A team is often called a "side" in soccer, and for now Estancia High senior Jackie Freiberger and Costa Mesa High senior Sami Feinstein are definitely on opposite sides.
That's just temporary. The past, present and future of the careers of Freiberger and Feinstein are intertwined like the stitching on a soccer ball.
When they were about 8 years old, Freiberger and Feinstein both played soccer on an AYSO Region 120 team called "Blue Crush."
They were just starting out in the sport. It was a team on which the young players look like a swarm of bees as they chase the ball around the field.
"It was one of those teams where they just scramble a bunch of girls together and you play," Freiberger said.
A decade later, there's more at stake. Freiberger anchors the midfielder and forward spots for the Eagles (10-3-2, 4-0 in league), and Feinstein does the same for the Mustangs (4-8-5, 2-2). They meet in the first of two Battle for the Bell games today at 4:45 p.m. at Jim Scott Stadium.
Yet, their story doesn't end there. Both players have committed to continue their soccer careers at Cal State Dominguez Hills.
They're planning to sign Feb. 1 to make it official. Next year they won't be Mustangs or Eagles, but Toros for the Division II school.
"It's funny that we'll finally play together [again] after like 10 years," Freiberger said. "Both of us going there, instead of having to go by yourself, it made it easier. Driving, we can carpool, and [have better] living conditions. It'll help out a lot."
Estancia Coach Jessica Gatica said Freiberger and Feinstein will be roommates at the school. It'll be a lot of soccer talent in one room in Carson, not too far from where the Los Angeles Galaxy play.
Feinstein leads the Mustangs with nine goals and four assists, and Freiberger has team-highs of eight goals and eight assists for the Eagles. They both play club soccer for Under-19 Premier teams, Feinstein for Wolfpack and Freiberger for Orange Soccer Club.
Freiberger (5-foot-6) and Feinstein (5-5), both team captains and four-year varsity players, have game bigger than their heights.
"Jackie is taller and faster, and Sami is more of like a bulldog-type of player," Gatica said. "[Feinstein] is going to run over you regardless. But they're both fearless. Both are great to have. If I had both girls on my team, it would have been a huge blessing, but I just have Jackie and I'm plenty happy with that at the same time."
Gatica has a fondness for Cal State Dominguez Hills as well, understandable since it's her alma mater. She still goes to Toros games and keeps in contact with Coach Joe Flanagan, who coached her when she played women's soccer there from 2003-05.
Gatica, who grew up in Costa Mesa herself and went to Mater Dei, said she knew Freiberger wanted to play college soccer. Plus, she used to coach Feinstein at Newport Mesa Soccer Club. An e-mail from Flanagan telling Gatica about a soccer camp put things in motion, and Gatica's former coach was understandably interested in the new recruits from Costa Mesa.
Good thing Feinstein and Freiberger are on good terms.
"There's not that many girls from Estancia who I'd want to go [play soccer with]," Feinstein said. "Especially with the rivalry, you don't really get along with everyone from the other school, but [Jackie and I] have never really had any confrontation or anything. I was comfortable; I knew we'd get along."
Feinstein gets along just fine. Mesa Coach Dan Johnston said she's a big leader both on and off the field for the Mustangs. She's also a rarity in this day and age, a three-sport athlete, also competing in volleyball and softball.
"My favorite sport was always soccer," Feinstein said. " I just always have so much energy. I'm not good with sitting still."
Freiberger played two years of tennis at Estancia, but said it became too hard on her knees. Now, she just makes it hard on opponents trying to stop her.
"She's a huge part of this team," Gatica said. "She's like a big thumping heart out there. You can just tell how much it means to her."
It's clear they both love their time on the pitch. That journey will continue next year, just 30 miles up the 405 Freeway.
"I'm just happy that I was able to help them in any sort of way," Gatica said. "Really, I just had to give them the opportunity to go somewhere, and they were able to sell themselves. But I am super-excited that it's my alma mater. That's definitely cool."