Fate makes former rivals teammates

Former Naugatuck High School soccer player Stephanie Santos is in her second season with the New England Mutiny of the United Women’s Soccer League. Among her teammates is former Woodland soccer player Kieran DeBiase. –GEORGE SKOVERA

Former Naugatuck High School soccer player Stephanie Santos is in her second season with the New England Mutiny of the United Women’s Soccer League. Among her teammates is former Woodland soccer player Kieran DeBiase. –GEORGE SKOVERA

As fate would have it, former Naugatuck Valley League soccer rivals Kieran DeBiase and Stephanie Santos are now teammates on the New England Mutiny.

The Mutiny, a minor league women’s soccer team based in East Longmeadow, Mass., is part of the newly-formed United Women’s Soccer League. The team, which was established in 1999, ended its 12-year association last season with the Women’s Premier League where the team was the six-time Eastern Champions.

Mutiny owner Joe Ferrara has assembled a 27-player roster with players from Austria, France, Sweden, Ireland and England along with some of the best college soccer players in the country. The roster includes DeBiase, a Woodland graduate and Prospect resident who now plays at Southern Connecticut State University, and Santos, a Naugatuck High School grad who played for the University of Hartford.

“Considering we were rivals in high school it’s kind of funny that we end up as teammates,” DeBiase said. “Steph is really a talented player. The first time I played against her in high school was my freshman year when I had to man mark her and now we are teammates.”

DeBiase, a four-time All-NVL player for the Hawks, has gone on to make her mark as a collegiate soccer for the SCSU Owls. She scored two game-winning goals in 2014 and was named to the NE 10 All-Conference third team. This year, she led the Owls in assists with five in 16 starts.

Santos played with the Mutiny last season and made a name for herself on the pitch with the University of Hartford. In 2013, she was named the Co-Midfielder of the Year in the American East Conference. This past season she was named to the All-New England (NEWISA-All Region) and the American East All-Conference team. In 2014, she played for the Portugal women’s national team.

“I was coming off a 10-month recovery from hip surgery last year,” Santos said. “So the Mutiny team was the perfect environment to step back into competition. Playing with Kieran has been fun. We share a lot of memories from our high school days and we have managed to stay in touch.”

The Mutiny (5-3) are in second place in the East Conference behind New Jersey (7-1-1). Santos is a co-captain and is third on the team in minutes played with 508. She has scored one goal and added two assists.

“She is a role model who leads by example with an untiring work ethic and a passion for the game,” Mutiny head coach Joe Abele said of Santos. “She has the ability to take command at midfield and make things happen.”

Former Woodland soccer player Kieran DeBiase is in her first season with the New England Mutiny of the United Women’s Soccer League. Among her teammates is former Naugatuck High School soccer player Stephanie Santos. –NE MUTINY

Former Woodland soccer player Kieran DeBiase is in her first season with the New England Mutiny of the United Women’s Soccer League. Among her teammates is former Naugatuck High School soccer player Stephanie Santos. –NE MUTINY

DeBiase played 26 minutes on defense and midfield in a July 9 win over the Long Island Rough Riders that snapped the team’s two-game losing streak. On June 19, she played a season-high 55 minutes in a tough 3-1 loss to TSF Academy.

“The minutes she plays for us are extremely valuable and productive for the system we play. Her hard work and dedication is an asset to our organization and her teammates,” Abele said.

Santos concluded her college soccer career last fall but plans on playing for the Mutiny over the next three years with the hope of returning to Europe again once she finishes her schooling. She is currently pursuing a doctorate in physical therapy at the University of Hartford.

“My plan is to continue playing with the Mutiny while I’m still in school. Playing soccer is like therapy for me,” Santos said.

The fast-paced play of the United Women’s League is what has impressed DeBiase the most and will make her a better player in the long run. The league has 11 teams, including teams in Pennsylvania, New York, Colorado, Utah, Texas and California.

“The competition is great,” DeBiase said. “I knew it wasn’t going to be easy. Fortunately we play close to home and my family can come out to see me play. I believe this league will make me a better player and I’m excited to see how my final year in college will turn out.”

There are two games left in the regular season for the Mutiny. The Mutiny will take on New Jersey, which clinched the East Conference title this week, Saturday at West Springfield High School in Springfield, Mass. The Mutiny will conclude the regular season July 23 against TSF Academy at East Longmeadow High School in Massachusetts.