Hornets Overcome Challenges to Become an SCC Contender
Sophomore Ava Ferrie scored 11 goals and dished out five assists on her way to making the All-SCC Division B and All-State teams for the Branford girls’ soccer squad this year. Ferrie helped the Hornets finish with a record of 6-4-2 and advance to the championship game of the SCC Division B Tournament. (Photo by Kelley Fryer/The Sound | Buy This Photo)
Junior captain Macey Girard came up with plenty of clutch saves in net and ultimately recorded three shutouts for Branford during the 2020 campaign. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Sound | Buy This Photo)
Freshman Tess Ferrie scored five goals for the Branford girls’ soccer team this fall, including the only goal of the game when the Hornets defeated Hand in the SCC Division B semifinals. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Sound | Buy This Photo)
Senior Kathryn Amarante proved a key member of the Hornets’ defensive corps throughout the recent fall season. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Sound | Buy This Photo)
Three athletes on the Branford girls’ soccer squad garnered All-SCC Division B honors this fall. Pictured are junior captain Kendall Infantino, junior captain Macey Girard, and sophomore Ava Ferrie. (Photo courtesy of Christine Ferrie )
The Branford girls’ soccer team played through the 2020 season while adhering to the motto of, “It if doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you.” With that slogan printed on the team’s T-shirts, Head Coach Jen Kohut and assistant coach Billy Alessi made sure that their players understood how much hard work would be needed in order for the Hornets to undergo a safe and successful campaign.
“We had clear guidelines that were sent to us. Billy and I wanted to continually impress upon the kids that if we stayed inside the protocols, we would continue to play. And we wanted to continue to play,” Coach Kohut said. “Every aspect of the season challenged us. We had to be really creative as coaches, coming up with new drills that actually became part of our warmup. In some aspects, the new regulations helped us create a strong platform to take us into the season.”
Branford wound up posting an overall record of 6-4-2 in a season that saw the team play just three home games. The Hornets finished their campaign by playing in the SCC Division B Tournament, where they notched a semifinal victory over Daniel Hand before taking an overtime loss to Guilford in the title bout.
Prior to the playoffs, Branford took on Guilford for a home game on Oct. 19. After the two sides battled to a 0-0 tie, Coach Kohut felt that the Hornets proved they had a chance to win a championship based on their performance in that matchup.
“This was very strong competition. They were state champs last year. We got to halftime and it was 0-0, and I realized that these kids were for real,” said Kohut. “They never put their heads down. They just went out there and worked. It didn’t matter who our opponent was. They just wanted it.”
As the No. 3 seed in the SCC Division B Tournament, Branford squared off against 2nd-seeded Hand in the semifinal round of the bracket. With the game scoreless with just three minutes left in regulation, freshman forward Tess Ferrie scored the lone goal of the contest to lift the Hornets to a 1-0 victory. Although Branford dropped a 1-0 overtime decision against Guilford in the championship, Coach Kohut was proud of her squad for putting forth its best performance of the season in the victory versus Hand.
“That Hand game was definitely our best game all season. It was a cold night, but it was just a perfect night for soccer, despite the cold. Everyone was just firing on all cylinders,” Kohut said. “It was the fourth time that we had played them. There were a lot of things against us. Any challenge they faced, they rose above it. That night was a great night.”
Branford scored 34 total goals and had assists on 15 of those scores this year. Sophomore midfielder Ava Ferrie led the team in scoring by netting 11 goals to go with five assists on the season. As a result of her performance, Ferrie was named to the All-SCC Division B Team, as well as the All-State Team.
“Ava really only knows one way to play, and that is fast. She puts her head down and keeps going as hard as she can. On direct hits and restarts, she has such great aim, power,” said Kohut. “She’s 5-1 or 5-2, but a 6-foot player would have a problem moving her off the ball. She just makes herself really big and plays really big. She is a great distributor and can finish, as well.”
Coach Kohut was impressed with many of the younger players on her club when it came to producing offense. Tess Ferrie netted five goals on the season, while fellow freshman midfielder Brenna Murphy scored four goals for the Hornets. Kohut said that she expects freshman center midfielder Lucy Moran, who had two goals with four assists, to become a big scorer going forward. The coach added that freshman forward/midfielder Joelle Budz always puts herself in the right spot to find the back of the net, helping her score three goals this year.
On the defensive side of the ball, Branford was led by junior captain defender Kendall Infantino and fellow junior captain Macey Girard, who was the team’s goalkeeper. Always a threat with the ball, Infantino had three goals with one assist on her way to earning All-SCC Division B and All-State honors. Meanwhile, Girard also made Division B Team after making 56 saves and recording three shutouts for the Hornets, who only allowed seven goals all year.
Coach Kohut said that Infantino and Girard excelled with their performances on the pitch, as well as the leadership that they displayed both on and off the field.
“Both of them already play defense, so they’re already in a leadership role. Them moving into the captain’s position was a natural transition,” Kohut said. “They led by example. They picked up equipment, moved the goals. They didn’t make the freshmen do it. They did it themselves. They were positive on and off the field, trying to keep the kids together. Those two really stepped up and showed the younger kids what it means to be a part of the team.”
Senior Kathryn Amarante also made a huge contribution for Branford on defense this season. Coach Kohut said that Amarante is a solid player who continually improved during her four years with the Hornets. Kohut also pointed out junior Ajla Mehmedovic for making great progress throughout the season.
Freshmen Emma O’Connor, Madeline Resendes, and Sophia Mioline also played some major minutes for Branford this fall. While Branford featured a young roster, Coach Kohut felt that the freshman class was a strength and proved crucial to the team’s success.
“The cohesiveness of the freshman group that came in, they’ve played together for a long time and they’re comfortable playing together. They like to compete,” said Kohut. “We wanted to challenge them to do everything at a high level. We only have so many games. We have to make every day like it’s our last. They embraced that. We were up for every practice.”
As the Hornets were challenged throughout an unusual season, Coach Kohut was pleased with how her athletes improved and jelled together as a group. After advancing to the championship game of the SCC Division B Tournament, Kohut expects to see next year’s team come back that much more motivated to claim a postseason crown.
“This season made them stronger not just as soccer players, but as people. Getting through this together and what they had to go through, they’re just going to come in even hungrier,” Kohut said. “They’re constantly sending stuff, wishing they were still playing. They’re a tight-knit group. It’s a strong, strong group. They got a taste of going to the final. They’re only going to come back hungrier.”
The Branford girls’ soccer team’s roster included seniors Madelyn Seward, Kathryn Amarante, Ashley Duong, Noor Issa, and Jennifer Hincapie; junior captains Macey Girard and Kendall Infantino; juniors Hilla Seunarine, Alja Mehmedovic, Zaide Schlesinger, Veronica Smith, Caroline Spaulding, Meghan Heier, and Katelyn Robbins; sophomores Molly Pombo, Ava Ferrie, Leila Omeragic, Samantha Stroka, Jennifer Spencer, and Ava Dombrowski; and freshmen Tess Ferrie, Brenna Murphy, Emma O’Connor, Chayse Gueco, Sophia Mioline, Madeline Resendes, Paige Selander, Joelle Budz, and Lucy Moran.