Bruins, Kewpies to face off in girls’ soccer

After Anna Alioto's family presented the Memorial Classic trophy to the Bruins, both teams formed one large huddle in tribute to Alioto.
After Anna Alioto's family presented the Memorial Classic trophy to the Bruins, both teams formed one large huddle in tribute to Alioto.

The Lady Bruins huddle around the trophy after defeating the Kewpies in the 2015 Anna Alioto Memorial Classic. They will defend the trophy at 5 p.m. on Wednesday at Rock Bridge Field. 

The Bruins will play not only for the win, but to honor fallen teammate

On Wednesday, May 4, the Lady Bruins will take on the Kewpies in the 4th annual Anna Alioto Memorial soccer game. JV will kick off at Rock Bridge Field at 5 p.m. with varsity to follow. By playing the traditional crosstown matchup, RBHS girls’ soccer will honor and remember a former star of the program.

Anna Alioto graduated from RBHS in 2012 and played varsity as early as her sophomore year. The Anna Alioto Memorial Classic began in 2013, several months after Anna died in an accidental drowning, likely due to epilepsy according to her long-time friend and teammate Ali Reynolds. Anna was 18, a freshman at Northern Michigan University. Reynolds said it was coaches, parents and teammates who approached RBHS with the idea to annually honor Anna. Every year the proceeds of the game go to the Epilepsy Foundation.

People who surrounded Anna remember her as the brown, curly-haired and always smiling athlete who made practice a good time. Marc VanDover, head coach of Lady Bruins soccer during Anna’s reign, describes her as being the kid that you love to coach because of her playful and explosive attitude toward soccer.

“She was all business: [ball]  touch, tough, talented,” VanDover said. “And her playing style? All heart. Nothing less.”

VanDover reminisces on Anna’s occasional lack of discipline and how he knows it was because of the natural personality she had to make people laugh. All in all, Anna just loved being a part of the team.

“I always made [Anna] stand next to me in front of the team anytime I was announcing or directing or discussing anything in practice to keep her focus,” VanDover said. “Otherwise, her joy would explode on some unexpected teammate in the back row.”

Many of Anna’s former teammates agree with VanDover in that the soccer fanatic was driven by the love she had for her team and for the game.

“I remember envying her dedication to playing, practicing, and always improving in a way that not everyone shared to the same extent,” Reynolds said. “She truly ate, slept and played soccer.”  

Reynolds said looking back on Anna’s high spirits on and off the soccer field is what keeps her and others who knew Anna coming back each year for their fallen friend’s memorial.

As in any Bruin-Kewpie meeting, all three of Anna’s memorials have given spectators a good show, ending in scores of 2-1, 2-0, 3-1, all with RBHS on top. The Bruins will be working for their fourth consecutive win for Anna, and former teammates and coaches will come together to commemorate Anna and watch a great match of the game Anna lived for.

“During the game, both teams will play with respect and good sportsmanship in order to honor Anna,” senior captain Molly Klein said. “We put aside our differences and our rivalry to come together to support Anna and her family, and I think that’s what makes it such a special event for both schools.”

Klein participated in the goal-scoring in last year’s victory over Hickman, and this year said she will encourage the team to represent the way Anna played with such passion.

Anna’s memorial will bring together the RBHS soccer community, old and new, as well as attract members of the Columbia community, unifying all steps of Anna’s life. Somewhere in the stands on the night of the game will sit Sarah Cavin, Anna’s ultimate mentor, motivator, and fan. Cavin watched Anna develop from age nine until the player she was when her life and career were so abruptly taken away. In coaching Anna’s Carrera club team from U9-U18, Cavin said she could always count on Anna to be there, and that she was truly born with a gift.

“It was that young spirit that went on and became a leader on her team,” Cavin said. “Her unassuming, gracious manner often deflected the attention to others, not  Anna. It was this humility and grateful attitude that commanded the respect of those around her.”

Cavin will sit alongside Ali Reynolds and several of Anna’s other Carrera teammates, paying tribute to the left-footed rocket they all loved so dearly.

“We always try to come together for the memorial game,” Reynolds said, “which is great because we get to watch Rock Bridge soccer that brought us all to her. It allows us to share all the good memories again in a familiar setting and it’s as if she is with us again.”

Anna’s family also finds home in the Rock Bridge stands, and parents Armine and Tony hand off a trophy to each year’s victor, proudly symbolizing their daughter’s legacy.

“Like her mother,” Cavin said, remembering conversations with Armine. “Anna often proclaimed to her coaches, ‘Thank you for helping us!’ But the truth is, we need to thank Armine and Tony. Thank you for sharing Anna with us. Thank you for bringing this amazing person into the world and allowing us to know her and love her.”

In this year’s Anna Alioto Memorial Classic, the Lady Bruins will look for their second win over the Kewpies this spring season but will play for something bigger, a beloved Bruin whose laugh still whispers in the wind of every RBHS soccer game.

“Anna put her heart into everything: her game, her friends, and her life,” Cavin said. “It is our wish that this same passion that Anna brought to this beautiful game shine through in the young [soccer] players putting their boots on for the first time.”

Anna Alioto, 1994-2012.

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