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Penn Hills soccer family gets their kicks

| Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Submitted photo
Carnegie Mellon senior Michael Ferraco, 22, is the oldest of three soccer-playing siblings from Penn Hills.
Submitted photo
Nicole Ferraco, 20, plays soccer at LaRoche College.
Submitted photo
Nate Ferraco, a junior at Penn Hills High School, is the youngest member of the Ferraco family.

Greg Ferraco and his wife, Kolleen, were willing to literally outrun Hurricane Sandy to watch their children play soccer.

“We flew to New York City to watch our oldest son Michael play on Oct. 27, (2012),” said Ferraco, owner of Ferraco Landscaping & Concrete.

After spending Friday in New York, the Ferracos boarded a megabus for Boston, only to find out when they arrived that Hurricane Sandy was headed their way.

“We watched Mike play with Carnegie Mellon against Brandeis in horrible wind and rain … we then very unexpectedly found out that Hurricane Sandy was about to hit and all flights, including ours, were cancelled!” Ferraco said.

Michael's team managed to sneak out of town on one of the last permitted flights. The Ferracos made the tough decision to take a rental car and drive the 10 hours back to Pittsburgh, with the storm nipping at their heels.

For the Ferracos, however, it was just one more busy weekend living in a family with three kids who have been playing soccer since they were 4 years old.

Michael, 22; Nicole, 20; and Nate Ferraco, 16, are all soccer players, starting out in the Penn Hills Soccer Association and moving up to their current places with Carnegie Mellon, LaRoche College and Penn Hills High School soccer, respectively.

Greg Ferraco said the family's schedule always has been hectic, and having kids playing all over the state and region has just added a little more mileage. Greg is a former head of the Penn Hills Soccer Association, and Kolleen coordinates meals for the high-school boys' soccer team's away games.

“By the end of October, my wife and I will have attended more than 60 games,” Greg Ferraco said.

The week of this interview, the Ferracos would be headed to Harrisburg, Geneva (Ohio), Central Catholic High School, LaRoche and Allegheny colleges.

Generally, the Ferraco parents try to attend games together, but “it depends how it works out. This week, we went to every game. But sometimes we split up,” Ferraco said. “Nate doesn't get to go (to his siblings') games too often because junior year is a tough one in high school. He's at home with schoolwork a lot.”

Michael Ferraco, a junior at Carnegie Mellon University, said growing up with a houseful of soccer players had him living life at a feverish pace.

“My sister is a year behind me, so for most of our high-school careers, we were playing for the boys and girls teams in Penn Hills,” Michael said. “While we were doing that, my brother was playing for St. John the Baptist (in Plum), where we all attended grade school. We also all played club soccer for three different club teams … a lot of times it was each of us on two or three teams in one season.”

Nicole Ferraco said finding time to be together as a family could be tricky.

“It's kind of just craziness, always running around,” she said.

“Dinner was pretty much always on the go. My mom and dad were always split apart (attending games). We were all going different directions and sometimes in different states.”

Nate agreed.

“It was very hectic. ... It was hard to get everywhere we needed to be,” he said.

Throughout their packed schedule, however, the Ferraco children said it was helpful to have siblings with the same athletic interest.

“I looked up to my older brother as a role model,” Nicole said. “But then on the other hand, my little brother kind of looked up to me, so I sort of played both sides.”

“I think it was awesome,” Michael said. “It was easy to relate to what everyone was doing, easy to talk about it, and we were all interested in what the others were doing. We all learned from each other.”

Maybe a little too well.

“My younger brother is on the same track as me, and he's better than me in everything he's doing,” Michael said.

“He's been able to learn from Nicole and me, and it's been really cool to bond through soccer and athletics.”

Nate said being the youngest has helped him.

“Having older siblings gave me someone to practice with when they weren't busy,” he said.

Greg Ferraco agreed with Michael and Nicole.

“Having siblings in the same sport has helped a lot,” he said. “And I think sports has made them very well-rounded. It teaches you how to budget your time. If you don't, you end up behind in other stuff like schoolwork.”

That is clearly not a problem with the Ferraco kids: Michael and Nicole are both on the dean's list at their schools, and Nate is maintaining a 4.0 grade-point average.

Their success makes all the travel worth it, Greg Ferraco said.

And it is a lot of travel.

“The week we attended six games, I'd bet we drove about 750 miles,” he said, adding he's not sure what he and his wife will do with themselves when it's over.

“We've watched so much soccer,” he said with a laugh.

Patrick Varine is an editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7845 or

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