Boise goalkeeper back on the field after tumor removal

Boise goalkeeper back on the field after tumor removal
Celeste Santangelo noticed the small bump in her stomach about a year ago, but didn't think much of it. This May, doctors removed a three-pound tumor - sidelining the Boise Nationals goalkeeper just as her team was headed to the playoffs.

The tumor - benign - was about the size of a loaf of bread, doctors told Santangelo. They also gave her a new perspective on listening to her body.

"I'm just grateful for every day now," the Eagle High student said. "if I had landed on it one more time in practice, it could have ruptured and I could have bled to death."

Santangelo, and the U-15 Boise Nationals Italia playing in front of her, had only allowed two goals during the six-game regular season. The team was rolling into the Idaho State Cup when the tumor was discovered.

"Everybody just kind of adjusted, and that's what great teams do," coach Mark Prince said. He moved Alex Ward from defense to goalkeeper in Santangelo's absence.

"I hadn't played keeper in a while," said Ward of her season debut in net at the state cup tournament. "It was a very scary moment."

Scary, but effective. The Nationals knocked off two-time defending champion Coeur D'Alene and advanced to the FarWest Regional Tournament in Hawai'i.

Santangelo returned to the field six weeks after her May 1 operation - in time for two practices and the plane flight.

Ward started a couple games and Prince worked Santangelo back into action at a pace she could manage.

"it was an emotional rush for her and we just kind of 'eeked' her back in," the coach said.

WIth a win in the regional semi-final, the U-15 Boise Nationals became the first Idaho team of any age to qualify for the U.S. Youth National Championships. The team prides itself on being a family and was ecstatic to have their sister back in the fold.

"It's really amazing how close we've all gotten in the three years we've been a team; we're like a family," Ward said. "We were all relieved to have her there."

The National tournament begins July 22 in Overland Park, Kansas. The Boise Nationals are still looking for financial support to off-set the $30,000 travel costs. Click for team information.
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