MADISON — The 2019 soccer season has wrapped up for high schools across the state of West Virginia. Scott High’s Diana Birchfield and Berta Pintado, however, are two players with exciting possibilities ahead of them.
Both have been valuable parts of the Lady Hawks team, and their journeys to where they are today are unique and worth taking notice.
Diana Birchfield, a four-year senior, captained the Scott squad from her midfield role and made that role her own. With Birchfield in the lineup, Scott benefited from having a dedicated field general to lead them.
For the senior, soccer is a game she has loved for a long time, and doing what she has done over her high school career has been a positive experience. “I love playing the game. I love being with the girls. It’s good to know I’ve impacted them and the team,” she says.
Off the field, she follows the college teams in West Virginia, namely the University of Charleston, Glenville and West Virginia State. Watching these collegiate teams has helped her in discovering which direction she wishes to go after graduation. Glenville and State have contacted Birchfield in hopes of adding her to their programs, a possibility she is considering alongside studying physical therapy or occupational therapy.
Birchfield says that friendship is a major thing she has gained over her years of playing soccer. Chemistry in and out of the game is important to any group.
“Without a group of girls that get along and communicate on the field, you have nothing. Leadership is something I’ve learned,” said Birchfield. “[You learn to] step up, tell your teammates what to do if they’re out of place, be there for them. Encouraging is another thing I’ve learned… make sure you’re always there for everyone that has their head held down, because not everything goes as planned as you’d like it to be.”
Her message for her team is that she will be there to support them every step of the way. She hopes to be an inspiration for her friends even after her high school days are over.
She has her own inspirations to thank for getting her where she is, namely her parents, Cindy and David Birchfield and her former coach, Rodney Miller.
Among the juniors on the roster is a player who has traveled a long way to wear the black and gold. Berta Pintado is an exchange student who has had the chance to play the sport she loves in a new place. Pintado hails from Madrid, Spain, one of the most passionate cities in the world when it comes to the game of soccer — or fútbol, as it is called in Spanish.
Pintado’s love of the game began at a young age, when she was just 7 years old, after her brother Manuel inspired her to start playing. She started out on a team with boys, but switched to a girls’ team at the age of 10 and has never stopped playing.
Pintado’s favorite team is her local Real Madrid, “the best team in the world” to her. Los Blancos, the team’s nickname, have been part of the game for 117 years and have won a massive number of trophies: 64 domestic cups including 33 La Liga titles, and 26 international cups.
They have won the esteemed European Cup/UEFA Champions League title 13 times, more than any other club. All this is to say that Real Madrid is a legendary force, and Pintado has been able to support them close to home. Her favorite player is Real Madrid’s captain, Sergio Ramos, a defender who also captains the Spanish national team.
“He plays on defense, and I play on midfield, but I still love him. He’s the best soccer player for me,” Pintado says. Other sports she enjoys include surfing, skiing, tennis, and another racket game called padel, which is very popular in Spain.
She applied for the exchange program to study in West Virginia, but was thrilled to have the chance to play soccer when she arrived. Over the year, she has made friends with the team and become a favorite player to watch. “I have a very good relationship with all the girls, and I’m very happy.”
She admits she was a little nervous to see what the people here were like, but she was glad to find out how friendly people were. Most of the friends she has made have been the players on the girls and boys teams at Scott.
She has also enjoyed learning from the teachers here, and her favorite classes are algebra and English.
Pintado has gone from a place where soccer is king to a country where the game is still growing, and getting to be part of the game’s growth in Boone County has been a positive experience for her.
“Seeing how the people come to see you, and cheer you, that’s so nice,” says Pintado. Girls’ soccer has only recently begun getting wider recognition in Spain, so seeing how popular the girls’ game is in the United States has been exciting. “They treat us the same. Lots of people come to see our games and cheer: friends, family. It’s so good.”
The way her teammates and coaches communicate and support one another is one of her favorite things about the team. Berta plans to return for her senior year and put together a ski club in the meantime.
Pintado’s inspirations are Sergio Ramos, who she wants to be just like, her brother Manuel, and her parents Javier Pintado and Berta Garcia-Reboredo.
To the Lady Hawks, her message is a grateful one: “Thank you very much for meeting me without any type of shame, coming and talking to me without knowing anything about me. Thank you very much for treating me really good. It’s like the best team I’ve ever had, because they treat us really good, we communicate, and play as a team. Thank you very much for giving me the opportunity to meet you all.”
Coach Del Kimbler has called the experience of working with Diana and Berta phenomenal. Diana’s hard work and Berta’s ability to fit right in with the team have made for a memorable year. He understands the great difference coming to play in West Virginia must have been for Berta, but is pleased that she has fallen in love with the state. Both girls’ positivity and skill have been a win-win for the team. Parents and students supported the girls well over the 2019 season. For Diana, he knows the team will miss having her on the field every game.
“She will go somewhere. She is going to succeed at whatever she does,” says Coach Kimbler. “This whole team is nothing but thinkers… all these girls have honors classes, dual credits classes, every single girl.”
His message to Diana and Berta is this: “Stay positive, stay focused in life. It’ll get you somewhere.”