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Senior captain Katie Ryan and the North Haven girls’ soccer team went on a mad dash to make it into the Class L State Tournament by going 4-1-3 in their last eight regular-season games. Ryan was selected to the All-SCC Second Team for her performance on defense. (Photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
The strong play of senior captain Katie Chieffo (right) in the midfield helped the Indians qualify for states in their first campaign with Head Coach Gary Collins this fall. (Photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
Senior captain midfielder Erika Holle (right) made the All-SCC First Team for the Indians’ girls’ soccer squad and additionally received North Haven’s Coaches’ Award. Also pictured is No. 22, freshman Ilana Blumenthal. (Photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
Megan Russo was named the Most Valuable Player for the North Haven girls’ soccer team in 2019. The junior midfielder also earned All-SCC Second Team honors. (Photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
Sophomore forward Ada Forbes (left) led the Indians in scoring with nine goals and three assists this season. Pictured for North Haven in the background are No. 9, senior Erika Holle, and No. 11, junior Sophia Acquarulo. (Photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
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The North Haven girls’ soccer team demonstrated how perseverance pays off during the 2019 season. In their first campaign with Head Coach Gary Collins, the Indians shook off a slow start and played some quality soccer down the stretch to qualify for the Class L State Tournament this fall. Collins’s primary goal was to establish a foundation for success in North Haven, and he feels that the recent season proved a huge stepping stone in that regard.
“There was a lot of pride. It was great to see the girls pull together and work hard for each other,” Collins said. “When a team is 1-7, the season could be over, but the girls trusted us and believed me when I told them that we would have a positive outcome at the end of the year.”
North Haven lost seven of its first eight games, but stormed back with authority by going 4-1-3 in the second half to make states. The Indians’ improvement was evidenced with how they flipped the script against several opponents when they faced them the second time around. North Haven notched wins versus Foran and Sacred Heart Academy and also earned ties against Sheehan and Guilford after losing to those teams in the initial meeting.
Ultimately, North Haven needed to beat Bethel in its regular-season finale in order to qualify for the Class L tourney. The Indians delivered with a 4-1 victory that put them back in the bracket after they had missed states last year. Although North Haven took a first-round loss to Guilford, Coach Collins was pleased to see his team reap the rewards for its effort by playing on the big stage.
“It was exciting. The girls were excited to make states, and it was a good sendoff for the seniors. They worked hard and got the opportunity to play in a states games,” said Collins, whose squad finished with an overall record of 5-9-3. “Once we saw that we had that on the horizon, we made it a goal to get to states and pushed for that. We needed to believe that we could make it and, the closer we got, we gained more confidence that we could pull games off.”
North Haven was led by a tremendous trio of senior captains this year. The Indians’ captains were central midfielder Erika Holle, central defender Katie Ryan, and outside midfielder Katie Chieffo.
Holle scored five goals to go with three assists on her way to earning a spot on the All-Southern Connecticut Conference First Team. She also received the Coaches’ Award from North Haven for her exemplary leadership this year.
Ryan made the All-SCC Second Team after solidifying the Indians’ defense when Collins moved her from the outside to the middle. Chieffo missed some time with an injury, but came back to have a strong second half.
Coach Collins said that all three of North Haven’s captains did a great job and were on the same page with their approach on the pitch.
“They’re all passionate about the game. They want to make themselves better, and they want to make their teammates better. They showed the underclassmen that if you put in the work, good things will happen,” said Collins. “We had everything with those three, and that was great to see.”
Junior outside midfielder Megan Russo had four goals with three assists and was also selected to the All-SCC Second Team this season. On top of that, Russo received a huge honor from the Indians when she was presented with the team’s Most Valuable Player Award.
“Megan used her speed and dribbling ability to beat defenders, and she also has one of the better crosses in the SCC,” Collins said. “With her speed, Megan is such an asset when she gets the ball in space, and she was also our penalty-kick taker. Megan was deserving of our MVP Award.”
Junior central midfielder Sophia Acquarulo was named North Haven’s Most Improved Player. Acquarulo, who alternated as a starter with fellow junior Julia Bogen (2 goals), went through a few struggles early in the season. However, just like her team, Acquarulo played her best when it mattered most.
