Branford Girls’ Soccer Boasted Deep and Dedicated Group with 14-Win Season
The season may not have concluded the way the Branford girls’ soccer team planned, though the Hornets heralded a deep and talented group that gave all they had in garnering essential experience to help push Branford to the promised land of SCC and state crowns in the future.
Head Coach Jen Kohut and Branford produced a proficient regular-season record of 12-4, also taking home the SCC Housatonic Division with a perfect 8-0 mark in divisional contests. As the No. 4 seed in the SCC Tournament, Branford first bested No. 5 Sheehan, 3-2, in the quarterfinals on Oct. 29 before bowing out 4-0 in the semifinals to top-seeded and eventual winner Cheshire on Nov. 1.
Then, in the Class L State Tournament, No. 8 seed Branford started the state draw by blanking No. 25 North Haven, 6-0, in the opening round on Nov. 8. Two days later, the Hornets hosted No. 9 seed Bethel for a second-round game and took a 2-1 defeat after losing by a 5-3 difference on penalty kicks to yield Branford a 14-6 overall record for the 2022 slate.
Naturally, Kohut concluded that the way to end the campaign was not ideal as the final contest was decided on penalty kicks. Still, she surmised that the Hornets would not take any of it back due to the plentiful victories and successes on and off the pitch that procured 16 triumphs.
“Our goals were to get to both the SCC and state tournaments and win both. Making it to the SCC semis was great, but we were disappointed with our second-round loss in states,” said Kohut. “When a game comes down to PKs, all bets are off. We had opportunities to win that game during regular play, but we didn’t put the ball in the back of the net. It doesn’t take away from the great regular season we had. It was a bittersweet end, but we had a tremendous group of players.”
Kohut added that the fact that the Hornets also had to weather an added storm of playing through pain to return to the postseason is something which left an indelible mark in her long-standing coaching career.
“We had a small group this year; we had 17 total players, so we could not go too deep into our bench,” Kohut said. “We had a strong junior class that played through injuries, which I think made the team stronger. In my 25 years of coaching, this was perhaps one of the tightest-knit groups I had.”
The Hornets additionally flashed offensive firepower and a knack for sharing the ball, collecting 75 goals and 50 total team assists for the season. It was in two shutout SCC decisions that Branford showed their point-producing potency while also showcasing their focus through any hurdles.
“One of our big wins was a 3-0 game against Guilford [on Sept. 29]. We played a phenomenal game. We have so many offensive threats. We have so many kids who could score and did in that game,” said Kohut. “In a 6-0 win against Shelton [on Oct. 14], we lost [junior] Lucy Moran to injury for four regular-season games. The girls still pulled together, and it was the turning point for us. This was a dynamic and fun group to watch.”
Branford had three lone seniors of Molly Pombo, Ave Ferrie (finishing with a 49-goal and 34-assist career), and Samantha Stroka, playing in their final forays with the Hornets. Ferrie served as a co-captain alongside junior Emma O’Connor. Kohut praised this terrific trio of seniors and the junior captain for not only leading the charge but also carving their own individual identity and impact.
“Ava finished with the second-most all-time goals in program history. She was a four-year starter and an amazing leader on the field. Everything ran through her and she will be sorely missed,” Kohut said. “Molly did a nice job in goal as our keeper. Samantha worked very hard over the summer and improved.”
Junior Tess Ferrie, Ava Ferrie, and O’Connor earned selection to the First Team ALL-SCC, and then making their spots to the Second Team were junior Brenna Murphy and Moran.
Parting ways with only three players and returning a club that is now more seasoned for the big stage, the Hornets harvest a group with a go-getter attitude that is always eager to go. More so, the scenario that closed the 2022 season may end up being a blessing moving forward in the form of an important impetus.
“The girls are ready to start again and play today if we could,” Coach Kohut said. “This was really an incredible group. We return a really strong junior class. [Sophomore] Bryce Infantino will be back after scoring 13 goals and 10 assists this year. I think we will be extremely strong next year. The loss in states on PKs will be the motivation for us to hopefully not have that happen again.”
Kohut capped off the campaign by stating it was one for the ages that will forever stand out in her mind. The Hornets fought off the toughest of adversaries on the pitch in addition to fighting for each other away from it via forging new friendships.
“This season was one of the best in my career based on the players and personalities that helped get the best of each other as players and as coaches, too,” said Kohut. “We had great camaraderie as well. It was tough to see the season end, but we have to get ready for next year. This was absolutely one of the best years of my career.”
Completing the Hornets’ 2022 roster were seniors Molly Pombo, Ava Ferrie, and Samantha Stroka; juniors in Emma O’Connor, Tess Ferrie, Brenna Murphy, Raiyn Fries, Chayse Gueco, Madeline Resendes, Lucy Moran, Sophia Mioline, Paige Selander; sophomores of Charlotte Green, Bryce Infantino, Glorianna Buckley, Katherine Harmon, MacKenzie Nguyen; and freshmen Ava Gamberdella, Giuliana Barros, Saige Fries, Maylin Zuniga, Dylan Hall, and Clara d’Amuri.