Sports Person of the Week
Ciarleglio Earns Major Accolades for Second-Straight Year
Senior captain striker Ralph Ciarleglio finished his career with Branford boys’ soccer as a two-time All-Conference and All-State recipient. (Photo courtesy of Ralph Ciarleglio )
Ralph Ciarleglio first stepped foot on the soccer field at the age of two. For the past four years, Ralph excelled as a striker for the Branford boys’ soccer team, becoming both a captain and a two-time All-SCC and All-State honoree.
Ralph started playing soccer at the Everson Soccer Academy in Woodbridge in 2005. He was encouraged to play by his older sisters Alexa and Gianna, who were also soccer players. Ralph liked having his two sisters as role models and had fun while competing against them and trying to improve his skills.
Ralph started playing in Branford’s youth league when he was five and then joined South Central Premier at age nine. Ralph signed up to play for the Hornets as a freshman and, after spending his first few games at the JV level, he was promoted to the varsity team during his first year.
“It was very scary as a freshman. I was tiny compared to the varsity players. I was only 13 years old. It was a big age gap,” says Ralph. “But after the few games, I got used to it. It was a great feeling to score goals as a freshman.”
After seeing nearly a full season of varsity playing time in his freshman year, Ralph’s nerves were gone as a sophomore, and he was having fun playing soccer with his friends. Ralph then became a focal point for Branford’s offense in his junior season, earning All-SCC First Team and All-State accolades for his performance.
“Junior year, it meant a lot to me. I still had a few seniors over me. They had a few more years on me, but I showed I was the better one in a way,” Ralph says. “This year, I wasn’t really expecting it. I still played my hardest and contributed to the team as much as I can. I was really grateful that I made it this year.”
Ralph secured a spot on the All-SCC Division B Team to go with his second-straight All-State nod this fall. Heading into his senior season, Ralph was named one the captains for Head Coach Paul Hunter’s squad, joining fellow seniors Alec Aceves-Acosta, Din Durmic, and Matt Cordero in that role. Ralph felt honored to be named captain as a senior, especially since he had always considered himself a leader on the team.
“Even before being named a captain, I was always giving tips to younger players and always helping other people out,” says Ralph. “That was really what I did my senior year. The only difference was flipping the coin and coach talking to me more about how we were going to play the game.”
Ralph has lined up as a striker throughout his soccer career. For most strikers, the primary goal is to score when the ball is passed to them. However, as much as he enjoys scoring, Ralph also likes helping out his defense with his play at the striker position. Ralph and his teammates have become a family and, even with his accolades, he wants to make sure that everyone can have some time in the spotlight.
“I like taking the pressure off of my defenders. They work hard, and they don’t really get that much of the glory. I like helping them out and helping the team out,” Ralph says. “It’s like a family. We have been friends for so long. We go to school the whole year, and we get so close. Sometimes, I try to give them goals over me scoring. I want them to have the glory.”
Following graduation, Ralph plans on attending college to major in business management. He wants to continue playing soccer and has talked to various coaches as he tries to find the best fit.
Ralph has spent the past 15 years on the soccer field and, as he looks to play into college, his run doesn’t seem to be ending any time soon. As he reflects upon his time with the Hornets, Ralph feels proud about how he’s continued to grow stronger as a soccer player with each passing season.
“It just means everything to me. Some kids stop playing or get cut. Me, I’ve just kept fighting all these years, playing my position and getting better every year,” says Ralph. “I never gave up, no matter what, even during this COVID situation. It means a lot that I’m still playing and being a leader on this team, no matter what.”