“Sophia is very feisty. She has good skills, good technique, and is very clever with the ball,” said Collins. “Sophia has that crafty way about her, and that’s what you want from a central midfielder.”
North Haven’s Sportsmanship Award went to senior forward Laura Martins. Primarily a JV player, Martins was looking forward to suiting up on Senior Night, but was unable to play due to an injury. Even though Martins was sidelined, Coach Collins said she brought a positive attitude to the Indians on a day-in, day-out basis.
“Lauren did everything to her limit. She worked really hard in practices and in the JV games that I saw,” Collins said. “Lauren is a kid with a good spirit for the game, and she was really worthy of that Sportsmanship Award.”
North Haven’s starting forwards were senior Julia Raposo and sophomore Ada Forbes. Raposo netted three goals on the year, while Forbes was North Haven’s leading scorer with nine goals and three assists.
“Julia ran all game. She challenged the ball and created a lot of chaos among defenders because of how quick she is. She was very dangerous throughout the season with her runs off the ball and her attacks with ball,” Collins said. “Ada has a lot of potential. She’s fast, physical, and is one of the players that can carry us through the next few years. She will have a target on her back next year, because everyone has a sense of what she is capable of doing with her speed and power.”
On the defensive end of the field, Ryan was joined by junior Emma Christoforo in the middle, along with junior Carly Fresher (3 goals, 2 assists) and freshman Giavanna Damone (2 assists) on the outside. North Haven’s defense got better and better as the campaign went on, and the same can be said for sophomore goalie Sophia Chagnon, who made plenty of key saves in games that the Indians had to win.
“Sophia made some mistakes in the first half of the year, but once she settled down, she didn’t make any mistakes in the second half,” said Collins. “Sophia learned from her mistakes and played really well against some tough teams. It was good to see her turn her season around.”
Rounding out the scoring stats, sophomore forward Lorelei King scored a goal for North Haven, and freshman defender Ilana Blumenthal contributed an assist this year.
In the end, Collins said that he enjoyed being back on the sidelines as North Haven’s coach. Collins started coaching with the Indians’ boys’ soccer team in 1995 and went on to spend 17 seasons as head coach of the girls’ soccer squad at Hamden. After taking a few years off, Collins came back to where it all began, and he’s happy that he made that decision.
“It was fun to come back and help these girls become better soccer players,” said Collins. “It was a great first year, and now we just have to keep building.”
• The North Haven girls’ soccer team’s varsity roster included senior captains Erika Holle, Katie Chieffo, and Katie Ryan; fellow seniors Callie Kessler, Julia Raposo, Gianna Rella, and Laura Martins; juniors Emma Christoforo, Megan Russo, Sophia Acquarulo, Carly Fresher, and Julia Bogen; sophomores Sophia Chagnon, Ada Forbes, Lorelei King, and Annalise Moulis; and freshmen Giavanna Damone, Lily Coish, Aisling Pretty, and Ilana Blumenthal.
• Gary Collins finished his first season as North Haven’s head coach. The Indians’ assistant coach was Sarah Pandolfi.
• The North Haven posted a record of 5-8-3 during the regular season. The Indians picked up two victories versus West Haven (4-2 and 2-0) to go with one win apiece against Sacred Heart Academy (4-3), Foran (3-1), and Bethel (4-1). North Haven earned ties with Branford (3-3), Guilford (1-1), and Sheehan (0-0). The Indians took two losses against Cheshire (3-0 and 2-1) and Mercy (5-0 and 3-0) and one loss to Guilford (2-0), Foran (3-1), Sacred Heart Academy (2-1), and Sheehan (3-1). North Haven also finished with a mark of 1-4-1 in the SCC Quinnipiac Division by virtue of its results versus Foran, Guilford, and Mercy.
• The Indians were the No. 27 seed in the Class L State Tournament. North Haven took a 2-0 defeat at No. 6 seed and eventual champion Guilford in the first round of the tournament to finish at 5-9-3 overall.
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