USF softball players Sam Greiner and Allie Patierno (29-8, 3-0) knew of each other in high school in New Jersey, where they’ll return to play Rutgers (12-9, 1-2) this weekend.
They played against each other as members of Montville and Sparta High School respectively, but it wasn’t until they descended on the USF campus as freshmen on the Bulls’ softball team that they formed a friendship right off the bat as roommates.
“Now we’re best friends,” Patierno said.
On a team with mostly Florida natives, it was easy for them to identify with one another.
“I was happy to be rooming with a familiar face, someone I had something in common with, if nothing else,” Greiner said.
They both wound up over 1,000 miles from home, but it was Patierno who definitively wanted to move away from the chilly Atlantic coast.
“When I was younger I wanted to come down south because I don’t like the weather in New Jersey,” Patierno said.
Schools in the New Jersey area recruited both players.
Greiner said Rutgers was one of her offers, but the weather didn’t factor into her decision to come to USF.
“I never really had a preference,” Greiner said. “It’s not that I didn’t want to stay in New Jersey, I didn’t want to go away either. But as I got older I realized I wanted to experience something different because I was there my whole life.”
For USF coach Ken Eriksen, who has five players from New Jersey and eastern Pennsylvania, a player from the northeast might have more potential for improvement.
“The kids up there don’t play year round, so they have rest and recovery,” Eriksen said. “When they come down here you get maybe a higher ceiling and they’re always eager to play in the south.”
Because of the several families players have in the northeast, the Bulls may feel right at home on their first road trip of the season.
“You get some really great Italian food when you go up there. The seafood coming off the Atlantic coast is pretty darn good,” Eriksen said. “It’s nice to go up there in the summer and get away from the heat.”
While Eriksen goes on recruiting trips in the northeast from time to time, both players are expecting at least eight family and friends at the three-game series Saturday and Sunday.
When they go home during the summer, the benefit of being best friends really comes to fruition.
“It’s easy to travel,” Patierno said. “We take an Auto Train to D.C. and then drive the rest of the way.”
They’ve only been able to go home a couple other times a year, aside from the summer train trips, and say they’ve acclimated to Florida, but they still hear about New Jersey stereotypes all the time.
“We get our accents, we get strong personalities,” Patierno said. “We get, ‘Did you just go to spray tan?’”
“Bad drivers is another one,” Greiner said.
“Oh yeah, we’re definitely more aggressive drivers. We get that a lot,” Patierno said. “They tell me I’m aggressive and I tailgate everyone and change lanes a lot. People in Florida drive casually, with no rush. Up north, everyone has somewhere to be.”
And there’s one other stereotype that’s definitely not true, they agreed.
“The whole fist pumping thing is not true,” Patierno said. “I get that all the time. I walk and everyone’s (pumping their fist saying) ‘Yeah!’”
“Jersey Shore is not real,” Greiner said.
The popular MTV show may have created a false perception toward people from New Jersey, but one thing has changed about Patierno and Greiner.
“We’re not going to be used to the weather after three years,” Patierno said.
It’s expected to be 55 degrees or less and raining Saturday and Sunday, with lows in the 30s.12