Former Viera soccer stars enjoy playing at Eastern Florida State College


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Former Viera High soccer standouts JJ Bryant, left, and Emily Bodi have been key defenders for the Eastern Florida State College Titans, who were in contention for a national championship last month.

Carl Kotala

They made a name for themselves on the soccer field at Viera High School.

Now, they’re doing it again at Eastern Florida State College.

Former Hawks JJ Bryant and Emily Bodi might have come into one of the country’s best junior college soccer programs in different ways, but they’re both very happy they did.

“I’ve loved it,” Bodi said. “Coming out of high school, I wasn’t sure what I was going to do, but this has been the best decision I could have made in my circumstances.

“Playing with girls I know, meeting girls from all over the world, it’s been an awesome experience.”

Whereas Bodi has been at EFSC for two years, Bryant’s college career started at the University of North Florida. She came home after her freshman year because of a family matter and contacted Titans coach Jeff Carr to see if any roster spots were available.

“I’m very thankful,” Bryant said. “I think God has a plan and this is part of it. Being here, I’ve met a lot of great people from our team and other teams and the support staff and coaches. I’m very thankful for everything they’ve taught me on and off the field.”

Bodi and Bryant were part of Viera’s 2016 team that won its second consecutive Class 4A state championship and were ranked No. 1 in the nation by Top Drawer Soccer.

Now, they are playing on the EFSC back line and part of a starting lineup that features a number of local standouts.

That list includes sophomore Alexis Peri (Satellite High), sophomore Megan Miller (Melbourne), freshman and Viera resident Fran Espinoza (Edgewood) and freshman Amiah Sirino (Melbourne).

The Titans went through the regular-season with a 14-0-0 record and were the No. 2 seed in the NJCAA Division I Women’s Soccer National Championship tournament, which was held at Orlando Health Stadium on the EFSC campus last month.

“I think it’s just such a unique experience, to be hosting it right here in our backyard,” Bodi said of the national tournament. “A lot of our friends and family that watched us play in high school, here they are (again), and here we are representing Brevard (County). It’s just awesome.”

That’s especially true for Bryant, who said her parents never got a chance to see her play college soccer at UNF. This season, both the Bryant and Bodi families have gotten a chance to not only see the girls play, but play well.

“We are thrilled that we have JJ and Emily on our team from one of the best high school girls soccer programs in the state,” Carr said. “They are winners and are great leaders on our team. They are one of the reasons we have done so well this year.”

Both women said they were keeping their options open for where they will go next.

The NJCAA tournament was still going on at press time. The Titans had advanced out of pool play and were about to face Tyler, Texas in the national semifinals. If the Titans win a national championship, it would give Bryant and Bodi one more huge accomplishment in their careers.

“State championships and national rings, too,” Bryant said. “Hopefully, we can get another one this year here.”

Should the Titans go on to win the national title, it wouldn’t be the first championship Bodi has celebrated on that field.

“My freshman year, I got pulled up to varsity and we played on this field to win the state championship,” she said. “It would be pretty cool, almost full circle to come back (and win a national title).”