Humphrey Makes Her Mark on Varsity
Maddie Humphrey had to battle back from two lost seasons in order to earn a starting spot with the North Branford varsity girls’ lacrosse squad. When she got her opportunity as a senior, Maddie ran with it and became a defensive stalwart for a team that claimed its third-straight Shoreline Conference title this spring.
Maddie started playing lacrosse in North Branford’s youth league in the 4th grade. She wanted to join several of her friends who were already playing the sport. Maddie says that learning how to play lacrosse was a challenging task, especially with being a lefty.
“North Branford is a huge lacrosse town. All my friends were playing, so I decided to play,” says Maddie. “It was a sport I had to work at. It did not come easy to me. Most of my friends were righties, but I turned out to be a lefty.”
Maddie continued playing in the youth league through 8th grade. Maddie credits her coaches for helping her learn the sport, specifically noting Dave D’Onofrio, Pete Jassil, and Jen Gibilisco for spending time with her to improve her game. Maddie always wanted to get better for the people who helped her perform her best.
Maddie played on the defensive side of the ball during her time in the youth ranks and remained on defense when she joined the Thunderbirds. Maddie always preferred stopping opposing attackers from getting to the goal, rather than having the ball on the stick.
“Even starting off in 4th grade, I was always scared to get the ball. I never wanted the ball. I hated it,” Maddie says. “Defense was easy for me. I didn’t have to worry about getting the ball. That was it.”
In her freshman year, Maddie fell ill and was unable to play sports. Not only did she miss her lacrosse season, but Maddie was also forced to stop cheerleading. When Maddie returned to the lacrosse field as a sophomore, she was further back in her development than her teammates.
“I was definitely behind most of the players. They all had the freshman-year experience,” Maddie says. “Coming back after taking a full year off was definitely difficult for me. My stick skills were underdeveloped, and I didn’t really know how the high school level worked. It was tough catching up to everyone else.”
Maddie spent her sophomore season competing at the JV level. North Branford Head Coach Lori Connelly and Assistant Coach Ryan Connelly worked with Maddie to help build up her confidence.
However, just as she was getting acclimated to high school lacrosse, Maddie saw her junior season get canceled due to COVID-19. Instead of taking the year off, Maddie started running two to three miles every day. Maddie wanted to be in the best shape possible for her senior year.
“I put in the work during the offseason. With no season, running really helped me out,” says Maddie. “I didn’t want to come into the season out of shape.”
In her senior season, Maddie became a starter on the T-Birds’ defensive unit and started every game during the season. Just like Maddie, many of the team’s players had no varsity experience coming into the year. With others around her sharing the same jitters, Maddie felt more comfortable about making the jump to varsity.
“I definitely had a lot of nerves before our first game. It was a brand-new varsity team. There were only three girls with varsity experience. I knew I wasn’t the only one feeling the nerves,” Maddie says. “It made it a lot easier knowing my teammates felt how I was. Once I got into it, I loved it. Playing at varsity is a huge change, but it’s a change I loved.”
On June 1, North Branford took on Old Saybrook in the final of the Shoreline Conference Tournament and notched a 9-3 victory to win the league title for the third-consecutive season. Maddie put in a lot of extra work leading up to that game, and walking off the field with the championship was a moment that she will never forget.
“It’s an indescribable feeling. A lot of that game fell on me on the defense end. My coach knew that and pressured me until the game,” says Maddie, who will attend Penn State University to major in political science. “I worked hard in practice. I didn’t get many breaks. She was all over me, but it really paid off.”
Head Coach Lori Connelly describes Maddie as the type of athlete who was always willing to do whatever it took to help the team succeed. Connelly says that Maddie set a great example for North Branford’s younger players with how hard she worked to earn a starting varsity role.
“Maddie brought a desire to work hard and never give up. She trusted her coaches and always did her best to do whatever we asked, no matter how big or hard the task was,” says Connelly. “Maddie was a hard worker and a great role model to all the underclassmen.”
Maddie thanks Coach Connelly for helping her throughout her journey to the varsity team. As she graduates from North Branford, Maddie says that playing for Connelly was an honor and an experience that she will always take with her.
“I definitely cannot thank Lori enough. She is my biggest supporter on and off the field. I am still in contact with her, even though I graduated,” Maddie says. “She was the reason I was successful as I was this year. She put in so much time and effort with me. To say I played under her is one of my greatest accomplishments.”