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Sophomore forward Yumi Imai has scored 13 goals for the H-K girls’ soccer team this fall, while helping the Cougars reverse their fortunes from the 2018 campaign. (Photo courtesy of Yumi Imai )
Following her freshman season with Haddam-Killingworth girls’ soccer team, Yumi Imai was considering giving up a sport that she has been playing since she seven years old. H-K finished with a record of 4-9-3 on the year, and Yumi was unsure if she wanted to return for her sophomore campaign.
“I was really down about soccer,” says Yumi. “It became difficult to either practice or play.”
However, everything changed for Yumi, as well as the Cougars, when Mike Shea was hired as H-K’s head coach earlier this year. After meeting with Shea, Yumi knew that she was going to be back on the pitch this year.
“I first met him the last day of school. He had such a sense of calmness about him,” Yumi says of Shea. “He was solid in his thinking. I couldn’t wait for the 2019 season to start.”
Yumi’s decision turned out to be a great one for everyone involved. The sophomore forward is one of the key components of a prolific offense that’s guided H-K to a record of 11-4-1 entering the last week of the regular season. Yumi has also helped Coach Shea’s club clinch berths in both the Shoreline Conference Tournament and the Class M State Tournament.
“Yumi is the Porsche on this team. She has acceleration that you can’t teach,” says Shea. “She simply beats opponents down the field and teams so well with Kedarjah [Lewis].”
Yumi and Lewis are both scoring their fair share of goals for the Cougars this season. Yumi has netted 13 goals on the year, while Lewis has 18 goals to her credit. Yumi says that she has excellent chemistry with her fellow forward, along with everyone else on the squad.
“I’ve played together with most of the girls on this team since we were all very young,” Yumi says. “It’s hard to put into words how strong a player Kedarjah is on the field. She’s special. So are all of the girls on our team. I love playing soccer with them. They have all allowed me to fall back in love with the game. I’m so proud of them all.”
Yumi got involved with the Haddam-Killingworth Soccer Club as a seven year-old. She competed for a travel club and the team at H-K Middle School before joining the high school program as a freshman. Now a sophomore, Yumi is excited that the Cougars have turned things around and feels confident that they can make some noise in the postseason.
“We do have high expectations. We feel we can play with anyone,” says Yumi. “We’re in a good conference with strong teams like Portland and Old Lyme, but every time we take the field, we play our game. We’re never downplaying an opponent. Our strategy is to play as well as we can. When we dictate play, we usually do very well.”
When the fall season is finished, Yumi takes a break from sports to concentrate even more on her studies. Yumi, who is leaning toward a future in medicine, is taking a science-heavy course-load that includes chemistry and Advanced Placement biology
Once the spring arrives, Yumi suits up for the H-K girls’ lacrosse team, for which she plays on the attack. Just like with the soccer squad, Yumi has a knack for finding the back of the net in lacrosse.
“Whatever sport I play, I like to score,” Yumi says.