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Arizona soccer’s Marley Chappel and Brooke Ahern renew old ties as Wildcats

Arizona soccer’s Marley Chappel (22) against Oregon on Oct. 30, 2022
Photo by Mike Christy / Arizona Athletics

Sometimes things all work out in the end. For Marley Chappel and Brooke Ahern, that’s certainly true.

The two high school teammates took a detour on their way to college. Chappel landed in Tucson in 2021. Ahern was meant to join her a year later, but the coaching change in the summer of 2022 made her rethink her commitment and she went to Utah. That’s all over and the two are together once again.

“In high school, we were always on the field together and it was kind of like a duo type thing,” Chappel said. “And when she committed to Arizona for the first time, I was obviously super excited. And then I was bummed when she didn’t come. But I’m glad she finally made it where she’s supposed to be.”

Chappel transferred from her hometown in Colorado to be a part of the soccer program at Lawrence Academy, a private school in Massachusetts, after her junior year in high school. She reclassified and spent two years in Groton. It was where she and Ahern made their initial bonds.

Those bonds were especially important for Chappel, who went across the country to spend those two years at Lawrence. Both the boarding students like Chappel and the day students like Ahern had their lives revolve around the school.

“[Boarders] were really close with the day students,” Chappel said. “They would come to our dorms to do homework. It’s a very community-based type of program, especially being a boarding school. You spend a lot of time with the people that are on your team or just your friends, and she was there from early morning to late at night. Usually, high school kids get out of school as soon as they can.”

Those bonds were still strong when Ahern decided to enter the transfer portal following her freshman season at Utah. First, the initial contact had to be made by Arizona head coach Becca Moros. Moros was glad to get a second chance to recruit Ahern.

“Both of them were recruited by Tony [Amato] and the previous coaching staff,” Moros said. “And then we took the job, we saw Brooke early and tried to get her to recommit to the University of Arizona, but I guess it took us a year of her kind of trying something else to be like, maybe that was the right place for me.”

The contact was immediate, but it wasn’t a hard sell by Moros.

“I am very thankful for my time at Utah,” Ahern said. “It taught me a lot of different things. And it taught me some things that I liked and some things that maybe weren’t really catered to me. And ultimately, at the end of the day, I think those little things kind of clumped up and made me kind of open up and see that maybe a different school was a better option for me personally. Nothing against Utah, just for me and my well-being. I mean, when I entered the portal, I immediately got a call from Becca. And she said to me, ‘I know you’re transferring. I’m just calling to say hi.’”

Chappel made a stronger pitch to her friend and former teammate. The coach’s call was “followed by an essay from me” via text, Chappel joked.

The excitement at the prospect of having her friend back as a teammate is very in keeping with Chappel’s personality. The family-like aspects of team sports had been important to her for a while. They were the reason she chose soccer to begin with.

The daughter of U.S. Ski Team member Amy Livran, who won the silver medal in slalom at the U.S. Championships in 1985, used to take part in her mother’s passion. Chappel was an alpine skier when she was young.

“I was kind of born into it,” Chappel said. “And I live in a small ski town, so everybody skis where I’m from. Soccer is really just not a thing. It’s like it’s cross-training for most people. So, when I was growing up playing there would just be a bunch of athletic skiers playing soccer pickup, and it was like hitting, tackling, things that were very not part of soccer, but I kind of grew racing, and I was very passionate about it. And I really loved following in my mom’s footsteps. But when it came down to becoming serious about one of them, I did think I was just more in love with the team aspect of soccer...being in a family and being with a big group of girls. I think that was the main part that had me drawn the most to soccer, and so I ended up pursuing soccer and driving two-and-a-half hours for practice three times a week.”

The pair got their first chance to play together in a college game that counted last week at Iowa State. It didn’t go as planned with the Wildcats falling 2-1 to the Cyclones. Now, it’s time to get ready for the home opener against Grand Canyon and a trip to Flagstaff to face NAU.

“No team wants to lose the first game,” Ahern said. “That’s always going to be disappointing, and I think...if you were there you could feel the energy after the game. We’re all pretty bummed. But I think it was eye-opening. I think afterward, we all got at it at practice. I mean, we had a few team talks, with the coaches and without the coaches, to try to figure out what we needed to do to excel not only in these next upcoming games but within the whole season.”