First, her older sister blazed the trail. Then Morgan Melnek followed in her footsteps - and then some.
The younger sister of soccer Lady Vees defender Ashley Melnek, Morgan was recently named to the Ontario U14 Provincial Girls Soccer team, the highlight, to this point, of a relatively young career in the sport.
A grade eight student at St Anne School in Hanmer, Melnek first started playing recreationally in Valley East, making the jump to the competitive ranks by the time that she was nine years old.
"When I was younger, I really didn't know what I wanted to do, but my sister kind of inspired me," she said. "I started watching her games and then asked if I could play more seriously."
Blessed with outstanding speed - she is also a multi-ribbon winner at the SCDSB track meets in the spring - Melnek could be utilized in a variety of positions, a feature that truly proved helpful when it came to cracking the Team Ontario roster.
"Originally, I just played anywhere, but I liked striker," she said. "I was playing outside right mid last summer with Woodbridge, but I'm playing center mid with the provincial team."
"As an outside mid, I would have plenty of runs down the side, looking to make crosses," Melnek added. "As a center mid, you have to move to both sides, crossing with both feet."
Also quite comfortable representing her school in sports ranging from basketball and badminton to track and soccer, Melnek really amped up her devotion to the latter when she entered the regional ID program in Sudbury as an underage player.
"A lot of coaches that I had, they all helped me out in some way, even starting in houseleague," Melnek suggested. "But Brian (Ashton) helped me the most, taught be to be more aggressive, helped me get into the provincial program."
"About a year ago, Brian told me I have to work more on my defending, so I've worked hard on that." Melnek was one of just over fifty young ladies invited to take part in the provincial team tryouts last fall, a process that would see her parents (Lance and Carla) responsible for making the trek to Toronto each and every weekend.
Despite having expanded her exposure to elite level soccer by hooking up with the Woodbridge Strikers last summer, there were still some hurdles to overcome once the tryouts began.
"That first weekend, I can say that I wasn't very good," Melnek noted. "Everybody was nervous, everybody didn't play to the best of their potential. Gradually, the coaches talked more to us and I made more friends."
Just before Christmas, Melnek was informed that she had made the cut, selected as one of thirty or so players who would join the Ontario crew for regular practice sessions throughout the winter in preparation for an excursion to Spain in March.
"I've been to a few places out of the country, Washington and Pennsylvania, but I've never flown before and we're going over an ocean" said Melnek, more than a little excited about the adventure that awaits her.
Along with the support from Ashton, the youngest of two children in the family points to the experience of playing Level 3 CGSL (Central Girls Soccer League) opponents throughout last summer as a member of the Strikers as helping her odds in making Team Ontario.
"I missed my friends, and my family, of course," conceded Melnek. "But it made me think faster. My decision-making became quicker, because it's a faster pace. And I learned a few more moves from my teammates."