Saturday, December 05, 2020

Sports Person of the Week

Mazzucco Brings Her Best Effort on Defense

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Emily Mazzucco is eager to begin her junior season as a stalwart on defense for the East Haven girls’ soccer team. Photo courtesy of Emily Mazzucco

Emily Mazzucco is eager to begin her junior season as a stalwart on defense for the East Haven girls’ soccer team. (Photo courtesy of Emily Mazzucco )

Emily Mazzucco has played every position on the soccer field while growing up in East Haven, but eventually found her home as a defender. As she enters her junior season, Emily is looking forward to patrolling the defensive end of the pitch for the Easties this fall.

Emily’s journey through soccer began in East Haven’s youth league. Emily had watched her sister Molly, who went on to become a Yellowjackets’ captain, and her brother Benjamin play the sport, and decided that she wanted to be a part of it. Emily moved through the travel ranks and then played for the Connecticut Rush at the Premier level when she was in 5th grade. She continued with Premier, playing for South Central, through 8th grade.

“Playing with so many different teams with so many different players and under so many different coaches, I got a really good understanding of the sport and all the ways you can play,” Emily says. “It helped develop this love I have for the sport. I got to see how unique and how different you can play it.”

Emily played forward, defense, and even goalie as a youngster before settling in at center back as a 7th-grader at Joseph Melillo Middle School. The following year, Emily was coached by Jake Hackett, who is East Haven’s coach, as a member of the South Central team.

When Hackett started working with Emily at East Haven, he wanted to get her on the field as a freshman and felt that moving her to the midfield was the best way to do that. Emily promptly earned a spot in the lineup and started every game in her freshman season. While the transition to the midfield was a bit difficult at first, Emily wanted to do whatever she could to help the Yellowjackets and used her experience as a defender to her advantage.

“We needed a center midfielder, so my coach put me in that position. It was kind of nerve-wracking stepping onto a varsity field playing a position I’m not familiar with,” says Emily. “I knew a little bit about his coaching style and the formation Coach Hackett played, so I was able to pick it up. Having a background on defense, I was able to provide a bit more defensive coverage. It helped the other players be a bit more offensive.”

After playing midfielder as a freshman, Emily switched back to her previous position as a center back in her sophomore year and has been there ever since. Coach Hackett calls Emily one of the leaders and focal points of the Yellowjackets’ defense.

“Emily is the type of player to do whatever the team needs. She is a stalwart defender, she talks to her teammates, she’s a great kid, and a great player,” says Hackett. “Emily has been a three-year varsity player, and she’s special at what she does. She leads and is impactful to all of her teammates.”

Among all the positions on the soccer field, Emily like playing defender the best. After suiting up at every possible spot, Emily finds defense the most enjoyable and calls it “the perfect mix.”

“I kind of grew up all over the place. I used to be a midfielder and then a forward. For a while, I was a goalie,” Emily says. “I was playing midfield, and I realized I liked stopping the ball, and I didn’t like running up and down the field as much. My coach put me in on defense, and I just fell in love with it. I got to stop the forwards, I got to tackle, I had the opportunity to be offensive. It was just kind of the perfect mix.”

As she heads into her junior season, Emily’s main goal is the same one that she has every year—to become a better player than she was the year before. She also wants East Haven to improve upon last year’s total of seven wins, even though the team will have less games than usual to try to accomplish that. While she’s a defender, Emily also wants to score more than the one goal that she netted last season.

Emily will always have fond memories of playing soccer with her brother and sister in the yard. Emily was inspired by her siblings and also by the U.S. women’s soccer team when it won the gold medal at the 2012 Summer Olympics.

Emily’s love for soccer has only grown in the subsequent years. With a new campaign on the horizon, Emily plans to continue bringing her best effort on defense for East Haven.

“It’s just a part of my identity. When I think of me and when my friends think of me, you think of soccer. It’s a part of me, and I can’t imagine growing up without it,” says Emily. “I can’t imagine soccer never being a part of me. It’s something I’m proud of. I’ve worked hard to be the soccer player that I am. It makes me feel proud to call myself a soccer player.”


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