TUESDAY, OCTOBER 25, 2011
Reality shows have nothing on Fink’s family
Midfielder LIz Fink has three game-winning goals this season.
Midfielder LIz Fink has three game-winning goals this season.
Madeline, Meredith, Mary Katherine, Mackenzie, Anne Marie, Edward, John and Michael.

OK, let’s try that again.

Madeline, Meredith, Mary Katherine, Mackenzie, Anne Marie, Edward, John and Michael.

That’s not a tongue twister and it’s not the cast of a new reality show. It is, however, the lineup of siblings Jacksonville University women’s soccer midfielder Liz Fink calls her own. Fink, an exercise science major, is number six in a brood of nine kids.

Being from a family of that size, she will tell you, is a mixed bag. There is plenty of love and support to go around but there’s also a surprising lack of freedom and, of course, a fair share of bickering that happens. That, however, isn’t nearly as tough as a couple other issues in large family.

“You have very little personal space,’’ the senior, who was born in Sarasota, Fla. and raised in Georgia, said. “That’s the most difficult thing about growing up in a big family.

“That and finding your place in a big family is hard. You kind of all have your own niche but the hardest thing is finding out who you are. A lot of people don’t have that problem because they don’t have a lot of influences, they don’t have a lot of siblings. Especially the middle-child syndrome; it’s just hard all around to figure out who you are and stay true to that.’’

Fink has managed to get a good handle on who she is as she has been battling for that space and just about everything else since childhood. She never had her own bedroom growing up in Norcross, Ga., and didn’t get her own after a fire torched their Norcross house and sent the family packing to Cumming, Ga., where she went to high school. The family also made it through the divorce of their parents, Royal and Jan.

Despite all that, there clearly is some upside to have siblings ranging in age from 14 to 33.

For one thing, although she was a bit mischievous, Fink didn’t seem to get in as much trouble as those before her.

“As number six, I was already down the line and by the time they got to me, people had messed up so many times people were like ‘ahh, she’ll learn on her own’ so I was never really grounded or anything.’’

She also honed a highly competitive nature which has served her well on the JU soccer pitch.

“Liz Fink has been one of the most talented players we’ve had in program history,’’ said head coach Brian Copham. “She is one of the most competitive soccer players I’ve coached. Whether it’s a conference game, a non-conference game, a game against a Top 20 team in the country or a scrimmage before a practice, she’s always a competitor.’’

Copham said he’s convinced much of Fink’s competitive spirit comes from family size and her need to battle for much of what she got.

“I’m sure with her family there’s always older brothers and sisters so she was always having to compete with them in anything they did,’’ he said. “When you’re competing against brothers and sister, especially when they’re older you’ve got to fight a little bit harder to make up for the age difference as well as the size and those kinds of things. I’m sure she got some of her competitive nature from having to bounce around all those siblings.’’

Fink’s senior season has been solid as she has 1,390 minutes played, four goals (three game winners) and three assists as the team has tied for the Atlantic Sun title and will play host to Mercer Friday at the Ashley Sports Complex in a first-round tournament game (7 p.m.).

To Copham, as important as the numbers are the intangibles she has brought.

“The good thing is she brings her teammates up,’’ he said. “She won’t let her teammates settle for not competing. She may not be the most athletic all the time or the best soccer player on the field but she is without a doubt there has never been a player that’s more competitive than her.’’

-- Jim Nasella