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North Haven’s Joseph Antonucci played for four seasons with the boys’ soccer squad at Notre Dame-West Haven. Joseph’s grandfather Rudy Raffone was his head coach, and his father John served as a captain for the Green Knights back in 1989. (Photo courtesy of Krisanne Antonucci )
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North Haven resident Joseph Antonucci recently completed his career as a four-year member of the Notre Dame-West Haven boys’ soccer team, and the experience meant a lot to Joseph and his family. Joseph’s grandfather Rudy Raffone served as the Green Knights’ head coach for 29 seasons before recently retiring, and his dad John was a captain on Notre Dame’s first team in 1989. Consequently, it was huge for Joseph that he followed in his family’s footsteps by becoming part of the Notre Dame soccer family.
“It’s a big deal to put on a Notre Dame uniform and having them behind you. Coming into this program and being a captain my senior year was big for me, because my grandpa is the coach and my father was on the first varsity soccer team at Notre Dame,” says Joseph. “My dad was the first captain, so me being many years behind that, I had to pursue that the way he did. I had to be the best captain I could be, and I couldn’t slack, because it wasn’t just my father looking after me, but also my grandfather.”
Joseph didn’t take being a captain lightly. He and his fellow leaders always made sure the Green Knights played as one cohesive unit. Notre Dame finished with a record of 5-5-6 during the recent regular season and qualified for the Class L State Tournament.
“I really wanted to be a captain, but I didn’t know the actual responsibilities of being a captain. Once I was deemed captain, the first week was weird, because I realized I had to step up. We really united the team and got everybody to work together,” Joseph says. “From our freshman year, where we didn’t win a game, to having 11 seniors on varsity this year, we had high hopes and made states. It meant a lot to us.”
Joseph was an active member of the North Haven soccer community while growing up. Even though he goes to Notre Dame, Joseph still plays soccer with his childhood friends in town.
“The ball was always at my feet. I grew up playing in the North Haven rec league and then with North Haven travel. I still play spring ball with my North Haven buddies,” he says. “It’s always fun coming back and playing where you started. We all enjoy each other’s time.”
Joseph primarily lined up as a center midfielder or right midfielder for Notre Dame. However, due to a few injuries on the team this season, Joseph also saw some time at the striker’s position for his grandfather’s squad.
“He was in an unusual situation this year, because we didn’t have a striker. The kid that scored most of our goals last year got hurt in our second scrimmage, and we didn’t have a scorer, so he really did everything. He played up front for a while and assisted, but we really played best when he was in the midfield,” Coach Raffone says. “He did everything we asked of him. If we asked him to play in the back, he would have. This group of seniors came a long way. They worked hard and, to their credit, were .500 and made the tournament. Joe was a key part of that.”
Although Raffone feels that Notre Dame was playing its best with Joseph patrolling the middle, Joseph says that he really enjoyed his time up top. He feels he did a good job as a striker as his natural ability put him in situations where he could succeed on the field.
“I do like the striker position. Your heart is always racing as you’re looking for the next opportunity to score for your team. I think it was the best position for me,” says Joseph. “The coaches eased me into it, but the skill I had coming from right mid helped a lot. All I had to work on was making the right runs and timing those runs. My skill took over more than I thought it would and made it an easier transition.”
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