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Caprice Chiuchiolo representing Gilbert Christian on international stage

Apr. 30—Caprice Chiuchiolo remembers the moment she scored her first international goal like it was yesterday.

She was playing for the Ecuador U17 National Team, hoping to help her father's home country secure a spot in the U17 World Cup for the first time in history. Caprice was moving down the field with her teammates before the ball made its way over to her. Without hesitation, she took the shot and found the back of the net.

The Ecuadorian broadcaster let out a loud, long and resounding "Goal!" Just a few moments later, Caprice scored again, securing the victory for Ecuador, and cementing her name forever in the country's legacy.

"After I scored that first one, it was crazy," Caprice said. "I was like, 'You just scored internationally, on live television, with so many people watching you.' I was just so happy because I've been working toward this for the longest time."

Caprice's journey to becoming an international soccer star and Grand Canyon University commit started at a young age. She tried several different sports, but soccer was the one that always stuck.

She recalls always finding the game fun. Her parents, Tony and Alecia, recall her always having a smile on her face while on the pitch.

The natural love for the game drove her to always become the best. She worked tirelessly after school to perfect her craft. She wasn't forced into workouts by her parents. She loved the grind.

Neither Tony nor Alecia can claim Caprice's determination as their own. They said she's a different breed who was born with the desire to be great.

"She always had a really great work ethic and always wanted more," Alecia said. "She always wanted to improve and was hard on herself, but not in a bad way. Whether it's skill, juggling, little things like that. She has that drive."

Caprice's greatness truly began to shine when she entered high school at Gilbert Christian. She made the varsity roster as a freshman, playing in high-level club soccer outside of the high school season. This past year, as a junior, she scored 33 goals and helped lead the Knights to an undefeated record and 3A state title.

She enjoyed sharing the moment with her friends and coaches, especially as it came during a heartbreaking time for all of those involved.

Just days before the state final, Alec Langen, an Arizona native, passed away alongside four other marines in a helicopter crash in San Diego. Just a month prior, Langen married former Gilbert Christian assistant soccer coach Casey Langen. He was the brother-in-law to senior Daniella Orellana and son-in-law to Head Coach Hector Orellana. Despite the heartbreak, the two never missed games with the Knights.

Instead, the team rallied around them.

"We just kept praying for them and playing for them," Caprice said. "We wanted to win for ourselves, but we wanted to win for something bigger. It was for Alec, our coach, Daniella, all of them. It showed us there was more to it than just winning for our team or our seniors. We were winning for something bigger."

Months prior to the state final, Caprice was surprised by her parents at a Gilbert Christian practice.

At first, she was confused. Her parents carried balloons with them in the colors of the U.S. Flag. Finally, Caprice put two and two together.

All day she had been waiting for an email to let her know if she had made the U.S. Olympic Developmental Team. It came as soon as she put her phone down to begin practice.

"I was like, 'Whose birthday is it, who did I forget?' Caprice said. "Then I realized because I had been waiting for the email all day. I was like, 'Oh my gosh.' It was a great moment, one that I will never forget."

News quickly spread about Caprice's invitation. Other teams in the conference quickly made note of Gilbert Christian having "a girl on the U.S. Developmental Team." It struck some fear in the eyes of opponents, knowing Caprice had the skillset to score at will. But the entire Gilbert Christian soccer team had that ability, too. That's what made them dangerous.

They went on to win the title with ease. A few months later, Caprice helped Ecuador beat Uruguay. Now, she's back on the club grind preparing for a season in which she hopes to compete for more titles, this time on a national stage.

Caprice doesn't get much down time. She typically wakes up around 5:30 a.m., goes to school, practice then back home for homework before doing it all again the next day.

It's a tiring schedule, but one she wouldn't change for anything. She strives to have even more opportunities than she already has in soccer. She hopes to have it take her as far as she can in life. Right now, she's waiting on a call to see if she made the final cuts for the Ecuador National Team. She's confident she will.

Both of her parents believe she has no ceiling. As long as she stays determined, she has the ability to create her own path. For that, they are proud.

"She can go as far as she wants to go with it," Tony said. "She's worked extremely hard, and I know she will continue to work extremely hard. She's accomplished so much already as it is. Maybe after she graduates college, she'll play professionally or whatever her heart desires. We're very proud."

Have an interesting story? Contact Zach Alvira at (480)898-5630 or zalvira@timespublications.com. Follow him on Twitter @ZachAlvira.