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06/29/2022 12:00 AM

Wilson’s a Defensive Stalwart for the Hornets

Aryana Wilson knows how to lock down the opposition as a member of the defensive corps for Branford’s field hockey, ice hockey, and girls’ lacrosse teams. Aryana recently completed her junior year at the high school. Photo courtesy of Aryana Wilson

Aryana Wilson has been making a name for herself as a three-sport athlete in field hockey, ice hockey, and lacrosse over the past three years at Branford High School. During her junior year, Aryana made big strides on both the field and the ice, leading her to a pair of All-Southern Connecticut Conference nods.

Aryana’s first sport was ice hockey, which she started playing with the Shoreline Sharks at age five. Aryana played her U-10 to U-12 years with the East Haven boys’ youth team before moving back to the Sharks, where she continues to play. Aryana was introduced to the sport by a friend and, while she struggled at first, she eventually came to love being on the ice.

“The first time I ever tried it, I was really bad at it. I really didn’t think I’d like it,” says Aryana. “I just decided to stick with it. Later on, I learned to like it.”

Aryana went on to pick up lacrosse in 4th grade. She competed in Branford’s youth program through 8th grade and currently plays for Team 203 and the Vipers of the James Vick Foundation (JVF), in addition to the Hornets.

In 6th grade, Aryana joined the field hockey team at Walsh Intermediate School. Aryana had been planning on trying out for volleyball, but was convinced to play field hockey by Pete Frye, who was the head coach at Walsh at the time and now coaches the high school team. Aryana also plays field hockey for the Dragons in the JVF.

By playing at the youth levels growing up, Aryana gained valuable insight that helped her as she progressed to the high school level. Since she plays defense in all three sports, Aryana found it easier to transition from one to the other.

“I played defense in all three,” Aryana says. “I’m able to learn different defensive techniques and add them to each sport.”

Aryana joined Branford’s field hockey team and the high school’s co-op ice hockey squad as a freshman. She then started competing for the girls’ lacrosse team during her sophomore year after her freshman season was canceled.

Aryana promptly earned a starting spot in the varsity lineup for both field hockey and ice hockey in her first seasons with those programs. She became a full-time varsity lacrosse player as a junior. Aryana found it intimidating to have to defend older players when she began playing varsity. However, with her teammates behind her, Aryana started gaining confidence that she could succeed on any surface.

“It was very intimidating. All of these girls were making huge passes or big hits. It scared me a lot getting in front of the shot against seniors who were 18,” says Aryana. “It was challenging at first. My teammates really helped me out on the field. It made it easier to play against them.”

After putting in the work in all three sports at both the club and high school levels, Aryana’s efforts started to pay dividends in her junior year at Branford, when she was named to the All-SCC Second Team for both field hockey and ice hockey. Aryana felt honored to receive a couple of awards that showed her just how far she’s come as an athlete.

“For field hockey, it was nice to see that all my hard work paid off. I was able to get information from different coaches to help build up my skills,” Aryana says. “It really meant a lot. For ice hockey, I started when I was little. My progress is paying out in the end.”

In order to get to that point, Aryana knew that she needed to be more confident whenever she had the puck or the ball on her stick. Aryana realized that it’s OK to make mistakes and that no defender is going to be able to stop every shot. Furthermore, Aryana learned that her teammates are always going to be there to back her up in every circumstance.

After coaching Aryana at Walsh, Frye is now working with her again as head coach of the Hornets’ field hockey squad. Frye says that Aryana helps keep Branford’s defense on an even keel and, while she may not make the most noise on the field, Aryana is constantly making an impact with her actions.

“We usually leave Aryana on an island to defend the opposing team’s top scorer,” says Frye. “She brings a sense of composure to our defense that is contagious and allows our backs to be calm, cool, and collected when things start to get chaotic.”

No matter what sport she’s playing, Aryana feels that being an athlete is like being in a different world. Athletics have helped Aryana gain a fresh perspective on things and showed her that she always needs to keep growing. For the past three years, Aryana’s growth has come as a member of the Branford sports family, and there’s other place where she would rather be.

“It has meant a lot. I’ve been able to meet so many people and learn a lot from them,” Aryana says. “I always know I can reach out to them no matter if they graduated or not. They’ll always be my teammates.”