Sports Person of the Week
Amendola Proud to Lead the T-Birds as a Senior
Ashlee Amendola became a strong leader for the North Branford girls’ soccer squad. The senior captain midfielder finished her career by garnering All-Shoreline Conference Honorable Mention this fall. (Photo courtesy of Ashlee Amendola )
Ashlee Amendola embodies what any team would want in a leader. A senior captain midfielder, Ashlee turned in a solid campaign for the North Branford girls’ soccer squad this fall, earning All-Shoreline Conference Honorable Mention in the process.
Ashlee didn’t get as early of a start in soccer as is typical of most varsity athletes. After competing in dance and cheerleading, Ashlee was introduced to the sport by Adrianna Lucibello, who later became her teammate with the Thunderbirds. Ashlee started out by competing for North Branford’s 10-U travel team. What was anxiety inducing at first became a great way for Ashlee to spend time with her friends.
“I was really nervous. I never kicked a soccer ball when I was three. It started when I was 10. It was really nerve-wracking,” says Ashlee. “I didn’t know what I was doing, but I was around a bunch of different girls who had experience. It really pushed me to live up to their level. It helped me become better over the years.”
By the time she reached North Branford Intermediate School, Ashlee began to see her potential and wanted to focus on soccer. In 8th grade, she had halted her cheerleading and dance endeavors and started working even harder on the soccer field.
When Ashlee joined the T-Birds as a freshman, she stepped into the center midfield position, serving as one of the first two varsity subs off the bench. Playing at such a high level during her freshman year was a bit of an eye-opener for Ashlee. However, with the support of her teammates, she saw what she needed to do to succeed at the varsity level.
“It was really intimidating. I felt like I had a lot of pressure on me. When I messed up, I got down on myself,” Ashlee says. “I felt like I was letting my team down, but everyone was always supportive. They always pushed me and always gave me helpful tips to get better. I really took into consideration everything my coaches, teammates, and captains told me. If I was going to be on the field playing with upperclassmen, I might as well play at their level.”
Ashlee wasn’t seeing the playing time she wanted in her sophomore season and questioned if her hard work was paying off. However, in her junior year, Ashlee earned her spot in North Branford’s starting varsity lineup. Ashlee knew that she needed to keep working hard in order to maintain her starting role.
“It was like a relief. I felt like sophomore year, I kind of let myself down. I was thinking, ‘What am I doing wrong?’ I thought it was my fault,” says Ashlee. “Junior year when I started, I knew I needed to put in my best effort because, if I want to keep my position, I’m going to have to work 10 times harder.”
While the T-Birds saw some struggles in Ashlee’s senior year, she felt pleased that the team stayed together and played as a cohesive unit. When the campaign ended, Ashlee received All-Shoreline Conference Honorable Mention—a distinction that she credits to both her teammates’ support and her own efforts.
“My teammates really helped me become a better player. Our season was rough. We didn’t get the result we wanted, but being around teammates that also went 100 percent made me go harder,” Ashlee says. “We really started to play together. I felt like I was getting better. I had some of my best games. You walk off the field proud of yourself, and I felt that more this year than junior or freshman year. Getting Honorable Mention was nice to be recognized and see my hard work pay off.”
In addition to her All-Conference recognition, Ashlee feels honored to have served as a captain alongside senior Catie Dow and sophomore Ava Candelora this fall. Ashlee had wanted to wear the captain’s hat since her freshman year, and she worked hard the past four years to prove that she could fare well in that capacity.
“I always dreamt my freshman year that I wanted to be a captain my senior year. I really wanted to be a leader for my teammates,” says Ashlee. “I wanted to show the coaches that I was capable of taking that responsibility. I always had people looking up to me, and that’s something I really value. I worked alongside Catie and Ava, and I think we worked well with what we had.”
Ashlee has also been a member of North Branford’s girls’ indoor and outdoor track teams since her freshman year. Ashlee remembers her former coach Ed Priess telling her how fast she was on the soccer field. Following his advice, Ashlee joined the track team—something that ultimately helped her as a soccer player.
“If you didn’t get the result you wanted at a track meet or the time you wanted, it just really pushed you to work harder. I always put my best effort into track because, I know that in a soccer game, you’re always running,” Ashlee says. “I could be two seconds faster than someone behind me. It always paid off. I never thought about quitting track, because it helps me.”
After graduating from North Branford, Ashlee plans on attending Gateway Community College and majoring in radiology. She is also planning to play soccer at the club level.
Above all, Ashlee enjoyed playing alongside her fellow seniors this fall. Ashlee has been teammates with seniors Lucibello, Zoe Miller, Adrianna Cacopardo, Alessia Valentino, and Mallory Priess since her youth soccer days. Playing soccer helped Ashlee gain confidence in herself, and competing with the same players for the long haul made the experience even more enjoyable.
“It was really special. It was nice to be carrying a legacy from freshman to senior year. It was a core six of us that really played together since we were young. It was nice to finish where we started,” says Ashlee. “We were so close, because we’ve known each other for so long. It made playing soccer so much easier and much more fun. It was nice to end off on a good note.”