Sports Person of the Week
Anastasio’s Glad That She Gave Field Hockey a Shot
Senior captain midfielder Sophia Anastasio helped the North Branford field hockey squad claim its fourth-straight Shoreline Conference title this fall and earned All-Conference Second Team recognition for her efforts. (Photo courtesy of Sophia Anastasio )
After growing up as a softball player, Sophia Anastasio wasn’t that interested when her mother Cindi encouraged her to give field hockey a shot in 4th grade. However, once she stepped on the field, Sophia’s interest in the sport was sparked, and she went on to become a captain, a multi-time Shoreline Conference champion, and an All-Shoreline honoree with the North Branford field hockey team.
Sophia began playing field hockey after attending a clinic in North Branford run by Cheryl Canada, the former associate head coach at Quinnipiac University. She later played the sport for three years at North Branford Intermediate School. Then after playing for Head Coach Babby Nuhn and the Thunderbirds as a freshman, Sophia’s passion for field hockey was fully unlocked.
“I met Coach Nuhn and the whole team, and I just loved running all the time. I just loved the whole sport,” Sophia says. “I loved the whole family aspect of it. It all just really clicked freshman year.”
Sophia, a midfielder, saw playing time with both the JV and varsity teams in her first two seasons. While it was a big jump going from middle school to high school, Sophia says that all of her teammates made her feel welcome as soon as she joined the T-Birds.
“High school field hockey is definitely different from middle school. It’s a lot more competitive,” Sophia says. “But it was a great challenge. Being with everybody was amazing. The seniors showed me around. They helped me in school and on the field. I really developed as a player that season.”
In the summer before her junior year, Sophia tore both the ACL and meniscus in her right knee and was forced to miss the entire season. However, rather than let her injury derail her, Sophia attended physical therapy three times a week and did everything she could to get back onto the field with her teammates as a senior.
“It was a major challenge. I felt really defeated at first. But I worked really hard to get back,” says Sophia. “My physical therapist pushed me really hard, because he knew I really wanted to get back and be the best that I could. I put in all that work and, over quarantine, I was running every day outside and putting in my own work to get back to where I was.”
After battling back from her injury, Sophia made a triumphant return to the field for her senior season this past fall. Sophia started for North Branford at the midfielder position and proved crucial in helping the club win its fourth-straight Shoreline Conference title with a perfect 10-0 record. By virtue of her performance, Sophia was named to the All-Shoreline Conference Second Team.
“It was absolutely incredible, especially coming back in a season like this with all the obstacles. Just being able to play, I realized how much I actually took for granted,” Sophia says. “I just appreciated the season so much more than any other season. It was so special, and I’ll forever hold it in my heart.”
In addition to holding a starting varsity role, Sophia also earned the title of captain and led North Branford alongside fellow senior Kelli Jacobson this season. Sophia feels that it was an honor to be named captain and says that she and Jacobson worked together to make the campaign as special as it could be.For Sophia, the family atmosphere of North Branford field hockey is her favorite part of playing for team.
“Playing for North Branford was amazing. We had so much support from the administration and the coaches. We had so much support in every area. It really helped our entire program,” says Sophia. “The girls on the team all stuck together as a family. We glued and jelled together perfectly, which made us be so successful.”
After she graduates from high school, Sophia is planning to attend college and major in kinesiology. Sophia’s injury was what opened her eyes to the field, which is the study of human and non-human body movement. She’s also hoping to play field hockey at either the club or intramural level.
While she was reluctant in 4th grade, Sophia now feels “so lucky” that her mom encouraged her to play field hockey. Throughout her journey, Sophia became both a solid player and leader for the T-Birds. Sophia appreciates the fact that competing for the North Branford field hockey team gave her a plethora of lifelong memories and helped become the person that she is today.
“It means so much. I’m so glad I got to be a part of the whole experience. For Christmas, my mom made me a blanket that has quotes from my team. I hold that so dearly to my heart,” Sophia says. “It shaped me into the person I am today.”