. Determined to come back stronger than ever, Samantha dedicated time before, during, and after the season to honing her skills, with Amanda serving as a primary motivator to be back on the field together again.
During coaches’ meetings last spring, head coach Brittany Kolmel asked Samantha how she would feel becoming a left back for the team. Having previously played in more attacking positions, Samantha said she knew this was going to be a difficult transition to make, but learning to adapt would be worth it for the minutes she could get as a result.
“Adjusting to the demands of the new position is a lot harder physically and mentally,” she said.
In the first two games of the season, Samantha began to explore how to balance her naturally attacking-minded style of play with her defensive responsibilities in order to maintain energy. Going on the attack too often, she found, made her tired. Through experience, she quickly learned what did and did not work.
Amanda, on the other hand, had seen plenty of game time since coming to Marist. During her collegiate debut, which happened to be Marist’s only game of the COVID-19-impacted 2021 spring season, Amanda scored off a corner kick.
As Marist returned to more regular play the following season, Amanda quickly became a crucial member of the team, starting in 13 of the 14 games she appeared in and recorded four goals. For her contributions to the team on and off the field, Amanda was named co-captain, and to the All-MAAC Preseason team.
Three weeks after the St. Bonaventure game, Amanda found herself celebrating for another reason: for the first time since they won a Massachusetts State Championship in high school, the two sisters were finally able to step onto the field together. Happiest of all, however, was their mother happily recording the announced lineup from home.
“Now that we are back on the field together, there is so much potential and so much to look forward to,” Amanda said. “I think that the school and even the team might not know yet just what it is like to have the Caldarelli sisters on the field together again.”
Growing up, Amanda and Samantha’s parents put them into several sports. While they enjoyed trying a bit of everything, their true passion came from soccer as it became a place of refuge and enjoyment.
“The love over the years was just something that was so consistent in your life. Regardless of what was going on outside of soccer, you always had a place to go to relieve stress and just not think for a few hours,” Amanda said.
This fondness only grew with time and was driven by the chemistry they had together on the field.
“The twin telepathy is kind of real,” Amanda said. “I just know where she is going to be or where she wants the ball. It’s special having that bond with Sammy, we would do anything for each other on and off the field.”
By high school, both Amanda and Samantha knew that they wanted to play together at the collegiate level. Having grown up in Stoneham, Massachusetts, just ten minutes from Boston, they had never heard of Marist but decided to visit anyway after being contacted by the coach and were instantly attracted to the program, the campus, and the school.
“We didn’t really know anything about Marist, but right when we got on campus it was a whole new world,” Amanda said. “Marist had everything we wanted.”
After visiting for a second time and learning about what Marist offered as an academic institution, an important part to Amanda and Samantha, they knew Marist was where they wanted to spend the next chapter of their career.
As for the program itself, Amanda and Samantha said they were allured by the family dynamic of the team, knowing they could add their own connection to it, while still forming relationships and bonds with other players.
“Each incoming class is just another group of sisters, and the way that everyone loves each other I cannot imagine happens like this elsewhere; it is family,” Amanda said.
Despite the new connections made with their teammates, the bond they have with one another is evident both on and off the field. Against Iona on Oct. 1, Samantha set up the ball for Amanda who proceeded to strike the ball into the net, extending Marist’s lead in a game it would ultimately win.
Soccer was essential in strengthening their sister relationship.
“As kids, we would yell at each other on the field. Now, maturity wise it has gotten to a point where we expect so much from each other and are going to push each other to do our best,” Samantha said.
Samantha knows this season is her chance and hopes to make the most of it.
“I was not taking the opportunity for granted,” she said. “There are a lot of people who would kill for that opportunity, and I killed for it. Every second I am on the field, I am taking it fully in, one game at a time because it is playing soccer again, what I love to do.”
Since first stepping out on the field that August evening, Samantha has played all 10 games for the Red Foxes, making several crucial passes and blocks, while also scoring two goals and assisting another.
Looking forward to the rest of conference play, Samantha believes there is more to be done.
“I still have to adapt attacking-wise because that’s where our coach wants us to play and that’s where we’ve seen the most success,” she said. “Having been a forward and having an attacking background I know where my forwards are and how to connect with them. Working more with that, I think could really benefit the team.”
Amanda was named as one of the captains for the 2022-2023 season. When approaching this new role she wanted to keep many of the characteristics she had always had as a player and many of the ones from her relationship with her sister.
“Title or not, I was still going to act the way I acted and treat the girls the way they needed the way they needed me to, whether it was to push them in practice or to be someone that they can go to,” she said. “Being a captain is just a title or label but I’m still the same sister to Sammy.”
As with any responsibility, there were some challenges that Amanda had to adapt to, including differing her role as a captain from her role as a friend. “With any new goal you’re bound to make a mistake,” she said. “It has to be a learning process. Whatever you do has to be for the benefit of the team. You have to set the social standards aside and put the team first.”
As a personal goal, Amanda, who earned a slot on the preseason all-MAAC team, wants to become a more consistent player, but also hopes to extend this to the team as a whole.
“One of the most successful teams is when you can all be consistent every game and understand how each of the people on the field play,” she said.
The Caldarelli twins have gone through a global pandemic, injury and illness troubles, and multiple seasons without playing alongside each other. But now, here they are, united on the field again and finding success.
“I think it’s about time people see the Caldarellis hit the field again,” Amanda said.
Edited by Jonathan Kinane and Ricardo Martinez
Photo from Kira Crutcher