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Senior captain Jenna Pane earned All-SCC Second Team honors as a midfielder for the East Haven girls’ soccer team this year. The YYellowjackets finished the season with a record of 7-7-3 en route to qualifying for the Class L State Tournament. (Photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
Senior captain Ali Szewc led the defense for East Haven girls’ soccer squad throughout the 2018 fall season. (Photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
Sophomore Isabella Pilato scored seven goals and contributed seven assists for the Yellowjackets’ girls’ soccer team this year. (Photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
Freshman Emily Pycela netted nine goals to help the Easties notch seven wins, three wins, and a berth in the Class L State Tournament in 2018. (Photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
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The East Haven girls’ soccer team made positive strides during the fall of 2018 by improving its overall record to 7-7-3, while qualifying for the Class L State Tournament for the first time in several years. As great as it was for his team to reach the postseason, Head Coach Jake Hackett said that the Yellowjackets’ overall improvement throughout the year was the most important thing he took away from the campaign.
“Every time we step on the field, we want to get better. We want to improve every day,” said Hackett, who finished his second season as East Haven’s head coach. “A big thing I said, and the girls bought into is, ‘It’s great that we worked hard today, but that’s not good enough for tomorrow. We have to work harder tomorrow.’ That was a big thing that led to the success this season.”
East Haven featured a lot of leadership with 13 seniors on its roster this year. Coach Hackett knew that he could rely on each one of his veteran athletes to get the message across to the younger players on the squad.
“Something I make clear every year, just because you’re not a captain, doesn’t mean you can’t be a leader. I want my seniors to help the younger players any way they can. On the field, off the field, you can help them, because you have the experience and maturity,” Hackett said. “Seniors set the bar for younger players. If they see the older girls are working hard, the younger girls want to step up and do that, too. A player like Ashlie Rivera stepped up as a leader, and that’s what you want from your non-captain seniors.”
Senior captain Jenna Pane earned All-Southern Connecticut Second Team honors for the Yellowjackets this fall. As one of the five midfielders in East Haven’s lineup, Pane consistently worked the ball up the field to playmakers like sophomore Isabella Pilato and freshman Emily Pycela. Pilato finished the year with seven goals and seven assists, while Pycela scored nine goals and had two helpers.
“They were very strong, but that plays into the team’s attitude. It was the defender’s job to get the ball away from the other team and work it up to Jenna. It was Jenna’s job to get the ball up to Isabella, it was Isabella’s job to find Emily, and it was Emily’s job to put the ball in the goal,” Hackett said. “Emily is a good finisher, and Isabella has the ability to pick Emily out in the right scoring opportunity. To have that contribution from underclassmen is something that is really special.”
Coach Hackett knew that he was going to get great leadership and solid play from senior captain Victoria Meeker in the midfield and senior captain Ali Szewc on defense. There were also some voids on the team that were filled by a few hard-working underclass athletes—players like freshmen Kate Pycela and Alex Castro.
“Kate Pycela played in the back and put on a good performance...When Bojana Mitrovic got hurt, she had to slide into a center back role, and she and Ali worked really well together. That’s a big ask of a freshman to step in a center back role on a high school team, but she did a great job,” Hackett said. “We had another injury and had to start Alex Castro at right back, and she did really well in that role. They all put in a lot of effort to do what was necessary for the team. Everybody stepped up, which is good.”
Although East Haven went 1-3 in its contests against Hand and Guilford, Coach Hackett was pleased to see the Yellowjackets hold their own against two of the top teams in the SCC. Hackett felt especially proud about how the Yellowjackets played better against both squads the second time around, and even came away with a 1-0 win versus Hand, marking the first victory versus the Tigers in team history. East Haven also defeated rival Branford after losing to the Hornets in the teams’ initial meeting.
“For us to keep it very close and then to beat Hand showed that we’re not in the conversation of the bottom of the SCC. We can play with the big teams and compete,” Hackett said. “We did the same thing against Branford, which is a good thing for us, because it’s our rival. That showed me a lot of resilience and refusing to quit.”
East Haven qualified for the Class L State Tournament by notching a 1-0 win against Lyman Hall on Oct. 15. The Yellowjackets then took a 5-0 defeat to Killingly in the first round of states. Despite the loss, Coach Hackett said that earning a playoff berth gives the Yellowjackets even more motivation to continue striving to improve as a program.
“Unfortunately, we went out in the first round, but it’s a step in the right direction. This year, we qualified, but next year, we want to make it past the first round. We’re trying to get better every year and every time we get out on the field. We had success winning seven games, but we want more next year,” Hackett said. “We want to make the SCC Tournament, we want to make a run in states, and I think we have the players and attitude to do it. If we continue along this path, we’ve proven we can play with the big teams in the SCC, and that’s what we want to do. We want to play the best and try to beat the best, so that’s what we’re trying to accomplish.”
From the Sidelines
The East Haven girls’ soccer team’s roster featured senior captains Ali Szewc, Jenna Pane, and Victoria Meeker; fellow seniors Nayelli Garcia, Nayelli Rodriguez, Destiny Torres, Gabriella Ojeda, Juliana Coque, Natalie DeJesus, Ashlie Rivera, Bojana Mitrovic, Christine Jaramillo, and Kelly Wysocki; junior Christina Fazzino; sophomores Alyssa Buckley, Angelina Munoz, Aimee DiVerniero, Isabella Pilato, and April Adkins; and freshmen Anajha Nelson, Kate Pycela, Emily Pycela, Emily Mazzucco, Emma Szewc, Darrel Cargill, Julianna Mol-khin, Jocelyn Lucero, Angelina Barrett, Alex Castro, and Milvannia Campos.
Yellowjackets’ Head Coach Jake Hackett was assisted by Mike Papantino, while Mikey Scoopo served as the team manager.
East Haven’s wins during the regular season came against Lyman Hall (4-3 and 1-0), Career-Hillhouse (7-0 and 4-0), Branford (2-1), Wilbur Cross (2-1), and Hand (1-0). East Haven took defeats versus West Haven (1-0), Branford (2-1), Guilford (2-0 and 2-1), Hand (2-1), and North Branford (3-1). The Easties also finished the season with ties against North Branford (1-1), Wilbur Cross (1-1), and West Haven (1-1).
East Haven earned the No. 19 seed in the Class L State Tournament and lost its first-round contest at No. 14 Killingly by a 5-0 score.
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