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Sports Person of the Week
Graziano Has Happy and Healthy Senior Season
Senior Teal Graziano spent her last two years of high school competing for the East Haven girls’ soccer squad, finishing her career as a varsity player last fall. (Photo courtesy of Teal Graziano)
After competing in wrestling and softball, Teal Graziano decided that she wanted to try soccer during her junior year at East Haven High School. In her two seasons with the girls’ soccer squad, Teal persevered through an injury to set an excellent example of dedication for her teammates.
“I always liked soccer. I just never pursued doing it,” says Teal. “I just thought it would be something to do. I didn’t realize it would be one of the best things I have ever done.”
Teal spent her first soccer season at East Haven competing for the JV team. As she was beginning to learn the sport, Teal looked to her coaches and teammates to help guide her through that transition.
“My first year was great. I loved it. I struggled at first, but I made lots of progress and picked it up quickly. I think I did pretty great,” Teal says. “They would always take JV to the side, and the coaches and players were really supportive. It’s one big family.”
Teal was dealing with an injury to her right hip as she entered her junior season, although her doctors were unsure of exactly what the problem was at the time. Instead of letting that injury sideline her, Teal continued to play, because she had quickly taken a liking to soccer and didn’t want to sit out.
“It was my junior year. I only had two years to play. I wanted to get good. I felt like I had the potential. It gave me adrenaline,” says Teal. “I like the way soccer makes me feel. I get happy, and I can take out my energy. Anything I’m feeling, I can just clear my mind. I didn’t want to give up.”
Teal wound up having surgery on her right hip last March. As she recovered, Teal attended East Haven’s Zoom meetings in order to develop chemistry with her teammates. Teal also went to physical therapy and did everything she could to return to the field, saying that she “couldn’t wait” to be back with the Yellowjackets.
Teal was indeed able to play her senior season, only this time she was competing for East Haven’s varsity team. In the second game of the year, Teal, a midfielder, scored the first goal of her high school career to help the Yellowjackets post an 8-0 win versus Career-Hillhouse. Scoring that goal was a special moment for Teal.
“That was one of the greatest moments. It felt so good, and the whole team was so supportive,” Teal says. “In wrestling, this would have been my fourth year, and I still never won a match. With soccer, it was like I was meant to do soccer. I just felt like I deserved it, and I put in the work. I thank the team for it, and I thank myself for it. It kept me going.”
Throughout the past two years, Head Coach Jake Hackett has seen Teal make great progress as she’s battled back from her injury. Although Teal came to the program with no experience, Hackett says that she put in a lot of effort to improve and ultimately proved one of the most coachable players that he’s ever known.
“Teal didn’t have any experience playing soccer, but she said she was interested, and she came out and worked hard,” says Hackett. “She would say things to me that were way beyond what a kid who just started playing soccer would say. She spent a lot of time listening and taking in everything to learn the game. She was a delight to have.”
Teal transferred to East Haven High School as a junior after having previously attended The Sound School in New Haven. Shortly thereafter, Teal, who had already been playing softball for a few years, signed up to compete for the Yellowjackets’ wrestling team. While all three sports feature much different objectives, Teal feels that her experience in each of them has helped her grow as an all-around athlete.
“They all include your feet. You have to do a lot of running for softball and soccer,” Teal says. “You learn a lot of foot skills in wrestling that I took to soccer. You learn about communication and teamwork.”
Teal is planning to pursue a nursing degree in college. She also has plans to continue playing soccer at the club level.
Teal feels thankful for all of the encouragement and guidance that she received from her fellow Easties during her soccer career. Teal appreciates that she was able to express herself through soccer, and it means a lot to her that she did so in East Haven.
“The time I was playing soccer was the toughest time of my life. Through hip issues, through being at a new school, soccer has kept me going,” says Teal. “I met my friends there, and soccer was a place to take out my emotions. I loved working hard, and I loved the way the ball touched my feet.”