Nelson Achieves Her Goals as a Senior
Heading into her senior year, Anajha Nelson was playing in three different soccer leagues, trying to prove that she deserved to be a captain for the East Haven girls’ soccer team. Anajha’s hard work paid off when she was named both a captain and a full-time varsity starter in her senior season this fall.
Anajha started playing soccer competitively as a 6th-grader at Joseph Melillo Middle School. Previously, Anajha had played with family and friends, predominantly with her father David when she would visit him in Jamaica. When the two played soccer on the beaches, Anajha’s love for the sport took off.
“We used to visit my dad in Jamaica. We would always go to the beach and play soccer. It was one of my favorite memories. It’s what really got me into the sport,” says Anajha. “I always wanted to do a sport, but with soccer, I was good at it. My dad was good at it, too. I liked running and kicking the ball. I got most of it through him.”
Anajha played at the middle school through her 8th-grade season, after which she joined the East Haven Youth League, where she still plays. Anajha also joined South Central Premier and began playing in futsal soccer leagues as a sophomore. Anajha says that competing in all of these leagues improved her skills and helped her become a better all-around player.
Anajha has played different positions for each of her teams. With East Haven, Anajha mostly played forward and was also the Yellowjackets’ backup goalie as a senior. At South Central, Anajha has played center and outside back. In futsal, a variation of mini-soccer played on a hard court, Anajha plays center midfielder. No matter what position she’s playing, Anajha is always up for the challenge.
As a freshman, Anajha joined the East Haven girls’ soccer team and saw time with both the JV and varsity squads. While she had experience playing in middle school, Anajha’s freshman season opened her eyes as to just how challenging the high school game could be.
“It was kind of intimidating as a freshman. There were a lot of good players, and I just wanted to get to their level,” Anajha says. “But I knew I had to work really hard. I knew it was going to take me a couple years to actually get to that.”
In her sophomore year, Anajha became a regular member of the Easties’ varsity roster. She saw a few starts here and there before gaining more playing time by the end of her junior season. In her senior campaign, Anajha became a varsity starter as a forward, while also filling in at goalie.
When she reached the varsity level, Anajha felt a lot more responsibility on her shoulders and wanted to do everything in her power to produce for both her teammates and coaches.
“It was really hard and really frustrating. You have a lot more pressure on you. You don’t want to let your team down, and you don’t want to let your coach down,” says Anajha. “You want to do the best you can. I just didn’t want to disappoint anyone.”
As her senior year drew closer, Anajha continued playing in each of her leagues in order show Head Coach Jake Hackett that she had what it took to lead the team as a captain. When Hackett announced this year’s captains, Anajha had achieved her goal by earning that role alongside fellow seniors Emily Pycela, Kate Pycela, and Emily Mazzucco.
“I was so happy when he told me I was captain. I really worked hard. I was playing on three teams. I would have soccer every single day of the week. I joined those teams so I could prove to my coach that I deserved to be captain,” Anajha says. “When he gave it to me, it was a relief. I really worked hard for this. I wanted it really bad.”
Coach Hackett says that Anajha’s biggest strength on the soccer pitch is her perseverance. Hackett saw Anajha overcome every obstacle on her way to proving she had the makings of a captain.
“Anajha’s perseverance is very special. She has overcome so much during her time in the program and has never let it get her down. She has always been positive and hard-working. These qualities make her a great leader and a great person,” says Hackett. “Anajha is a player who gives you her all, all the time, no matter the situation. I am so proud of all she has done for this program.”
In her freshman season, Anajha felt nervous when she stepped on the field and was reluctant to display her true abilities. By the time she was a senior, those nerves had subsided, and Anajha’s confidence grew as she became the best version of herself for the Easties.
“Freshman year, I was very sensitive, very scared of actually doing my skills and showing off. I’m good at my foot skills, but I didn’t use them my freshman or sophomore year,” Anajha says. “Now, I’m not afraid to do them. I’m very confident in myself.”
Whether it’s the high school team, the youth league, or South Central, Anajha has been playing soccer with many of her fellow Yellowjackets for several years. Anajha loves sharing the field with a group of teammates that she’s been close with throughout her soccer career.
“It means a lot to me. I love being an athlete. It makes me stand out. I love the sport, watching or playing,” says Anajha. “It’s really fun playing with people you love. I’ve been playing with the same people for a while. It has been very fun.”