NAUGATUCK — Every year there are high school soccer programs that have to pick up the pieces and try to replace their graduating senior classes, as the rebuilding processes begin.
That’s not the case for the Naugatuck High School soccer program. It simply reloads, thanks to the efforts of the parents, coaches and players of the Naugatuck Youth Soccer Association. This year’s varsity squad won its first 19 games, a Naugatuck Valley League championship and advanced to the quarterfinals of the Class L state tournament under first-year head coach Jose Sendra.
“We have players from a couple of state championship teams,” Sendra said earlier this season, as he described the accomplishments with which his girls enter the high school ranks.
Success at the high school level begins years earlier in the youth soccer league, where this year the Naugatuck Fire became the first team in borough history to capture back-to-back state titles.
The journey began in 2006, when a group of 10-year-olds with great individual athletic abilities came together but couldn’t win a game. They lacked the cohesion essential to championship teams.
That changed in 2007 when coach Tony Fragoso took over the reigns and polished this diamond in the rough.
“It’s tough to win one championship, never mind two in a row,” Fragoso said. “I coached previously for a 12-year stretch and made it to the semis just once. That’s how hard it is. But this group of girls just refuses to lose. You can teach ball-handling skills, defense, passing drills, but you can’t teach desire—that has come from within.”
In the fall of 2008, the Naugy Fire defeated Brooklyn, 6-3, to win the Connecticut Cup state championship. The team aspired to do more—and more it did, defeating the Guilford Celtics, 3-2, last spring to make it two state championships in a row.
“We have phenomenal support from the parents and the volunteer coaches,” Fragoso said. “That determination filters down to the kids. These girls never quit, and their desire to get better with each game they play is something that you can’t teach.”
Fragoso and his daughter, assistant coach Stephanie Jacoboski, guided the team to the cup tournament in September, with their sights set on an unprecedented third straight title.
Led by goalkeeper Juliana Jacoboski and a stingy defense that included Taylor Campos, Sarah Hanks, Michaela Pruchnicki, Kalie Freiheit and Christina Batista, the Fire limited opponents’ chances in the first two contests, ripping off back-to-back shutouts. Madison Kloc and Emma Korowotony were key additions, and the offense, paced by forwards Alexya Alves, Suzanna Amaral, Sara Sagendorf and Nina Marinaro, generated a 4-0 win over Hamden and a 3-0 win over Berlin.
The Naugy Fire advanced to the quarterfinals of the Connecticut Cup on the strength of a midfield, led by Jordyn Allen, Jessica Butler and Sandra Dinis, that kept the attack going.
A chance for a three-peat came to end when the Fire was upended by Fairfield by a 2-1 margin.
“That’s the way it goes,” Fragoso said. “You win some, and you lose some. I played soccer with Art Nunes and Jose Sendra was a former youth soccer coach. The Naugatuck soccer community is a strong group.
“It’s so rewarding to see these girls move on and be successful in high school. We teach them the basic fundamentals and when they get to high school, they are ready for the next level.”