Naugatuck was pounding at the door of an NVL Championship but back-to-back losses in the title matchup sent them back to the drawing board.
Last season, first-year head coach Jose Sendra came up with the perfect solution: win all your games, and the matter would take care of itself.
What resulted was one of the most dominating seasons in the history of the girls’ soccer program. It marked the first time ever that the Hounds posted a perfect, 15-0 regular season and an equally-impressive 3-0 run in the NVL tournament to claim its first league championship since 2003.
But the loss of 15 graduating seniors—including seven starters—should change the dynamics of the coming season.
“This year, players are going to need to step up and earn their positions,” Sendra said. “We don’t have the same kind of depth that we were used to, and it will be a challenge to compete for the league title this year.”
The Greyhounds may be hard-pressed to duplicate the numbers they put up last season, which included the 11 shutouts on defense and a 57-5 disparity on the scoreboard for the season as the efficient offense outscored the opposition 19-1 in the NVL tournament.
But teams in the NVL are not feeling sorry for the Greyhounds, as they will still return a stable core of seven seniors and five juniors with a wealth of experience.
“We should be competitive in the NVL and hopefully make a good run in the state tournament,” Sendra added.
Leading the way for the Greyhounds will be the senior captains Stephanie Santos, Melissa Labonte, Cristina Sendra and Nicole Sambrook. Santos will be a go-to performer on offense, returning as last years All-NVL and All-State midfielder.
To add to the experience, returning to the lineup will be seniors Michelle Trochsler, Lianne Wallace and Felicity Croce.
Defensively, the Greyhounds will rely on juniors Isabelle Verrilli, Isabelle Moody, Katie Bottinick and Caitlin Deptula, along with Elena Gordon.
“I believe the league will be very competitive this year,” Sendra said. “It will be balanced, and every game will be hard fought and close. … Holy Cross, Watertown, Woodland and Torrington will be in the mix, and it’s anyone’s guess who will win the league this year.”
Naugatuck will start the chase as it opens the season against Holy Cross at Municipal Stadium on Wednesday, Sept. 15 for a 6:30 p.m. contest. On Friday the 17th, the Greyhounds will host Wolcott at 7 p.m. for the first home game of the season.