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After missing some time with an injury last year, senior captain Molly Zaffino is having a big campaign for Branford field hockey squad this fall. Molly has 13 goals and 13 assists for the Hornets on the season. (Photo courtesy of Molly Zaffino )
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Molly Zaffino was an offensive sensation for the Branford field hockey team from the second that she stepped on the turf as a freshman. Three years later, Molly is still one of the top point producers in the Southern Connecticut Conference who’s also leading the Hornets as one of their senior captains.
Molly earned All-SCC and All-State honors as a sophomore and then repeated both of those feats last season, in addition to making the New Haven Register All-Area Team. This year, Molly has scored 13 goals to go with 13 assists for Branford, helping the squad achieve a record of 10-4 to go with berth in the Class M State Tournament. Molly does most of her damage on the offensive end of the field during the Hornets’ corner plays.
“I feel like my best skills are inserting on our corners and receiving on them, as well,” says Molly. “That’s a big part of my job.”
Molly feels at home no matter what position she’s playing. Molly played right wing as a freshman, moved to left wing for her sophomore year, and then played both center forward and center midfielder in her junior season. This fall, Molly has seen time at right wing, center forward, and center midfielder for the Hornets.
“It doesn’t matter. I like them all,” Molly says. “I like shifting around sometimes, because it allows me to do different things and exercise different talents.”
Molly’s freshman campaign at Branford was one for the history books. Molly scored 23 goals that year, setting the program record for the most goals by a freshman in a single season.
“I had no idea until [then-head coach Cathy McGuirk] told me,” says Molly. “I knew it was a really big honor, because she’s coached so many people for so long. It was huge for me.”
Molly had to face some adversity last year when she missed about one-third of the season while dealing with plantar fasciitis in both of her feet. It’s a painful condition that causes swelling and inflammation where the heel connects the bone and toes at the bottom of the foot.
“It brought me down a lot. Not just in field hockey, but in every-day life, because it was hard to be joyful as a person being in consistent pain. Spending so many hours at physical therapy rather than being with my friends or at practice was tough,” Molly says. “I felt bad being off the field and not helping teammates, but then I realized I could be there in a different way. I gained more knowledge watching from sides rather than on the field.”
Plantar fasciitis doesn’t necessarily go away. Consequently, Molly has to put in extra time stretching in order to make sure that she’s able to compete this season.
“It acts up on occasion, so I have to stretch it out and ice it. I also use certain insoles in my shoes,” says Molly. “This season, the only reason I’m playing is because of my TheraGun, which helps break the tenseness in my feet. That is the only reason I can still play.”
Head Coach Pete Frye was pleased to see Molly support her teammates while she was sidelined. Frye says that Molly learned a lot from that experience and is now putting all of that knowledge to good use as a senior.
“Molly had the opportunity to mentor her teammates, and it gave her a completely different view of the game,” says Frye. “She never had that view of our games, because she’s always on the field, but it was nice to see Molly take on that role while she was injured.”
While she wanted to be out there competing, Molly believes that she still gained some something valuable as a result of sitting out with her injury.
“Being able to see everything let me notice more things about every play,” Molly says. “I feel I was able to connect with my teammates more than my coaches could. When a friend tells you something, it comes off different, so I felt it was that connection for them.”
Molly feels honored to be serving as a captain for Branford this year. She hopes to continue playing field hockey after she graduates from high school.
“On the field, I’m a big hype girl. I can get the team excited, and I love doing that,” Molly says. “I want to go to college to be an environmental engineer. I’m not sure if I want to play club or for the school, but it would be great to keep field hockey in my life.”
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