'It was pretty crazy': NJ women's soccer team emerges from tornado-ravaged home with high hopes

SEWELL, New Jersey (WPVI) -- "There's a reason for everything," said 18-year-old Ella Van Dine. "Good always comes out of bad."

Those are encouraging words coming from a college student whose home was destroyed by a tornado in the wake of Hurricane Ida last month. And though it was a tragedy, she did not go through it alone.

Van Dine is a first-year player on the women's soccer team at Rowan College of South Jersey's Gloucester campus. The newly-minted 'Roadrunner' offered her house as a headquarters for a pasta party at the start of the season.

The entire team gathered at her house in Wenonah Township on September 1, 2021. Their cell phones were lighting up with the typical notifications from Instagram and Snapchat, but soon, a peculiar warning popped up on every device. A tornado was coming.

"We didn't think anything of it. We were like, New Jersey? No way," said Van Dine. "Windows were crashing, we all ran downstairs, and it was pretty crazy."

After the vicious winds passed, the team emerged from the basement into a whole new world.

"It felt like we went into another universe," said teammate Alyssa Meglino. "It felt like we were in the middle of nowhere."

Many of their cars were destroyed, leaving some girls without a primary vehicle even a month later. Van Dine's family is living in a rental while they wait for their home to be rebuilt, which could take six months to a year.

Despite the traumatizing experience, the teammates mobilized to help Van Dine in the aftermath. They ushered her belongings out of the tattered home, brought tarps to cover the roof, and offered their own homes as refuge.

"I think it helped us grow as individuals," said teammate Emily Martin. "None of us turned their backs on each other in those situations, so we're not gonna turn our backs on the field, either."

The team at RCSJ Gloucester is currently ranked #2 in the National Junior College Athletic Association leaderboard. They are undefeated with a 7-0 record and intend to pursue a championship this year.

But head coach Megan Ruttler encourages growth off the field as well.

"There's a lot to be learned through sport, and there's a lot of emotions that go on, you know with young females, young adults," she said. "It's a good outlet to funnel those emotions into something positive."

To learn more about RCSJ athletics, visit their website.

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