In our first segment of Coach’s Corner, Naugatuck girls soccer first-year coach Sean Dunn spoke candidly about the transition period for a new head coach in the very competitive Naugatuck Valley League.
This is hardly the first go-around as a coach for Dunn, who played four years of soccer and basketball at Pomperaug High along with two years of track. Dunn coached girls basketball and softball at City Hill Middle School and is also the Greyhounds’ freshman girls basketball coach.
Dunn felt plenty prepared for this job after last year’s experience with the squad.
“Actually having coached the junior varsity team last year was a great help in stepping into this new position,” Dunn said. “I knew what we had coming back and the girls knew me so there really wasn’t that usual transition that takes place when a new head coach takes over a program. It also helps to be a teacher in the school and getting to know the girls on that level.”
Dunn certainly knew what he was getting into taking over a program rich in history and having played in the last three NVL championships, winning the title in 2009. Assistant coaches Christine Nunes and Dave Ciskowski have also helped to keep the team on the right track along with volunteer assistant coach Estafania Escobar.
“Just the knowledge of the game that Christine brings from her experience as a college player is phenomenal,” Dunn said about his JV coach. “Dave was a former goalkeeper in his playing days. Having that aspect of the game covered by our freshman coach helps us to be a much better all-around team.”
The coaches’ experience has propelled Naugatuck to a fast, 6-1 start on the season. The Greyhounds have outscored the opposition by a staggering, 24-3 margin while recording six shutouts in seven games.
Perhaps the most impressive part about Naugy’s potent offense is that the coaches didn’t know who would be the team’s go-to scorer.
“I think the biggest challenge we faced as a team coming into the season was trying to find out who was going to be the leading scoring threat,” Dunn said. “The older girls on the team are the core of our defense. But we did lose a lot of our scoring from last year and we needed to replace that with young and inexperienced players.”
Alexya Alves has been the top scorer with 11 goals. Senior Katie Bottinick (four goals), Angelina Piccirillo (two goals, four assists), and Katherine Gullotta (two goals, two assists) have proven to be viable options as well.
With goalkeepers Kaitlin Carter and Cailah Baranowski minding the net and defenders Isabelle Verrilli, Kaitlyn Deptula and Taylor Campos forming the wall out in front, opponents will have a hard time keeping up with the ‘Hounds.
Dunn has already recognized early in his first season that Naugy usually gets the best out of opponents.
“There’s a little bit of pressure on us because every night we are coming out here with a target on our back,” Dunn said. “But with our history that’s to be expected and the girls have a great attitude about that. We are one big family and there are times when we have our issues like any family but they are all very supportive of one another.”
Dunn also said due to the team’s early-season success, the team’s goals have been elevated.
“Our expectations have changed,” Dunn said. “At the start of the year, making the NVL tournament and the states was the goal. As we progressed and saw what we had, there is a real desire to play for another NVL title.”
But on-field success will take a back seat to Dunn’s other hope.
“Outside of playing for an NVL championship and a state title, I would like to be a mentor to these girls,” Dunn said. “I would view that, above all else, as a successful season.”
Coach’s Corner is a semi-regular feature that will turn the spotlight on a local coach.