Tuesday, March 02, 2021

Sports

Howard Seeing Success in Sophomore Season

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Maya Howard is having a solid sophomore season starting at the center attacking midfielder position for the Hand girls’ soccer team this fall. Photo courtesy of Maya Howard

Maya Howard is having a solid sophomore season starting at the center attacking midfielder position for the Hand girls’ soccer team this fall. (Photo courtesy of Maya Howard )

Maya Howard spent many hours traveling to soccer games with her father Justin after starting with the sport at age four. Maya played for her dad when he coached her rec and travel teams in Madison, taking the first steps that would lead her to the girls’ soccer squad at Daniel Hand High School.

Maya’s passion for the pitch really took off as a youngster. Now a sophomore at Hand, Maya is starting as a center attacking midfielder for the Tigers.

“My dad was my coach for my Madison rec and travel teams from the very beginning, and that was definitely something that made me love the sport,” says Maya. “I also met most of my closest friends playing soccer, and I still play with most of them at the high school, so that’s another way I got really into the sport. I just enjoyed going to practice and working with people I was close to.”

Maya embraces the intensity of soccer and says that aspect fuels her passion for the sport. Maya loves the rush that she gets when that first whistle blows.

“Although we haven’t had it this season, the games under the lights with fans packed in the stands cheering for the players that are leaving everything they have on the field is my favorite part,” Maya says. “The energy and adrenaline the sport gives me and everyone around me is so exciting and just makes the sport that much more enjoyable.”

This year, Maya has been using her competitive nature to help Hand continue its tradition as one of the top squads in the Southern Connecticut Conference. The Tigers have an overall record of 5-3-2 as they get ready to play in the SCC Tournament Division B Tournament.

Maya feels grateful that Hand is even playing games at all this fall after the COVID-19 pandemic threatened to wipe away the season.

“I’ve really enjoyed this season, even with the limitations we have. Even though the postseason isn’t normal, I’m so happy that there is at least something for us,” says Maya. “I think our team bond has been the strongest it’s ever been, and we have been working really hard to prepare for what’s to come in the future. I’m excited that next year almost the entire team will be returning, so we will be able to build on what we have worked on this year.”

Maya credits all of her teammates to contributing to another successful season for Hand. From a personal perspective, Maya always brings her best effort to the field in order to increase the Tigers’ chances of claiming victory.

“Everyone is a different player, and everyone brings something different to the team. People can bring things like effort, skill, speed, and game intelligence to the team, and I think the variety is great and makes everyone unique,” Maya says. “I try to bring a competing mentality to every practice and game. I try to give all of my effort to win each ball I can. Sometimes you have a bad day—your touches are off, you miss all your shots. You can’t always control that, but you can always control the effort and energy you bring to practices and games.”

First-year Head Coach Rob McConville refers to Maya as the field general for the Tigers. McConville says that Maya is always controlling the middle of the pitch.

“Maya is the type of player who impacts the game from end to end, even when it doesn’t show on the books. She has a tireless work rate,” says McConville. “Our offense runs through Maya in the midfield. She is a pleasure to have in the program, and she constantly strives to get better. She is an exciting player to watch. I am looking forward to seeing her high school career unfold over the next few seasons.”

Maya also competes for the Farmington Sports Arena Football Club’s team, for which she plays attacking midfielder and defensive midfielder, in the Elite Clubs National League. She also plays for a boys’ soccer club team to prepare herself for the rigors of the soccer field. Maya worked tirelessly throughout the offseason to make sure that she was ready to perform her best for Hand during the fall campaign.

“I did strength training and ball work every day to get ready for the season, and I continued to do that over the summer. I have also been working on the technical aspect of the game with my trainer Shane Smith for the past few years,” Maya says. “My goal this season has been to get to practice early and to stay after every day to put in extra work. My ultimate goal is to play in college, so everything I do is to work toward that goal.”

Maya is also a member of the girls’ indoor and outdoor track teams at Hand. On top of that, Maya helps out the future generation of Madison soccer players by serving as an assistant coach for a U-10 girls’ travel team in town.

“I’ve seen the love they have for the sport, and it makes me so happy to be able to contribute in any way to that love,” says Maya. “I always look forward to going to coach them after a high school practice or on the weekends. They are such a fun and hard-working group of girls, and I love being able to bond with them.”


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