NAUGATUCK — The Naugatuck girls soccer team comes into the season looking to put last year behind them. There was a lot of expectations with a new head coach, and that brought a lot of added pressure to succeed.
The Greyhounds rode that wave of enthusiasm to a 5-1 start last year until their leading scorer, Sara Marques, was lost for the season with an injury. The offense struggled to find its identity and six of their losses were by one goal, and two of the defeats came in overtime.
By the end of the season, Naugatuck (8-8) had turned the corner and reached the semifinals of the NVL tournament looking to play in the title game for the seventh time in ten years. A 2-0 loss in the semis to Watertown ended the journey.
“When our leading scorer Sara Marques got injured and was lost for the season that put a lot of pressure on the team,” Naugatuck head coach Lisa Mariano said. “I feel we have come back this year in better physical shape. I think the girls know my coaching style a little better, so I think we are one step ahead of where we were last year at the start of the season.”
The Greyhounds will need to fill holes on the defensive end. Naugatuck graduated starting goalie Sophie Boucher and All-NVL defender Jasmine Grey. In total, the Greyhounds graduated a class of 12 seniors, which opens up a lot of opportunities for players to step up.
“Losing Jasmine in the back will be big for us,” Mariano said. “She was physical, she was fast and saw the game well. So we are going to take Kyla (Magalhaes) from center mid and drop her back there and I think she will do a good job for us.
“Cassidy (Baranowski) will be our starting goalie. We have a lot of confidence in her and we have been working with her. She will be ready to go once the season starts.”
Naugatuck captains senior defender Kyla Magalhaes and junior forward Alyana Sosa are two of the talented players who gained a wealth of experience last season. Seniors Nicole Crowley and Leigha Molligi, the outside and center backs, offer experience and leadership on the field.
“Alyana (Sosa) is a silent leader on the field and moves real well with the ball,” said Mariano, who along with assistant coaches Alice Kinne and Dave Ciskowski have been working on getting the team game ready.
Two players who will be looked on for expanded roles are junior Erin Doris and sophomore Bridget Rosikiewicz. They are both tough-as-nails players that will help Naugatuck get its swagger back.
“Hailey Boulanger a junior forward will also play up front to get our offense going. Erin Doris really came on strong late last year and Bridget is a fearless player,” Mariano said.
The Greyhounds will also look to get a boost in the middle of the season from senior Kasi Michaud, who transferred from Nonnewaug and isn’t able to play the first eight games.
“She is a technical player and will be the key to our offense, so we are looking to come on strong towards the end of the season,” Mariano said.
Naugatuck opens the season Sept. 9 at Torrington for a 3:45 p.m. match.