Sports Person of the Week
Jenkins Jumps at Captain’s Role with Valley Girls’ Soccer
Senior Hannah Jenkins is ready to take on the captain’s role for the Valley girls’ soccer squad. While the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the complexion of sports in Connecticut, Hannah is overjoyed at the prospects of playing a 2020 season. (Photo courtesy of Hannah Jenkins)
Hannah Jenkins has stepped up into a new leadership role with the Valley Regional girls’ soccer team this year. The senior is donning the captain’s hat as she looks to help lead the Warriors back to the Shoreline Conference Tournament final in 2020.
With preseason practices underway, Hannah is excited to be back on the field with Head Coach Lauren MacDonald’s squad.
Hannah considers playing in the Shoreline final to be the pinnacle of her soccer career at this point. Even though Valley wasn’t able to defeat Haddam-Killingworth for the title in 2019, the championship game proved a big moment for Hannah, and she’s eager to get another shot during the upcoming campaign.
“Last year was probably one of the biggest years for me personally. I didn’t receive any awards or anything, but it’s about the teamwork for me. I play defense for most of my sports,” says Hannah. “Last year, I was really proud to play in the Shoreline final. We didn’t win, but it was a big accomplishment to me. We had to beat Portland, the No. 1 team, to get there, and that made it even bigger of an accomplishment.”
In the Shoreline final, the Warriors fell behind H-K early, and they were even down by two goals at one point. Hannah and her teammates stuck to their game and came back to make it close contest by the end. Hannah feels proud of her teammates for continuing to compete when they could have easily rolled over while facing an early deficit.
“They scored a quick two goals on us at the beginning of the game. That was really tough on us mentally. We went in with the best attitude as we could. H-K has some great players,” Hannah says. “We pulled together and worked as a cohesive unit. We said this wasn’t over, we could pull through with this. We didn’t want to give up. We wanted to put up a fight, even if we lost.”
Hannah has the perfect mentality for a senior captain in that she always has the big picture in mind for her squad. Individuals may have their impact on a game, but every big play by one person begins with a smaller, less-noticeable play that creates that opportunity.
“A goal is never on a goalie or on the defense. The ball had to get down the field. We have to take that goal on as a team,” Hannah says. “I think it goes both ways. Every goal we score starts with a defensive play or a good pass. Last year, we focused on taking our time with our passes. You need time to pass back to the goalie or move the ball forward to create opportunities for the offense.”
Hannah is a staunch defender at the left wing back position. The senior has honed her skills when it comes to stopping oncoming opponents, but also knows that she has to trust her fellow defenders to back her up. Hannah learned a lot about that from one of last year’s seniors, Jenifer Caulfield.
“I’m focusing on my main way to approach in one-on-ones. I try to stall as long as I can and force them to their opposite side. I try to attack them the best way I can without being beaten, but I know my players are there to back me up,” says Hannah. “Our other captain, Maddie Costello, is usually on the same side with me. I know she’s going to be there with her speed, and then I’ll take her spot. We stay there until it calms down, and we switch back. It’s just communication. Last year, Jenifer Caulfield communicated really well. She was more experienced than me, and she would tell me which girls to watch out for.”
Now that Hannah is assuming the captain’s role, she has a solid understanding of how important she will be to her teammates. Every team needs to have that reassuring, yet direct voice coming from within the ranks, no matter how supportive the coaching staff is.
“For me personally, I think it’s important to have leaders your age. Coach MacDonald is a great coach and communicative, but having leaders our own age helps, especially with things like the new regulations due to COVID. It’s important to be friends with people and ask them how they are feeling,” Hannah says. “I remember my freshman year, soccer was my main outlet for making friends. So, it’s important for captains to welcome the younger players and say hi in the halls.”
Coach MacDonald is looking forward to watching Hannah and fellow senior captain Maddie Costello lead the Warriors from the captain’s chair. MacDonald has complete confidence that they are going to do a great job.
“I first met Hannah her sophomore year during my first year at Valley. Her enthusiasm and positive spirit instantly stood out to me. I have had the privilege of watching her develop into a great soccer player and team leader,” says MacDonald. “This season, I am looking to Hannah and Maddie, her co-captain, to be my right-hand women. They have already taken the initiative with getting to practice early to help set up and assist in any way they can. I’m very excited to have Hannah back on our defensive line this fall. She is a great athlete, student, team leader, and young woman. I can’t wait to see what this season has in store for Hannah and our team.”
In addition to soccer, Hannah also plays softball at Valley. When Hannah’s isn’t on the field, she’s involved in a variety of after-school clubs and local volunteer organizations.
“I like to get involved with a bunch of clubs and activities. I am treasurer of the Student Council, and the vice president of the Interact Club,” says Hannah. “With the Interact Club, we are the place where people can go around the community if they need volunteers. If people in the community need some help, we help set up and organize. I think it’s important to volunteer your time and give back to your community.”
As for the upcoming season, Hannah can’t wait to get started and take on her opponents in the Shoreline Conference. Following the cancellation of her softball season, Hannah hopes that soccer doesn’t suffer the same fate.
“I’m just excited for the season and hoping for the best for all the sports, especially soccer. I’m so pumped to only be playing the Shoreline. I can’t wait to play H-K again,” Hannah says. “It’s good, because there’s a whole mix in the Shoreline, and these are the teams we need to focus on. Having a smaller amount of games makes it easier for us to plan on certain players, teams, and formations. I don’t want to miss another season. That’s a long time without sports.”