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Junior Kate Pycela has established herself as a defensive stalwart for the East Haven girls’ soccer team since joining the varsity squad as a freshman. (Photo courtesy of Kate Pycela )
When she was five years old, Kate Pycela started playing soccer in East Haven’s youth league because the sport seemed fun and she was looking for “something to do.” However, Kate quickly realized that soccer was going to be much more than a hobby for her, and she’s gone on to become crucial piece of the Yellowjackets’ defense the past three years.
“I just started getting more serious about it as time went on. It was something I wanted to keep doing,” says Kate, a junior. “As I got older, I realized I was getting pretty good at this. It wasn’t something just for fun and to not take seriously. I wanted to keep on going and keep getting better. It helped me grow as a person. It made me better overall.”
Kate played in the East Haven youth league until the 8th grade. She had a few quick stints at the Premier level, but has spent most of her years playing soccer in town.
When she was a freshman, Kate joined the East Haven girls’ soccer team and promptly became a starter on defense. Kate felt a little nervous about playing the defender position at first and didn’t want to let anyone down. By the same token, the varsity experience that Kate gained as a freshman proved invaluable to her for the next few seasons.
“It was very nerve-wracking. Coming up as a freshman, the older girls expect a lot out of you,” Kate says. “When you’re on the team and starting as a freshman, you’re not a freshman anymore. You’re just a part of the team and you have to do what you do. You can’t go out there and think you’re playing against older girls. You’re just as old as they are on the field, and you have to compete at their level.”
Kate felt more comfortable on the field by her sophomore season. She was growing as a leader and doing whatever she could to help both her younger and older teammates improve.
Kate recently finished her junior season with East Haven, helping the Yellowjackets post an overall record of 5-5-2. Although there was no state tournament, the Easties competed in the SCC Division B Tournament and earned a 4-1 win versus Wilbur Cross in a first-round game. In her three years at East Haven, the practices leading up to the playoffs have provided the fondest memories of Kate’s high school career.
“That’s where we really all came together. We all knew that we wanted it so much more than anybody else,” says Kate. “We work so much harder together. We all came together.”
Kate joined the Yellowjackets in Head Coach Jake Hackett’s second year with the program. While he felt comfortable having Kate start as a freshman, Hackett says that Kate has continually improved in her three years with the Easties on her way to becoming a cornerstone of the team’s defense.
“Kate has been an impact player since she entered our program. She has been a constant on our defense since day one,” says Hackett. “I’m very proud of everything Kate has done in this program and look forward to her continued growth. She is a great player, person, and teammate.”
When Kate started playing soccer, she was joined by her twin sister Emily, a junior who plays forward for East Haven. Kate always knows where to find her sister on the pitch and gains confidence from having her out there. She loves playing soccer with her sister and believes that their connection gives them an advantage.
“My sister and I play together, and we have a good connection. I’m in the back, and she’s a forward, so I can get the ball to her. It’s like a twin thing, but I just always know where she is on the field,” Kate says. “It helps me as a defender and helps our offense. It’s very nerve-wracking being a defender. It’s on you to get the ball out of our half. If they score, you feel like it’s on you. But I’ve been comfortable defending, and I don’t get nearly as nervous.”
In addition to her sister, Kate has been competing alongside many of the same people as a result of playing soccer in East Haven for more than a decade. Kate and her teammates have bonded as they’ve risen through the town’s soccer ranks, while building up the overall stature of the sport in town.
“Playing with them has been very enjoyable. We have all come so close together. It’s even better being on the field with them than not,” says Kate. “On the field we all love playing soccer, and it’s just something we can all do together. Since we all have such a good bond on the field, it makes us so much better. We all have that connection.”
Aside from soccer, Kate is also a member of the East Haven girls’ basketball team. Just like soccer, Kate started playing hoops at age five and signed up for the Easties in her freshman year. While basketball and soccer are much different sports, playing both allows Kate to stay conditioned for when she’s running down the court or up the field.
With one more year of soccer to go, Kate’s goals are to help the Yellowjackets start out hot and stay consistent throughout the entire season next fall. Kate has been playing soccer for most of her life, and the sport has become a big-time passion for her.
“It means so much to me,” Kate says. “People think that soccer is just a sport. To me, it’s a lifestyle. Every day, I want my life to be involved with soccer.”