Being a solid leader is important to Jake Haeckel whenever he suits up for the North Branford boys’ soccer team. As one of 12 seniors on the roster, Jake finds himself in an ideal situation this fall as he’s leading the T-Birds as one of their captains.
“It’s truly a blessing to be a captain for the soccer team and any team in general. To be a captain is truly phenomenal and amazing. I can’t thank my teammates and coaches anymore,” says Jake. “It’s a dream come true that people think I can be a leader. It means a lot.”
Jake plays sweeper on the defensive end of the field for North Branford. It’s a position that requires Jake to be in constant communication with his teammates, and he isn’t shy about speaking up.
“I’ve learned as a captain that I’m good at communicating with my team,” Jake says. “I’m a big voice on the team in the back. I can see the whole field.”
As North Branford’s sweeper, Jake thrives being the final guy the opposition has to deal with before goalie Paul Zumbo. Jake and his fellow defenders—Connor Pollick, John Pellegrino, and John LaCerva—work well together as they try to keep the ball out of net.
“I feel it’s a big responsibility. Besides the goalie, I’m always the last one back there,” says Jake. “I feel like the sweeper role is the most important because, if anybody else gets beat, it’s just you and the goalie left. It’s your job to protect the goalie and prevent any shots on goal.”
Head Coach Brett Gagliardi notes just how seriously Jake takes his role as the T-Birds’ sweeper.
“Jake is the last line of our defense, and he takes that job very seriously. He puts his entire body on the line and does whatever he has to do to keep the play in front of him,” Gagliardi says. “He takes it personally if another team even enters our box. Whether it’s chasing down another team’s forward, throwing his body in front of a shot, or challenging a ball in the air and heading it out, Jake consistently makes plays. Not just defensively, but offensively, as well, as we’ve seen him score three goals this year.”
Jake, who is also a solid basketball player for North Branford, scored two of his three goals on set pieces this season. The T-Birds lined up for corner kicks, and Jake twice found the back of the net after ricocheting the ball off his head.
“I’m good at judging balls in the air and winning them with my head. I’d say it’s a strong suit of my game,” says Jake. “Basketball helps out to get up and win the ball in the air. Scoring helps my confidence a lot. Playing defense, I’m not used to it, so it really is a good confidence booster.”
After getting a taste of the postseason with the basketball team last winter, Jake wants to get back there with both of his squads during his senior season.
“It’s a big deal, because the only time I’ve been a part of a playoff run was in basketball last year,” Jake says. “I’m trying to motivate us to get us to the tournament for both sports this year. It’s my main goal. I never truly had that feeling, and I want to experience that for soccer, as well.”