BEACON FALLS — For the last four years, the Woodland girls soccer team had a leader in the middle of the field known for her intense, in-your-face style. Folks remember her as Keri DeBiase, one of the best players in school history.
The Hawks have a new leader this season. A casual spectator might never hear her voice on the field, but that doesn’t mean she’s not in charge. Audra Blewitt just likes to handle things a little differently.
“Being strict and enforcing what’s going on is definitely important, but at the same time you have to remember they’re your teammates and your friends,” said Blewitt, a captain. “I try to help them know how good they are at the same time as telling them where to be.”
Blewitt spent her last few years as a forward, reaping the goal-scoring benefits of playing ahead of DeBiase, now a player at Southern Connecticut. DeBiase’s graduation left a hole at the crucial center-midfield position, and Blewitt’s experience left her as the successor — even though she had never played the position.
“The challenge was adjusting to midfield because I’ve never played it before,” Blewitt said. “It’s all about knowing who’s best in what positions and what ball will lead to the best effect for us. It’s still a process and we’re still going through it, but we’ll get there eventually.”
At center-mid, Blewitt is more of a facilitator than a scorer. Instead of being on the receiving end of passes on the scoring end, she is the one dishing the ball to forwards such as Jess Rodrigues. Naturally, Blewitt misses the opportunities to rack up goals.
“I really do, but wherever the team needs me, I’ll take it,” Blewitt said. “But I’m grateful to be out on the field.”
New head coach Cait Witham has made a seamless transition, too, after serving as an assistant coach over the last few seasons. It’s safe to say that the team likes her.
“I love Cait so much,” Blewitt said. “Not only is she our coach but she’s a good friend. We respect her as a coach and it’s good to have someone who’s there for us.”
The Hawks are out to a 5-2-1 start, including 5-1-1 in the Naugatuck Valley League, after a scoreless tie Tuesday against defending NVL champion Watertown. Woodland’s scoring is coming from all around the field.
“We have so much talent that I have so much to work with,” Blewitt said. “We have Jess up top; our outsides in Megan (Lynch), Hailey (Borris) and Savannah (Aviz) are so key to everything; and I love working with Marisa (Macek) in the middle. We just click.”
Erika Tyrrell, Woodland’s goalkeeper and one of Blewitt’s best friends, said one of the reasons the team is working well together is Blewitt’s leadership.
“I’ve never seen someone who is as much of a team player as she is,” Tyrrell said. “She makes for one of the best captains. She takes a different approach. Rather than yelling as a leader, she takes you aside and tells you what to work on.”
Away from the pitch, Tyrrell said she wants to work on getting Blewitt a prom date. She offered a bet to Blewitt that if Tyrell pitches three consecutive shutouts, then Blewitt will ask her cat Bandit — although she worries about finding a tuxedo for him.
“It’s going to be hard getting him to go,” Blewitt said. “He doesn’t speak English, but knowing my luck I’ll be turned down by him. I can see it on the news: ‘Local Connecticut girl tries to take her cat to prom; he rejects her.’”