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Senior captain Angelina Munoz has been the starting goalkeeper for the East Haven girls’ soccer squad since her freshman year of high school. She also plays for the girls’ basketball team. (Photo courtesy of Angelina Munoz )
Angelina Munoz is entering her senior year at East Haven High School, where she competes for the Yellowjackets’ girls’ soccer and basketball teams. This fall, Angelina is slated to lead the girls’ soccer squad as its starting goalkeeper for the fourth-straight season, in addition to serving as one of the team’s captains.
Angelina started playing soccer while living in Mexico when she was in the 1st grade. Angelina moved to Connecticut a few years later and then met John Gildersleeve, the coaching coordinator of the East Haven Youth Soccer program. Angelina says that working with Gildersleeve boosted her confidence and helped make her the goalie that she is today.
“He helped me a lot with my goalkeeping. He was there for me whenever I needed help,” Angelina says of Gildersleeve. “I would ask questions. He saw my potential. He gave me so much positivity, and he helped me work harder.”
After meeting Gildersleeve as a 4th-grader, Angelina started playing the goalie position during her 5th-grade season. Angelina had originally been a midfielder, but after transitioning into the net, she decided that was the place she wanted to be on the field.
“I started playing goalkeeper my 5th-grade year. I loved playing the field, but I got into goalkeeping more,” says Angelina. “It really clicked. I have long arms, and I’m quick to the ball. I really like the competition.”
After playing for three years at Joseph Melillo Middle School, Angelina joined the Yellowjackets as a freshman and immediately earned her spot as their starting goalie. Angelina says that she was “excited, but nervous” to start as a freshman, because she knew the responsibilities that come with being a varsity keeper.
Angelina’s freshman season was also Jake Hackett’s first year as head coach of the Easties. Hackett saw Angelina’s potential when he named her the starter and feels proud to have seen her flourish as both a keeper and a leader in the subsequent seasons.
“Angelina came in as a freshman, and I put her right into the starting goalkeeper role. She was a very good keeper as a freshman, but she has really developed into the position,” Hackett says. “Now, Angelina comes off her line very quickly. She is authoritative in the air. She makes saves other keepers don’t. As a junior, Angelina grew in her leadership role, organizing her defensive unit and talking to the team as a whole.”
Coach Hackett calls Angelina “the rock” of East Haven girls’ soccer and says that she’s one of foundational players around whom the Yellowjackets have built their program. Last year, Angelina helped East Haven go 7-7-3 and qualify for the Class L State Tournament.
Now heading into her senior season, Angelina is serving as one of East Haven’s captains alongside Aimee DiVerniero and Bella Pilato. Hackett says that Angelina was a leader on the Easties long before earning the title of captain and that he expects her vocal leadership to only improve as a senior.
“I’ve seen Ang come out of her shell over the past three years. She has developed great relationships with players. She has a great way to connect with people,” says Hackett. “Angelina is a field commander-type goalkeeper, always giving instructions. That role could be so invaluable. She has grown so much in that role. With her now being a senior, I think she really gets our whole system and understands how to lead the team during the game.”
Aside from playing soccer, Angelina is also a member of the East Haven girls’ basketball team. Angelina started playing basketball in 4th grade and, while playing two varsity sports is certainly a lot of work, it’s what she loves to do. Angelina says that she’s gained confidence on both the pitch and the court as a result of competing in each of her sports.
Angelina is hoping to continue playing soccer at the collegiate level. Angelina is thinking about majoring in the physical education field and has looked at schools like the University of Bridgeport and Lafayette College in Pennsylvania. Angelina loves playing soccer and isn’t planning to stop any time soon.
“I work hard for it, and would do anything to prove I can do it in college,” Angelina says. “It’s a part of me and who I am. I just want to keep on going with it.”
After watching Angelina progress in net during the past three seasons, Coach Hackett believes she has all the necessary skills to play in college. Hackett knew that he had a goalie with potential when Angelina signed up for the Yellowjackets as a freshman. Now, Hackett calls Angelina an elite goalkeeper in East Haven girls’ soccer history.
“Positions can be replaced, but people cannot. You want to leave things better than when you got there. Angelina, as a goalkeeper in this program, has really pushed the envelope, pushed the talent that we’ve had. For Ang to be as good for as long as she has been, those are big shoes to fill,” Hackett says. “Angelina will leave a legacy as one of the best, if not the best goalkeeper, this program has to offer. I hope she continues on with her career in soccer. She has all the capabilities to go to the next level with this.”