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June 1, 2020
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Midfielder Celia Ghilani has scored 31 goals for the Valley girls’ lacrosse team this year, while leading the Warriors as a junior captain. Photo courtesy of Celia Ghilani

Midfielder Celia Ghilani has scored 31 goals for the Valley girls’ lacrosse team this year, while leading the Warriors as a junior captain. (Photo courtesy of Celia Ghilani )

Ghilani Takes a Major Leap in Junior Campaign

Published May 30, 2019 • Last Updated 12:49 pm, May 30, 2019

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Celia Ghilani plays a pivotal role for the Valley Regional girls’ lacrosse team as a junior captain midfielder. Celia was named a captain at the end of her sophomore season and has grown into an effective leader, as well as a productive scorer. Celia is third on the Warriors with 31 goals scored this year, and she’s also providing a solid source of support for a young Valley club.

Celia takes great pride in serving as a leader for Head Coach Randy Netsch’s team. By earning a captain’s role, Celia gets to hone her skills as a communicator and a mentor, especially with her younger teammates.

“I’m definitely most proud of being a captain as a junior,” says Celia. “I know there weren’t many seniors on the team this year, but I think I was chosen for my skills as a leader and my ability to connect well with the rest of the team.”

Celia’s coaches were confident in her ability to take on the captain’s duties. Celia brings a lot of experience to the field since she’s been a varsity starter for Valley since her freshman year.

“There weren’t many girls when I started up, but I got to start as a freshman in the midfield,” Celia says. “It gave me a lot of confidence, and it gave me a good idea of what to expect from high school lacrosse.”

As a midfielder, Celia has developed her game on both sides of the ball. Celia originally played more of a defensive role, but she’s turned into a bigger threat on the attack during the current campaign.

“I think as my high school career has progressed, I’ve become more offensive. I was a more defensive player, because that’s how I was trained,” says Celia, who lives in Essex. “Now, I’m more comfortable in the offense, but I can still do whatever my coach needs me to do. I knew this season I would have to step up.”

Celia took that added responsibility in stride and started playing a more active role in the Warriors’ offense, whether that be as a scorer or a distributor.

“I think my strengths are trying to create opportunities for other people and being able to score myself. It all starts in the midfield during transition. I think I’m an asset getting the ball up the field, passing, and sprinting upfield,” Celia says. “My mentality is to get the ball to other people so they can score, but recently, my offensive skills have developed, and I can take the ball to the goal, and others are creating lanes for me. It’s a balance now.”

With a young team, it’s important that the Warriors get great leadership from Celia and her fellow captains, senior Allie Ruel and junior Elena Peterlik. Celia knew that Valley’s underclass athletes would be looking to her for guidance this year.

“I was a little bit worried with how I would take on the role because, last year, I was an underclassman with a lot of upperclassmen. I had to change mentally as an upperclassman and a captain, but I prepared for that,” says Celia. “I talked with my fellow captains about how we do this, because we hadn’t been captains before. We really helped each other, and I was confident with the younger players, because I had that seniority. I think we all adjusted well.”

Coach Netsch recently finished his first season at the helm of the Warriors, although he’s been involved with the program since its inception. When Celia was selected as a captain last year, Netsch, an assistant coach at the time, endorsed the decision wholeheartedly. Netsch was beyond satisfied with how Celia performed on the field this spring.

“We saw something in Celia and Elena when we named them captains as sophomores. Celia, she’s a bit of an unsung hero,” Netsch says. “She goes out there every day and fights really hard. She’s third on the team in goals, and she’s shooting 50 percent. She also does a great job controlling the draws in the circle.”

Celia feels grateful for the guidance that she’s received from Coach Netsch during her years at Valley Regional. Celia is also appreciative of what former coach Cory Needleman and CT River Ticks coach Greg Ruel have done for her throughout her career.

“Coach Needleman introduced me to high school lacrosse and its intensity. She was encouraging, and she believed in me and helped me be a well-prepared captain,” Celia says. “I’d also like to that Coach Netsch for creating the program and being so positive every day. Also, my previous coach with the Ticks, Greg Ruel. He’s the reason I’m the skilled player I am today. He taught me the essentials like stick skills and field awareness. I’m a versatile player because of him.”

Looking back at her junior season, Celia feels that Valley had a positive year. After the Warriors graduated so many people from last season, Celia was pleased to see several up-and-coming players take big steps forward in 2019.

“Half our starting lineup was freshmen, and we became really cohesive. I’m happy with how it turned out. Even though we didn’t have the best record, we worked well with a young team,” says Celia. “It was also great to have a JV team this year, as well. The younger players got some good experience, and all the different grades got along well together. I was impressed with how we came together.”

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