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Petroni and Fligg fitting in at South Carolina
Megan Fligg, a Chestatee High graduate, works the ball upfield for the South Carolina women's soccer team this season. - photo by For The Times

Growing up playing soccer in the metro area of Atlanta, Megan Fligg and Maria Petroni rarely crossed paths.

They both played for Atlanta Fire United, but with Petroni being a year older, an occasional meeting in a scrimmage was the only encounter the two ever had.

That’s not the case anymore.

Petroni, a Buford High graduate, and Fligg, a 2009 Chestatee graduate, are now teammates at the University of South Carolina, and after spending the majority of their lives just knowing of each other, the two have used their local ties to become great friends.

“She’s one of my closest friends at South Carolina,” said the sophomore Petroni. “It’s cool that we’re both from the same little area.”

That common ground was especially beneficial for the freshman Fligg.

“The biggest adjustment was being away from home,” Fligg said. “I’m kind of a homey person.”

When times got tough she turned to Petroni, who was just a year removed from that experience.

“With her being a freshman, we talk a lot because she’s going through the same things I went through,” Petroni said. “We’re with our team 24-7 and they’re my sisters.”

That group of sisters had what Petroni called a “great year,” finishing with a 19-4-2 record and reaching the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament.

“It was the best year we ever had,” Petroni said.

And she and Fligg were right in the center of it all.

Despite not starting a game, Petroni played in 22 games (445 minutes) and scored a goal and had two assists, while Fligg started once game and played in 16 others.

“Honestly, I didn’t think I would play,” said Fligg, who scored a goal in 464 minutes of playing time as a freshman. “Even when I was asked to travel I thought it was weird.”

Petroni didn’t, and wasn’t surprised that both players contributed to their team’s success.

“Megan did awesome as a freshman,” she said. “We both worked really hard all year to get a chance to play.”

As the two players helped South Carolina to the NCAA Tournament, women’s soccer was brought to the forefront of the media when New Mexico’s Elizabeth Lambert took the Internet by storm with video of her extremely physical play against BYU.

In the video, Lambert is seen pulling an opponent down by her hair, elbowing someone in the back, and according to Fligg, ruining the image of women’s soccer.

“That’s not how soccer is at all,” Fligg said. “You don’t get away with that at all. We were all confused with how she could get away with that.”

Petroni agreed.

“I thought it was ridiculous,” she said. “At this level you see dirty stuff, but nothing like that.”

So, what if the two were Lambert’s teammates?

“I’d probably be like, ‘you need to chill out,’” Fligg said.

“I would have told her to get off the field,” Petroni added.

But what if they were on the field as Lambert’s opponents?

“I don’t know if I can answer that,” Petroni said. “I’d like to say there wouldn’t be any retaliation.”

“I wouldn’t do anything,” Fligg admitted. “I’d try and be the better person.”

Luckily the two never were faced with that situation, but that doesn’t mean their bodies didn’t take a physical toll this year and this rest during the holiday break isn’t needed.

“I’m still going to be practicing, but it’s going to be good to be home and relax,” Fligg said. “I feel like I am just laying around on the couch all day, but it never gets old.”

The feeling is mutual at the Petroni house.

“This is the first time I’ve been home since July,” Petroni said. “It’s awesome to spend time with my brothers.”

One of her brothers, David, is a kicker on Buford’s football team, which won its third straight Class AA title this year. Petroni was proud of her little brother’s role on the Wolves, but although strong legs run in her family, she has no desire to step onto the gridiron.

“I can probably kick a field goal, but that’s not in the plans anytime soon,” she said.

What is in the plans is becoming the Gamecocks’ starting outside midfielder. And if Fligg’s plans of winning the starting outside fullback position come to fruition, the two girls who come from the same area would have one more thing in common.

“It would be awesome,” Petroni said of starting alongside Fligg. “I know she would have my back.”

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