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Senior Taylor Gambardella is looking for a triumphant finish to her tenure with the Guilford girls’ soccer team, after which she will continue her career at Marist College. (Photo courtesy of Taylor Gambardella )
Less than two percent of high school athletes go on to play at the NCAA Division I level in college, but that isn’t stopping Taylor Gambardella. Taylor, a senior captain and a standout at the center back position for Guilford girls’ soccer squad, has verbally committed to continue her career at Marist College, a Division I school in Poughkeepsie, New York.
In addition to playing for Guilford, Taylor hones her skills by competing for Connecticut Football Club United in the Elite Clubs National League. Taylor feels that playing against such a high level of competition helped her pave her path to Marist.
“I have played all over the country. The exposure helped me to get recruited to play Division I soccer at Marist College next fall,” says Taylor. “I also train at [Mangino Strength and Conditioning] to improve my strength, speed, and agility.”
Taylor’s road to the collegiate ranks is a journey that’s been 12 years in the making. Taylor started with soccer when she was five and takes great pride in playing for the girls’ team at Guilford High School. Last year, Taylor made the All-SCC Second Team while helping Guilford put together a historic season.
“The soccer tradition in Guilford is rich. I loved growing up in a town that loves their soccer,” Taylor says. “I am a four-year starter with the program, All-Conference, and was one of the top 25 CIAC players to watch this year. I’m part of a special group of seniors, and we have played in a lot of big games together, including winning the SCC and State tournament last year.”
In her four years at Guilford, the moment that Taylor will always hold closest to her heart was when she and her sister Madison helped their team win the Class L state title with a 2-1 victory versus East Lyme in the final.
“Last year was such a special season,” says Taylor. “Having the opportunity to play alongside my sister Madison as center backs and to go out as state champions in our final game together was amazing. We had 15 shutouts together. She is now playing soccer at Babson College.”
Guilford is picking up where it left off as Taylor and company are sporting a record of 4-0-2 on the year. While it’s been anything but a typical season, Taylor says that her squad “is just happy to be playing games this fall,” and that she’s looking to finish the campaign on a high note.
“We treat every game like it could be our last time playing for Guilford together, because anything could happen this season,” Taylor says.
Taylor was uncertain about how things would play out with her club team or at the high school after the COVID-19 pandemic started wreaking havoc in the United States. Taylor wasn’t even sure about how she would continue to train, but she made due with the situation, while looking to her sister as a source of motivation.
“When COVID changed everything in March, I stayed focused and continued to train every day with my sister, even though our club practices and games were canceled,” Taylor says. “We kept each other motivated. We worked on our soccer skills, went on runs, and really did whatever it took to stay in shape. We want to be as good of players as we can be. I have always strived to play at the highest level of soccer I can.”
Guilford’s first-year Head Coach Regina Sullivan describes Taylor as a scrappy and versatile soccer player. A prime example of Taylor’s prowess on the pitch came when Guilford battled Branford to a 0-0 draw on Oct. 19.
“She’s a very versatile player, and she had an awesome game against Branford the other day,” says Sullivan of Taylor. “She saved us after our goalkeeper was beat. Taylor hustled back and slid to knock the ball away versus ending up in the net. Her performance and work ethic against Branford made the difference between a tie and a loss for us.”
Aside from playing soccer, Taylor is an honors student and a member of the Spanish Honor Society at Guilford High School. Taylor feels eager to start her soccer career at Marist, but right now, her main focus is enjoying her final games alongside her Guilford teammates.
“I plan to study biology in the fall,” says Taylor. “I’m excited for the opportunity, but I’m looking forward to finishing this season with my team.”