As the sound of the ball hitting the back of the net echoed in what was a tense silence, Gabi Prisco had delivered one of the biggest goals of her career. Prisco, just 14 years old at the time and a student at Bailey Middle School in West Haven, was giving a glimpse of what was to come.
That crucial goal was not scored in West Haven or even Connecticut for that matter. The laser shot with pin-point accuracy was fired from half a world away in front of a packed crowd in Sweden as Prisco’s tally propelled her Team NOGA to a Sweet Sixteen victory over the host team in the chase for the Gothia Cup, before being eliminated by Iceland in the Elite Eight.
For some, that experience would be a thrill of a lifetime. For Prisco, it is quietly just a part of another day’s work.
“I think playing there (Sweden) helped me because I got to experience soccer from around the world,” Prisco said. “It helped me seeing the style and the speed of play. It is so different from one country to another.”
Fast forward a handful of years later as the superstar from West Haven High starts the final season of her sensational four-year run for the Westies. Cast onto the scene as a high-profile scorer, Prisco has not disappointed.
Prisco’s first three years have been nothing short of remarkable, seeing she has been marked all over the field since joining the squad as a freshman. Her current coach, Pete Trenchard, was coaching at Lauralton Hall and had to devise a plan around stopping Prisco in her first two years.
“We were not going to let her beat us,” Trenchard stated after a Lauralton victory over West Haven in Prisco’s sophomore year. “We were going to take our shot with anyone else, but it was not going to be her. We all know who she is and how good she is.”
As a freshman, Prisco introduced herself to the high school level with seven goals and seven assists, then followed with nine goals and 12 assists a year later. In Trenchard’s first year back coaching the girls at West Haven last season, he then had the pleasure of coaching Prisco in her junior campaign, and all she did was respond with 12 more goals and four assists.
“Coaching against her is very difficult,” Trenchard said of Prisco. “She is such a dynamic player and she can do so many things well. It was very hard to prepare to play against her. I am very thankful to be coaching her, not against her.
“How she plays in the game is how hard she practices. She goes all out on the field. She was one player along with Lauren Lewis and the core group we have now, which made a difficult decision easier when I decided to come here.”
Don’t let the calm demeanor you see on the field fool you. Prisco is as competitive as anyone, refuses to give in, and is all about winning, not individual statistics.
While she has scored 28 goals in her first three years, the tallies take a back seat as Prisco has led her team all three years in assists.
“Any coach would be lucky to have a player like her,” former West Haven coach John Camara said. “She played extremely well. As a freshman, she was not afraid to be a go-to player. She was not afraid to have the ball on her foot. Usually freshmen are timid. Gabi wanted to have the ball on her foot. I knew the talent she had and I used it to help the team tremendously. I knew she was not afraid to have the ball on her foot. She helped the team as a freshman.”
Said Prisco: “If I have two people on me, I know someone will be open. I can find them. I don’t like to be selfish out there. If I don’t have the shot or a good angle, I won’t take it. I will look to pass to someone who has a better angle and a better shot.”
Need a big goal and Prisco has been there. Prisco’s first career goal at the high school level came three years ago in a win over Platt Tech. As a sophomore, Camara called on Prisco in the penalty kick portion of the opening round of the Class LL state tournament against Amity and its former Register All-Area goalkeeper Zoie Reed.
Prisco calmly rifled a shot past Reed to the top left corner to even the penalty kicks before Amity eventually won.
“I feel some people put too much pressure on themselves,” Prisco said. “I just want to relax and focus on picking a corner.”
As a junior, Prisco saw a younger team take a step back in terms of record (3-9-4). The senior clearly recognizes last season’s losses will translate into a positive as the youngsters who gained valuable playing time are now seasoned veterans.
“Last year was a rebuilding year,” Prisco said. “This year, we are really bringing it. We are putting it all out there. The younger girls are stepping up and contributing to the team.”
With an influx of new faces, Prisco has remained steady in her role, whether it be scoring, dishing off to an open teammate, or helping in any other way.
That unselfish play has also translated on the ice and the lacrosse field.
In hockey, Prisco was the first female player in West Haven history to be named to the coaches All-State team. She was also the SCC Player of the Year last season.
Prisco led the team in assists as a freshman (16) and sophomore (7), while scoring nine and 19 goals respectively in those years. Prisco led the team in points last year as she had 11 goals and seven assists as a defenseman.
After scoring 24 goals and adding 14 assists as a freshman on the lacrosse field, Prisco led the team in assists as a sophomore (10), added a team-leading 37 goals, then followed as a junior with 52 goals and 20 assists. She was named to the All-SCC team after her sophomore and junior seasons and added an All-State selection to lacrosse following last season.
“She’s a great all-around athlete,” West Haven athletic director Jon Capone said of Prisco. “She is a three-sport star. She has great character and is a great leader. She is a top kid academically too. She is the total package.”
Prisco has been named an All-SCC and All-Area selection the last two years for soccer and is a two-year captain on the team.
All that is left for Prisco is for her name to hang in the gymnasium with the likes of Carlin Guarneri, Danielle LaCroix, Rebecca Sampara, Nicole Pacapelli, Gabi Reis and Marisa Pacapelli as All-State selections.
“I thought she deserved it (All-State) last year,” Trenchard said of Prisco. “She was definitely not only one of the top players in our division, but in the SCC as well. That says a lot about her as an athlete to be good enough to potentially be an All-State player in three sports.”
Prisco has not yet made a college decision, but would like to play both lacrosse and soccer. She is currently looking at Endicott (Massachusetts), St. Lawrence (Kingston, Ontario), Lynchburg (Virginia). Roanoke (Salem, Virginia), University of New Haven and Queens College in New York.
“It is very stressful, but at the same time, it is very exciting to decide where I will be going the next four years,” Prisco said.
One thing is for certain and that is Prisco will make an impact wherever she goes.