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Wednesday, January 7, 2009
Updated: January 12, 3:42 PM ET
Soccer's a family affair for DiMartino

By Natalia de Cuba Romero
Special To

MASSAPEQUA PARK, N.Y. -- When it comes to homework, you can run, but you can't hide. Not even when you are an elite athlete participating in a World Cup on the complete other side of the globe.

Vicki DiMartino
Boston College-bound Vicki DiMartino scored in five straight matches for the U.S. during the U-17 World Cup.
Thanks to the Internet, homework pursued 17-year-old Vicki DiMartino and her fellow players on the U-17 United States national team during their recent month-long run to a second-place finish at the U-17 World Cup in New Zealand.

"I always have work on the road," said DiMartino, who was the first U.S. female player at any level ever to score in five consecutive women's World Cup matches, taking the Silver Boot for scoring a total of six in the tournament. "The teachers are cool with it and they always e-mail me stuff."

DiMartino, from Massapequa Park, N.Y., started playing soccer when she was four. You could say she has a genetic predisposition for the sport; she is the third of four sisters who play high-level soccer.

Her sister Christina, 22, is a senior midfielder at UCLA, and Gina, 20, is a junior and starting in the midfield at Boston College. Both have represented the United States on junior national teams and Christina even has one international cap for the senior women's side. Gina most recently played for the U.S's championship-winning team at the U-20 Women's World Cup in Chile.

Rosie, 13, looks to follow her sisters' lead: She will be a freshman at Massapequa High School in September and is as determined as her older sisters -- and already several inches taller. Oldest brother Danny, 24, didn't play soccer, but his high school sports were basketball and lacrosse. He was a point guard at SUNY Cortland (N.Y.) and today is a firefighter, like his dad.

With that kind of sports background, DiMartino was hardwired to be a fierce competitor.

"My sisters always used to play," she said. "I used to see them play and follow what they did. When the other kids were wandering around the field picking flowers, I was the one on the ball. I've always been really competitive."

All the DiMartino kids share that drive; their parents had to be highly disciplined to give everyone a fair share of the attention.

"At the weekends our parents had to rotate going to our games so everyone got their turn," DiMartino said. "We wouldn't get upset about it; no one else has so many siblings playing the same sport, so we were fine with it."

Vicky DiMartino
Vicki DiMartino shows off her Silver Boot for prolific scoring during U-17 World Cup play.
DiMartino, who has been a forward from her first days on the pitch, played for the Massapequa Soccer Club until she was 12, then followed sister, Gina, to Albertson, where she continues to play her club ball. She started competing at the state level in the U-12 division and continued until the end of U-17 competition.

In her first year at Massapequa High School, she jumped straight to varsity as a ninth-grader to join her sister Gina, then a senior. She also got picked up to play for the U-15 national side for several friendlies.

"There were no tryouts -- although the process might change," she said about the U-15 selection process. "You start out with state competitions and then if you're good enough you get picked for regional. You get looked at again in regional competitions and they pool 40 girls and have them play. They make a team and then the top 10 girls from the region go."

The selection meant DiMartino had to travel on her own for the first time.

"It was at the Home Depot Center in California, so that's when I started flying by myself. I was in ninth grade," she said. "I used to get a little upset because I was by myself, but by 10th grade I just put on my IPod and slept."

DiMartino offers an inside view of being a student-athlete competing at the highest levels.

"We have study hall two hours each day and we have tutors," she said. "Usually a couple of the girls are really good at one subject and we help each other. They rent out a meal room for us and then it becomes our study hall. It's really big. Some people sit at the table and others sit on the floor. Everyone's got their iPod in. It's usually pretty quiet; if you talk, everyone's like 'Shhhh.'"

While it can be a challenge to keep up, she said she likes school away from school.

"I think it's much easier because the teachers are straightforward -- they tell you what you have to read and do and you'll know it when you get back," she said. "Also, I get to do it in two hours instead of just a 40-minute class."

For DiMartino, dedication to both school and soccer has paid off. Not only did she take the Silver Boot for scoring five goals in six matches, she's also an honor student who bagged a scholarship to Boston College to join her sister Gina on the B.C. team. She's currently a finalist for U.S. Soccer's Young Female Athlete of the Year award.

"She's probably the best striker in her age group in the country today," said Paul Riley, director of the Albertson Fury, club team in Albertson, N.Y., for all of the four sisters. "She's ruthless in front of the goal, she's got a great left foot, good around the penalty box and she makes a lot happen."

Her dream? To play on the senior women's side in a World Cup, alongside at least one of her sisters. And if she had her ultimate wish, it would be all four of them together: the DiMartino girls against the world. It just could happen. Keep your eyes on that ball.

Natalia de Cuba Romero is a freelance writer in New York.