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Catino and Camardo continue comradery

From childhood friends to college teammates, pair pushes each other on and off the field

Jack Miller, Assistant Sports Editor

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From AIM buddies to college roommates, UW-Whitewater softball players Julia Camardo and Caitlin Catino have been friends for over half of their lives.

Camardo and Catino met while in elementary school and are now in their junior year of college. Suitable for the two softball standouts, their friendship was sparked on the diamond.

“I was playing house league softball and Julia went to watch her friend,” Catino said. “We didn’t go to the same elementary school, but we knew we were going to the same middle school. We were talking through the fence while I was in the dugout.”

“While she was playing the game,” Camardo added with a chuckle.

Camardo and Catino exchanged AIM accounts after the game and started messaging each other the summer before middle school, where they would eventually become “locker buddies.”

In high school, Camardo and Catino continued their friendship. The duo went on to become four-year starters on the softball team at Buffalo Grove High School in Illinois. It was Camardo on the mound and Catino right behind her in centerfield. At the end of Camardo’s junior year at Buffalo Grove, she committed to UW-Whitewater to play softball. Catino on the other hand, was still searching for the right school.

“I remember telling her that I was coming here and I pushed it on her a little bit,” Camardo said. “I just said ‘it would be so fun, just keep it open.’”

During several of Catino’s and Camardo’s high school games, Catino caught the eye of UW-Whitewater head softball coach Brenda Volk, who was actively recruiting Camardo at the time.

“Julia’s been my longest recruit in all my twenty years,” Volk said. “I talked to her early in her junior year. So then when I wanted to watch her play, I saw Cait play to. She caught my eye because she’s super fast and did some really good things. I started to talk to Julia about Cait, and then next thing I knew Cait started looking here.”

Eventually, Catino met with Volk, which led to Catino choosing to join Camardo as a Warhawk.

Coming to a college in a different state and playing for a well-established program would be a daunting prospect for almost any freshman, but Camardo and Catino at least knew one other player to start their collegiate careers.

“It was very comforting,” Camardo said. “She’s [Catino] always someone to talk to if you’re scared, sad, mad, annoyed, anything.”

“Meeting 25 new girls is very intimidating, so I think having one person that you’re close to is really nice,” Catino added.

Although Camardo and Catino were close in high school, rooming and playing softball together in college has brought the two even closer.

“I don’t even look at [Catino] as a friend anymore; she’s more like a sister to me,” Camardo said. “Just because we’ve spent so much time together for the past three years.”

College has not only been a place where the two have bonded together, but also a place where the pair have pushed each other to new heights on the field.

As a three-year starter, Camardo has a career record of 40-14 to go along with 363 strikeouts, which is fourth most in program history.

“[Julia] could pitch almost a perfect game and have one walk, and she will focus on that one walk, and she’ll be upset that she walked that one person,” Volk said. “She’s very hard on herself, but not as a detriment; I think it actually makes her better. Cait’s kind of the same way.”

Catino, who has also been a three-year starter, boasts a career .361 batting average and has stolen 47 bases, tied for third in program history. Catino’s impact goes beyond the numbers though.

“Cait’s just been a vocal leader from day one on the field,” Volk said. “She’s always talking, she’s very intense, she’s always plays game-like, even at practice.”

For Catino, when Camardo is on the mound, it just gives her one more reason to give it her all.

“When I’m in the outfield and Julia is pitching, I take it very seriously because I don’t want to disappoint her,” Catino said. “I think I’m very hard on myself in that respect because I don’t want to let my best friend down.”

Even if Camardo and Catino do get down after a bad play or game, they always rely on each other to pick them up.

“We both are so hard on ourselves,” Camardo said. “I know when she doesn’t do well she’s her hardest critic, same goes for me to. I feel like when we know we’re in terrible moods because we didn’t perform as good as we want to, we’re very supportive.”

Camardo and Catino have also helped each other excel in the classroom. Both were on the WIAC Scholastic Honor Roll (which requires a student-athlete to earn 3.0 GPA or better) their freshman and sophomore years. Compared to how the two have pushed each other equally as much on the softball field, their influence on one another in the classroom may not be as mutual.

“School wise, I honestly think Julia pushes me way more than I push her,” Catino said with a laugh. “She is at the library 24/7 and when she is going, I’m just like ‘okay, guess I’ll tag along and do some homework.’”

Although Camardo and Catino said they would be friends regardless if they were teammates or not, they both agreed that the game of softball has helped their friendship flourish.

“I think softball gave us a way to connect,” Catino said. “I would be friends with her outside of it, but I think us playing high school ball together and then her asking me to be a part of her travel team, I think that’s really what made us connect.”

Camardo and Catino were instrumental in the Warhawks’ 2018 WIAC Tournament run. In the first round of the tournament against UW- Eau Claire, Camardo pitched a complete game, allowing just three hits and 0 earned runs.

In the second round versus UW-Oshkosh, Catino drew a walk-off walk to send the Warhawks to the championship game, where they would once again defeat the Titans to claim the WIAC title.

With the win in the conference title game, the Warhawks earned an automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament, where Camardo and Catino look to guide the Warhawks to a national championship.

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Catino and Camardo continue comradery