By REBECCA ISENHART
NISKAYUNA — Sophia Constantine hates to lose.
She always has. The fiercely competitive 17-year-old started playing soccer in a recreational league when she was about 4 years old. Her older sister and younger brother, now 20 and 14, played too.
“Growing up we all played sports,” she said. “There was a point there where we were all pretty equal.”
Competing with her siblings, as well as older cousins, planted the seeds for a competitive streak that has grown to make Constantine a sought-after athlete.
“I feel like I’m kind of tougher for it,” she said.
Constantine, now a senior at Niskayuna High School, has been a varsity starter since she was a freshman. She started playing high school soccer when she was in the seventh grade. Now, she usually plays center back, but sometimes switches things up as a defensive center midfielder.
The team has won five of its six games so far this season, its only loss a 1-0 defeat to Guilderland. Niskayuna’s opponents scored their only point off a corner kick early in the game, Constantine said.
Has she mentioned she hates to lose?
Her intense soccer career will continue into college. Constantine gave a verbal commitment to play at The College of Saint Rose when she was just a sophomore. She was recruited for her impressive performance on her school tea, as well as a number of club teams and selective state and regional teams.
St. Rose has a well-regarded Division II soccer team, and Constantine is excited to get started. She said she has already met a couple of her future teammates through soccer camps and a regional team she was selected for.
They’ve promised her she’ll love it — but also that it will test her limits. In the preseason, she can expect triples (that’s three daily practices) as many as four days a week. “You kind of have to come in fit,” Constantine said.
The connections she’s made, and lessons she’s learned, throughout her soccer career thus far have prepared Constantine well for her next big challenge: college.
In addition to having the advice of the teammates she’s already met, her experience traveling with club teams has given her confidence in her own independence. She is adept at getting along with a variety of personalities, doing her own laundry and showing up on time for meetings and practices — many of the small but important skills that often trip up college freshmen.
Her preparedness will free up mental space for her studies.
She plans to focus on marketing and public relations as a major, after taking a marketing class at Niskayuna that sparked her interest.
In the meantime, she’ll be training, as always, both mentally and physically.
“I think Niskayuna will do a good job preparing me,” she said of her senior year class schedule. “They’re really not babying us.”
Also, grateful for the guidance she’s already getting from her soccer team as she heads toward her next big challenge, she’s paying it forward. In her free time, Constantine is a member of the Natural Helpers club, where Niskayuna High School students pair individually with newcomers from other countries, states or schools.
“When they get there, they’re just so lost,” she said.
If they follow Constantine’s example, they’ll be exceeding expectations in no time at all.