Opponents on the soccer field, teen cancer survivors reflect on their friendship

(Provided photo)

On the soccer field, they’re opponents. Off the field, they’re rooting for each other.

Two high school soccer players are fighting a very similar battle.

During Friday’s sectionals game between Webster Thomas and Churchville Chili, Churchville goalie Alex Voglewede made a big save. It was an amazing feeling, because over a year ago, he was sidelined after being diagnosed with leukemia.

“I was scared, because at the time, I didn’t know what leukemia was,” he told 13WHAM.

He endured three months of chemotherapy and lost his hair. Then, a miracle happened last December – nearly 4,000 miles away.

“Luckily enough, they found a bone marrow match from a 31-year-old male in Germany that was willing to donate,” he said.

“Basically, your life, sometimes, hangs in the balance of a little DNA search,” he added.

But he’s not the only one on the field with a similar journey. Nine months ago, his friend, soccer forward Luke Piazza of Webster Thomas, battled testicular cancer.

“I was shocked when I first heard, but I was always positive and knew I’d get through it,” said Piazza.

He had surgery and went through three rounds of chemotherapy, missing 22 days of school.

“The only thing I remember was just lying in bed, always hungry,” he recounted. “But I couldn’t eat too much, because I didn’t want to throw up.”

Piazza wears custom-made cleats from his teammates. His name is on the bottom, as is the date of his first returning game.

“My sister actually came up with the slogan,” said Piazza. “It says, ‘Kick cancer in the nuts.’”

Both cancer survivors were honored at the beginning of the season.

“It was really tough for me,” said Piazza. “It was just hard to watch him go through that, because his treatment was much worse than mine.”

Friday, the two friends were back on the soccer field, this time as competitors.

“I was so excited to get back on the field, because soccer’s always been my favorite sport,” said Piazza.

“Win or lose…we’ll always be family,” Voglewede said.

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