Fourth-year defender Amanda Catalano specializes in taking advantage of opportunities.
One of the constants for women's soccer in 2006 and 2007 was the sight of Catalano placing the ball on the opponents' corner arc, looking toward her teammates inside the penalty area, and raising her hand after picking out her spot. A few steps later, she'd send the ball curving into the box, usually resulting in another scoring chance for the Maroons.
Catalano's offensive upside was a pleasant discovery, though not an unusual skill; it was always a part of her game. Still, with a seasoned set of defenders already cemented in the Maroons' defense ahead of her, she spent most of her first two seasons as a Maroon watching and learning from the upperclassmen.
"She certainly had the skills and skill set," head coach Amy Reifert said. "It was just a matter of that class graduating and her stepping up to be the best defensive player that she was able to be."
Once Catalano made the team, however, she made the most of her chances. She attributes the success of her transition to the regular starting lineup to the example set by the stalwart back five of Andrea Przybysz, Elise Aiken, Diana Connett, Ellen Fitzgerald, and Kay Saul (all A.B. '05), who formed one of the most dominant defensive units in Maroons history.
"I got to learn the system from really experienced players who knew exactly what they were doing," Catalano says. "It was obviously frustrating at times to be sitting on the bench, but I learned so much just by watching them, and I knew my turn would come eventually."
In her third season, Catalano flourished, not only as a leader in the defense, but in her ability to change the course of a game with just one swing of her right leg. Along with four assists, Catalano notched an unorthodox hat trick against NYU, scoring directly from two corner kicks and a free kick, all in the first half of Reifert's 200th win.
Those three goals, her only tallies of the season, were certainly unexpected, even to those who witnessed the game firsthand, but Catalano's memorable performance in that game was indicative of her overall impact on the team.
Catalano's senior season was one of ups and downs. The Maroons hit a rough patch in the middle of the season after a strong start but were able to find their stride in time to finish strong in the UAA and make headway into the NCAA postseason tournament. Posting two goals and six assists in 2007, Catalano again contributed heavily to the Maroons' late-season resurgence.
"She was a huge part of the heart and soul of our team.... She put the team on her back at times this year," Reifert said.
Catalano's dead ball delivery embodies skill and accuracy, and years of practice and repetition are evident in her almost effortless consistency. But for every pass in soccer, there has to be a recipient, and Catalano takes pride in the team ethos, such a strong mark of the women's soccer program.
"It's easy to hit a good corner or free kick when you have players like [second-year midfielder] Claire Gill and [third-year defender] Anne Scherer on the field because they will connect with anything," Catalano said.
Similarly, Catalano's best memories are a mix of on-field success—the Final Four run in 2005 stands out—and off-pitch camaraderie.
"The soccer players are my best friends here and, as cliché as it may sound, I'm pretty sure we'd all consider ourselves friends first and then teammates," Catalano said. "I'll miss the long bus rides with no bathroom breaks...or someone getting locked in the bathroom as much as I'll miss playing Wash U and Wheaton."
These friendships will draw Catalano back to Stagg Field next year to cheer on current and future Maroons in her year off before attending law school at Boston University the following autumn.
The year off will be an opportunity to rest, but Catalano said that her break from action won't be long.
"I definitely want soccer to be a part of my life for as long as I can play."