By Matt Liebowitz
When Madison Fulcher-Melendy scored a header goal on the Northampton Hornets, her teammate, fellow third-grader Fiona Bundy, was right there cheering her on.
“I thought it was so cool,” said Fiona.
“That was probably the highlight of my career,” Madison jokingly added.
They have come a long way since then, but Fiona and Madison are still fans of each other, and still playing on the same teams. They’ve had plenty of on-field time to foster that friendship: When they stepped onto the soccer field for this year’s pre-season workouts, it marked the fourth year running playing on Williston’s varsity squad together under the coaching of Jen Fulcher (Madison’s mom).
Fiona and Madison, both 17, are co-captains of the soccer team; both athletes captain the Williston basketball and lacrosse teams as well. With a few exceptions, they’ve played all three sports together on the same team since seventh grade. But their athletic partnership has roots that go back way beyond Williston.
Both seniors attended the Smith College Campus School, in Northampton, and have known each other since age five. Although they weren’t always as close as they are now.
“We started out in different friend groups,” said Madison, “but through sports we started hanging out a little more.”
The friendship clearly stuck.
“I can’t explain how much time we spend together,” said Fiona, who noted they’ve traveled to Paris and Belize together, as well as to sports camps throughout the Northeast and down the Atlantic coast to Florida.
Fiona anchors Williston’s defense as center back, and Madison plays forward and midfield. Fiona will be taking her talents to Bowdoin College next year; Madison will play at Williams College. Despite their prowess on the field, however, they won’t be playing soccer in college; instead, both have chosen to concentrate on lacrosse for their college athletic careers.
Both girls admitted they prefer lacrosse for its more exciting, faster pace, and the multitude of roles each player can take on the field.
“It’s more clearly a possession game,” Fiona said. “You feel you can control that more.”
Madison agreed, and explained the noticeable influence lacrosse has had on her and Fiona’s outstanding academic achievements.
“It’s about work ethic,” Madison said, “being able to commit to something and focus on it wholeheartedly. With tests, I try to think of it as game day. You’ve got to put it all out there for this one thing.”
Fiona said the time she and Mads, as she calls her, spend on the field is also a welcome respite from working diligently all day in class.
“It’s something you just look forward to at the end of the day that isn’t homework,” Fiona said. “I think that’s a really nice way to take the pressure off and release your stress.”
It’s natural to think two highly competitive athletes, who during the recruiting process were often looked at by the same coaches, would occasionally let their skill and adrenaline get the best of them. But both are adamant they never argue, on or off the field.
“I think probably athletics has helped with that,” Madison said. “You can’t fight on the field.” She said her relationship with Fiona is not competitive. “We just make each other better,” she said.
In fact, owing to their competitive natures and physical nature of their playing style, both try to avoid matching up against the other in practice, for any sport.
“I hate guarding her,” Fiona said.
“Whenever we’re supposed to play against one another, I let someone go in front of me,” Madison added.
As if scripted, both then said, “She’s so good.”
Next year, it’s possible Fiona and Madison will finally be forced to square off against each other; both Williams and Bowdoin are members of the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC).
Fiona and Madison both smiled at the thought of seeing one another on the field, finally, for the first time, wearing different jerseys.
“Hopefully we won’t have to guard each other,” Madison said.