To those who knew Ally Sidloski, there was so much more to see than just the girl who wore No. 3 on the soccer field.
On May 22, 2021, shockwaves were sent throughout the college soccer and Northeast Ohio community when Sidloski, a midfielder for Cincinnati women’s soccer, tragically passed away. A healthy individual in every sense, her death was hard to make sense of.
For Hope Lewandowski, Brooke Weston and Loren Sefcik of Maryland women’s soccer, the pain hit directly. With all three players hailing from Ohio, they developed bonds with Sidloski throughout their youths.
Despite Lewandowski being older than Sidloski was, she still had developed a great relationship with her family.
Lewandowski, a graduate student, played club soccer in high school for Ambassadors FC with Sidloski’s older sister Katie. Ally went on to play for the same club in 2017 and 2018, while Lewandowski was already at Maryland. Still, Lewandowski and Ally trained together during the summer and winter breaks, maintaining a relationship on and off the field.
“She was someone who was so pretty and so nice that you wanted to hate her, she just was so easily hateable, but she really was just the most incredible person,” Lewandowski said. “Every time you saw her she was just so bubbly and had so much energy and you never saw her down ever.”
Sidloski truly brought happiness to everyone that knew her, and Lewandowski noted how she always wants to carry a piece of her energy and joy as she lives her day-to-day life.
Weston, currently a junior midfielder for the Terps, is on the other side of the spectrum as Lewandowski, being younger than Sidloski was.
Growing up in Northeast Ohio, both Weston and Sidloski played for Cleveland Football Club, known as CFC for short, during their middle school and early high school years. They were both coached by the same coach, often overlapping during practices.
“A very good technical player,” Weston said of Sidloski’s game. “She was so creative and it almost looked like she was floating on the ball when she had it.”
Even though the two were not very close personally, there were still memorable moments in their relationship that showed the special type of person that Sidloski was.
Weston had a setback in her soccer career when she underwent knee surgery, just like Sidloski had, too. While they could have gone their separate ways, Sidloski went out of her way to provide wisdom to her.
“She reached out to me when I had my knee surgery,” Weston said. “Just telling me to stick with it and keep pushing and know you’ll be stronger at the end of [it], once I get my recovery done and everything. So, she was super selfless and just was so caring about everyone else even if she didn’t even know anybody.”
What is one thing everyone should know about Sidloski?
“How she lived life as a people’s person,” Weston said.
Playing with heavy hearts, Maryland women’s soccer has made sure Sidloski’s legacy gets carried on in a positive way.
The Terps honored Sidloski prior to their Sept. 2 home match against George Washington. A moment of silence was held by both teams at Ludwig Field in honor of Sidloski. Before kickoff, the whole Maryland team posed with a sign that read “WE PLAY FOR 3” in front of its bench. It was an extremely powerful moment in light of more positive things to come that evening.
In the 25th minute of the match, with the Terps trailing 1-0, Lewandowski had an opportunity just outside the 6-yard box to even the score. As she fired the ball towards the bottom left post, it looked like goalkeeper Tamaki Machi initially made the save. However, the ball trickled past the goal line, tying the game and giving the Terps the boost they needed en route to a 3-1 victory.
“I think over the last couple of months since Ally’s been gone, she’s shown so many ways and how she’s still on this earth blessing over us,” Lewandowski said postgame Thursday. “And I think to score on this night just kind of shows that like, she’s still with me, she’s still with all the girls on this team...that one was for her truly and I’m just blessed to be able to play this game and think of her and represent her every single time I’m on the field.”
It only seemed right that Lewandowski would score a crucial goal on a night dedicated to such a meaningful person in her life. For the Terps, scoring exactly three goals on the special night may not have been a coincidence either.
To head coach Ray Leone, there was no doubt that the game was more important than just an ordinary one.
“That was a really important moment for our team, particularly the three kids from Ohio,” Leone said. “Brooke, Lo[ren] and Lew[andowski], it was very emotional for them...they grew up with that young lady, and they really, they put their heart in that game, I think really believed for her.”
Tracie Sidloski, the mother of Ally, has allowed the life of her daughter to be carried on through the #WePlayFor3 Ally Sidloski Memorial Fund. The GoFundMe has helped “her legacy live on by creating scholarships in her name.”
Created on May 24, 2021, just two days after the tragedy, the fundraiser has crushed its goal of $5,000. As of 4:00 p.m. on Sept. 8, the total is at $110,472 and growing with over 1,500 donors.
As a Maryland team, the players were unable to promote her fundraiser, but the team planned to present a donation from Maryland soccer as a whole to support the Sidloski family.
With the fund continuing to grow, Tracie and David Sidloski appeared on The Today Show to spread awareness of carbon monoxide poisoning due to boats, as what happened to a healthy person like Ally could happen to anyone.
As Maryland continues its season, other programs around the country are following suit in honoring Sidloski, including Indiana State and Cleveland State, the team that her sister Katie plays for.
“Ally was just too perfect for this Earth,” Lewandowski reflected. “She was here to spread God’s love in the time being, and that was all that her plan was.”