Soccer tandem leads Naugy to fast start
NAUGATUCK — Steph Lima and Alexya Alves communicate so well together on the soccer field that it’s almost like they’re speaking a different language.
Well, sometimes they are.
“We have a lot of Portuguese people in Naugatuck so Lex and I sometimes communicate in Portuguese,” Lima says. “It’s a pretty big advantage since a lot of the team is Portuguese.”
But that edge is the only the beginning of Lima and Alves’ relationship on the pitch.
Lima, a senior, and Alves, a junior, both have scored six goals in the Greyhounds’ first six games. They’re tied for the team lead in scoring, and no other player on the squad has scored more than twice.
That much scoring between the two adds up to just as much celebration.
“When either of us scores, she runs up and jumps on me so I have to be ready to catch her,” Lima says.
The strikers agree the way they feed off one another helps the whole team.
“We hype each other up a lot before the game, after the game and when we score,” Alves says. “Especially when I get an assist on her goal, it feels really good. It brings the whole team up when you help make something happen.”
Alves enjoyed a breakout year as a sophomore. She earned All-Naugatuck Valley League Copper honors and was among the league’s leading scorers, helping the Greyhounds reach the NVL championship game.
After last fall’s success, she didn’t know what to expect in 2012.
“It was surprising,” Alves says of her 2011 performance. “Being a sophomore last year, I knew I still had two more years so I didn’t know what I was going to be able to do this year. It’s been frustrating because I wasn’t scoring right off the bat but I have more assists (three) this year already.”
Lima is best known as a star of the Naugy basketball team, helping the ‘Hounds pull an upset in last year’s NVL tournament quarterfinals.
“I think my court vision in basketball really helps on the soccer field,” Lima says. “I’m a captain in basketball so I’m used to communicating when the ball’s on the defensive line.”
The pair makes no secret of each of their strengths. In fact, they use a description from a newspaper article last month to save themselves the trouble.
“We had this joke because in the first article, she was the ‘physical presence’ and I was the ‘fleet-footed forward,’” Alves says. “So now we have a joke that she’ll get in the way for me and I’ll use my speed.”
Naugatuck coach Sean Dunn agrees with everyone’s assessment.
“[Alves] is very quick and very persistent to the ball,” Dunn says. “She really wants to get inside the box to get scoring opportunities. [Lima] is a strong, physical presence. She takes attributes from basketball and brings them to soccer. She doesn’t shy away from contact.”
Their varied skill sets makes their communication — especially the type that doesn’t involve English or Portuguese — all the more remarkable.
“If she’s holding the ball off, she knows where I’m running right away and when I’m holding it I know where she is,” Lima says.
“The balls she plays to me are really good,” Alves says. “She does a great job of holding the ball and distributing. We play off each other and we’ve really worked on that since last year.”
Dunn says their ability to work together so seamlessly has been a huge factor in Naugy’s 5-1 start to the season.
“This year it seems to be blossoming,” he says of his forwards’ relationship. “With various people we had last year they didn’t have as many opportunities. They’re working well and talking well. It’s a matter of continuing that. Having a two-headed monster is pretty good going into the later parts of this season.”
Naugatuck reached its fourth straight NVL championship game last season and should be in the running to get there again. The girls think the team’s chemistry could be the reason.
“We’re a lot closer than we were last year,” Alves says. “The fact that we have such a mixed group from freshmen to seniors brings us really close.”
And that’s exactly what Alves and Lima are.
“It’s just perfect,” Lima says. “I wouldn’t want anyone else by my side.”