ASTON — Maddie Cristinziano and Alexa Evans knew they could kick for the Sun Valley football team.
It was at first, however, an intimidating experience.
"Before ... I used to wonder what they thought of me being on the team,' Evans said. "Now it's like ... whatever.'
They still get a few funny looks, and there have been instances of players from other teams refusing to shake their hands after a game. But all that matters to them is they are embraced at Sun Valley for doing something different... and having fun.
They're girls soccer players who happen to kick extra points. What's the big deal? It's not a problem for coach Jim Grugan and his staff, so long as they are good at their job. And that's precisely what Cristinziano and Evans set out to accomplish each and every week.
They practice on the football field alone while the rest of the team is off on the side field running drills. For the most part, they get to do their own thing. The farthest they can kick is from about the 20-yard line, so they'll try some long-distance shots.
During a game, they come on to the field only after the Vanguards have scored. Kickoffs are handled by someone else.
"Coaches say it's too dangerous,' Cristinziano said. "But I'm like, ' Put me out there. Come on!''
Cristinziano and Evans are the only female varsity kickers in Delaware County, a distinction they proudly boast ... upon learning Thursday they were the only female varsity kickers in Delaware County.
They had never played on a youth team. Strapping on the shoulder pads and helmets were all new experiences when they started working in the springtime to make this dream of theirs come true.
"We didn't even have a coach at first,' Cristinziano said. "Instead, we would just come out on our own and we didn't know what to expect. I would say to (the male players), ' Hey, I'm coming out to take your job' and things like that. Make them feel a little threatened.'
They made their debut Week 1 at Lower Merion, and since then, Cristinziano and Evans have traded off extra-point duties.
Making that first kick was pure bliss. Evans called it "amazing' and Cristinziano said her first time booting a PAT was a "big relief.'
"Every time I get on the field, I'm already shaking,' Evans said..
"I can feel (the pressure), every time they're close to scoring a touchdown,' Cristiniziano said. "I know I have to be ready.'
They are showing they belong on the Vanguards (2-3), who host Ches-Mont League foe Octorara tonight at 7 o'clock.
"They're two nice kids and they deserve it,' Grugan said. "They're doing a good job for us.'
As expected, the majority gender was somewhat apprehensive about this idea of having two girls on the team. But as the world continues to strive for gender equality the chances of more female athletes making the cut on a varsity football team in the future are more and more likely.
It took a little while, but eventually they blended in, like two of the guys.
"Now, when I see them in the hallway, I always joke and mess around with them,' Cristinziano said. "It's fun.'
They arrived for their photo shoot and interview from soccer practice. That is an ongoing challenge, "trying to balance everything,' Evans said. Last Friday, for instance, the Vanguards soccer team played a day game at Pottsgrove. Cristinziano and Evans barely made it to Kennett in time for the start of the football game.
"That's been the only real conflict so far,' Evans said.
Why are they doing this? It's not some sort of senior prank their friends dared them to do. And they're not doing it to beef up the old resume for college applications. No, Cristinziano and Evans are doing this because they can. They're playing football — a sport dominated by males — because they're good at it.
"The AD (Joel Alutius) thinks we're awesome,' Cristinziano said.
At what point did they feel a part of the team?
"There was one practice in the spring, the last practice, and the first thing we ever did with the team,' Evans recalled. "We were down here (on the varsity field) by ourselves and the entire team came down. They had to set up the line ... and we were really nervous. We never actually practiced with the snap or anything like that. The job was for us to make two in a row, and we both made two in a row for the first time ever. Everyone was excited, because we got to go home.'
"That was a good feeling.' Cristinziano added.
This week, the PIAA was reviewing its rule permitting student-athletes to play on opposite-gender sports team.
Cristinziano and Evans don't see what the fuss is about, and would be vehemently against any changes of the rule.
"Ever since I was a little. I wanted to try out for the football team,' Evans said.
And anybody who ever said they couldn't was talking crazy.