Photo courtesy of Makenzi Bellando Senior striker Makenzi Bellando dribbles the ball at Dave Wolk stadium.
Mentally and physically exhausted.
She’s trying to make a name for herself.
The weight of the world on her shoulders.
And just like that, from 33 yards out, then sophomore Makenzi Bellando drilled a seventy-second minute game-winner in the North Atlantic Conference semi-final game, earning the right to play in the championship game. The Spartans would eventually defeat the Husson Eagles 1-0 in double-overtime to cap off an incredible breakout and championship 2017-2018 season by Bellando.
Despite a 26-point season, Bellando wasn’t appreciated by the NAC for her athletic accomplishments on the season, a frustrating matter of fact to overcome.
“Not that recognition is everything, but I felt like I obviously worked my tail off that year, and I didn’t really get rewarded by the league, and I took that personal,” Bellando said.
But Bellando wouldn’t let this define her.
She was determined to seek revenge in a new conference, as both men and women’s soccer teams transferred from the NAC to the Little East Conference. In her junior season, the striker from Carver, Massachusetts led the Spartans in goals (10) and points (21). She earned First-Team All-Conference honors as a result of her impressive statement-season.
“It was nice to be recognized in a new conference,” Bellando said. “No matter how my team did, people saw me as a threat on my team.”
Currently in her senior year at Castleton, Bellando is looking to cap off her final season playing collegiate soccer with a LEC championship. Her expectations are to progress from a losing record from last year.
“Be better than last year,” Bellando said without a doubt. “Now that we have a year under our belt and we know what teams are like … I think we should know what to expect. We just take it game by game.”
When she’s not scoring goals at Dave Wolk Stadium or admiring Dierks Bentley’s music playing in the background, you can see often Bellando sipping on a juice box before a game, eating some mac n’ cheese and pizza from Third Place after a game, and laughing with her teammates and coaches about the time she ruined her brand new travel jacket when she tried to make a peanut butter and fluff sandwich on a moving bus!
“It’s the most asinine thing I’ve ever seen in my life,” exclaimed Castleton women’s soccer head coach Chris Chapdelaine. “She had more fluff on her jacket than she did on her sandwich!”
When it comes to their relationship, Bellando and “Chappy” have a unique, family-like bond.
“Him and I are so close,” said Bellando with a smile on her face. “He definitely is a father-figure here … He knows how to talk to me as a player.”
For someone who didn’t have much of a passion for soccer until middle school, Bellando envisions herself as a soccer coach in the future, ultimately giving back to the sport that has provided much joy to her.
“No matter the age where I start, I’d love to impact young kids the way coaches did to me,” said the sports management major.
It’s not just young kids she’s impacting though.
It’s her teammates.
One in particular stands out.
Senior Erin Tully from St. Albans, Vermont and Bellando are an inseparable duo. You can find them together roaming around campus or singing their hearts out at a Post Malone concert.
“She just always cares and makes sure you’re okay,” Tully said. “She notices the little things and that’s what makes her the best … I gained a forever friend and I can’t wait until she’s a bridesmaid in my wedding!”
At the end of the day, number nine for the Spartans is playing for her strong, supportive, and most importantly, loving family.
“My family has always had my back in the decisions I’ve always made, whether it’s sports- or not-sports related,” Bellando said. “My motivation is definitely my family, specifically my grandfather … he definitely pushes me. I know that what I do out there on the field and how I get recognized makes him proud.”
Photo courtesy of Makenzi Bellando Bellando poses with her family after a game.