Thursday, September 23, 2021

Sports Person of the Week

Esposito Proves a True Leader for the Hornets

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Senior captain Sophia Esposito battled through an injury to get back on the field for the home stretch of her last year with Branford softball squad.

Photo courtesy of Sophia Esposito

Senior captain Sophia Esposito battled through an injury to get back on the field for the home stretch of her last year with Branford softball squad. (Photo courtesy of Sophia Esposito)

As a catcher, Sophia Esposito knew that she always had to be a leader on the diamond. Sophia was able to do that and much more during her career with the Branford softball program, becoming a pivotal member of the varsity team and being named a captain as a senior.

Sophia started playing softball in the Branford rec program at the age of eight. She idolized Yankees’ legend Yogi Berra and wanted to be a catcher just like him. Sophia’s father Rocco played catcher while growing up and played a crucial role in helping her get involved with the sport.

“My dad was really big into baseball. He played for East Haven in high school and played catcher. I’d watch Yankees’ games every night. I loved Yogi Berra. I started to catch because of him,” says Sophia. “My dad influenced me and kept me in the sport. Once I got to high school, my teammates kept me playing.”

When she was 11, Sophia began competing with the CT Sting, where her father served as one of her coaches. Playing for the Sting helped Sophia find her footing behind the plate as she learned how to lead and communicate with her teammates.

Prior to joining the Sting, Sophia competed in both dance and cheerleading. However, when she realized that she wanted to play softball year-round, Sophia decided to stop participating in those two sports to in order to focus on improving on the diamond.

“I quit cheerleading and dance for softball. It was really the only sport that I stuck with. It was the one sport I wanted to play in the summer, spring, and fall. I stopped dancing and cheerleading to focus on softball,” Sophia says. “Once I started playing for the Sting, softball stuck for me. My coaches really enhanced who I was as a player. It was just what I wanted to do.”

In her freshman year, Sophia joined the Hornets and promptly earned a spot on the varsity roster. She wasn’t the full-time starting catcher, but still saw time behind the dish. While she was nervous at first, Sophia felt more comfortable after getting acclimated with her teammates.

“The first day I had varsity practice, I was terrified. But I quickly realized I had nothing to worry about,” says Sophia. “All of my teammates were so kind to me. They treated me like I deserved to be there. When I was in the games, my experience took over. It wasn’t, ‘I’m 14 and playing varsity.’ It was just I had to do what I do to help the team win games.”

During her sophomore season, Sophia became Branford’s starting varsity catcher and also saw some time at first base. When her junior season was canceled due to COVID-19, Sophia started thinking about how she was going to prepare herself for her senior year. Sophia worked with her dad in the backyard, getting in as many reps as possible.

Just as she was about to return to the field, Sophia suffered a lumbar spinal injury and was forced to miss the first five weeks of her senior season. Once she returned, Sophia was unable to catch and only played first base.

It was a difficult battle for Sophia to get back out there. Even if she couldn’t compete alongside her teammates, Sophia wanted to make sure that they all knew she was still there to support them.

“It was really tough on me. There were days I was so upset I couldn’t play, and I couldn’t do anything about it. I couldn’t get my catcher’s bag on the bus to away games. I felt like I let my coaches and teammates down. I did what I could cheering in the dugout,” Sophia says. “I finally came off of my injury, and I just wanted to get out there. I had to get back into my stride. The last three or four weeks, I just had to make it count.”

Heading into her senior season, Sophia was named a captain alongside fellow seniors Lily Hitchcock and Kaitlyn Dugan. Sophia had been playing with many of her Hornets’ teammates in both the rec league and with Sting. Whenever someone was struggling, Sophia always made sure that she cheered up that person. Sophia wanted to make everyone smile and feels that she accomplished that goal.

Tori Ramada became Branford’s coach for Sophia’s sophomore season. Ramada was impressed with heart that Sophia displayed as she persevered through her injury.

“Sophia was a very strong player and leader. She couldn’t play the first half of the year, but that didn’t stop her passion and drive for her team and the game,” says Ramada. “When she was cleared to play, she really worked hard and stepped up at first base. She always looked for opportunities to stay after practice and get more reps in hitting or fielding. She has such a passion for the game and is a natural leader.”

Sophia was also a member of the Branford girls’ swimming and diving team for the past four years. Just like with softball, Sophia loved forming bonds with her teammates on the pool deck and felt a strong sense of family on the squad.

Sophia will attend UConn to pursue a degree in political science. She has been accepted into the school’s honors program and plans to ultimately pursue a career in law. Sophia is also hoping to play club softball at UConn.

Sophia has learned numerous life lessons while growing up on the softball field. By competing for the Hornets, Sophia learned a lot about camaraderie and how it’s important to always be there for your teammates.

“Softball is about not being selfish. If I were to strikeout, I can’t go into the dugout and be all mad. I have to encourage the next person,” Sophia says. “Being a softball player and being an athlete teaches you to work together. Not everything in life is about you. Despite the hardships, you have to help yourself and have to pick up others, too.”


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