Greyhounds ready for tough road ahead

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Naugatuck High School junior Stephanie Lima practices her dribbling skills last week as the Greyhounds prepare for a run at a fourth consecutive NVL title game. LARAINE WESCHLER
NAUGATUCK — The Naugatuck girls soccer team will have its work cut out if the Greyhounds are to make it back to the Naugatuck Valley League championship game for the fourth time in as many years.

Naugatuck will have a new head coach this year in former assistant coach Sean Dunn. Freshman coach Dave Ciskowski is back to help mold the future of the young Greyhounds and Naugatuck brought in Christina Nunes to take over the JV team.

“I don’t see much of a transition being the new head coach since I’ve been around for the past few years,” Dunn said. “Obviously [former] coach Jose Sendra knew an awful lot about the game and I haven’t played since my first year of college. The girls seem to be comfortable with the coaching staff.”

While there may not be much of a transition in the coaching staff, there will be noticeable differences in the team’s on-field play with a number of graduation losses.

“As a team we face our biggest obstacle formulating our offense,” Dunn said. “We lost two very strong scorers in Stephanie Santos and Nicole Sambrook, both All-NVL players. The strength of this team is our defense and with eight seniors back, making the NVL championship game four years in a row is the team goal, but it will be a tough road.”

Naugatuck High School girls soccer head coach Sean Dunn with senior team captain Isabella Verrilli. KEN MORSE

Leading the way will be senior team captain Isabella Verrilli, who will head up the strong defensive unit, along with senior defensive midfielders Lauren Piroscafo, Katelyn Deptula, and Eleanor Jimenez.

Senior midfielder/forward Katie Bottinick has the full-speed-ahead and always-moving-forward approach that could make her a valuable weapon for the offense. Senior midfielders Andrea Jimenez and Alyce Gill can possess the ball over the middle and start the offense going in the right direction.

Naugatuck does have some young talent that can make a difference on the offensive end and develop into go-to players. Sophomore forwards Katrina Gullotta, Christina Jando, and Alxya Alves could prove to be the spark that the Naugatuck offense is looking for.

“Offensively, it will be a unit by committee with everyone playing their roles,” admitted Dunn. “So far in preseason we are working hard and each day we are getting better than the day before. We do have several girls who can develop into go-to players but it’s going to take some time to bring that all together.”

Senior Kaitlin Carter and sophomore Cailah Baranowski will split the duty between the pipes as both proved to be formidable goalkeepers last season.

Naugatuck High School freshman Suzana Amaral bends the ball around a cone as part of a drill during practice last week. LARAINE WESCHLER

Despite the Greyhounds’ unproven weapons and the strength of the league’s top teams, Dunn feels his team has a chance to compete.

“Watertown is the defending champion and they didn’t lose a whole lot of players from last year,” Dunn said. “But we certainly feel that we have the talent to be right there at the end of the season.”

The ‘Hounds will kick off the 2011 season on Tuesday hosting Sacred Heart at 6 p.m. before traveling to Bristol on Friday afternoon to take on St. Paul.