FAIRFIELD >> Senior Emily Wonsiewicz described her soccer career at Notre Dame Fairfield as an interesting journey.
That’s one way to put it.
Wonsiewicz, who transferred from Christian Heritage in Trumbull her sophomore year, has been one of the handful of players who have been part of the transformation of Notre Dame girls’ soccer.
During her first season with the Lancers, opponents scored 106 goals against them. Notre Dame managed to net just four goals and one win.
Last season there was improvement with a 4-9-3 record.
At 3-1 this fall, the Lancers are off to one of the best starts in program history. Last Thursday, Notre Dame posted an impressive 2-0 win over Joel Barlow, a team they haven’t beaten since at least 2006.
“It was a rough season,” Wonsiewicz said of her sophomore year. “But we’ve brought in players to help us build, this season with coach Wayne (Mones) we’re continuing to build and it’s a great process to see. ND girls’ soccer started from nothing and now we’re like the talk of the school.”
Winning has never been synonymous with the program, recently 2006 was the best season with five wins. But that’s slowly starting to change.
Part of that credit goes to first-year head coach Mones. Mones, who took over for Pedro Oliviera, has a rich history with the sport and a reputation for building programs back up.
Mones came to Notre Dame after 10 years as the athletic director at Norwalk. But he’s always been involved with soccer in one way or another.
He was the head coach at Central Catholic High (Norwalk) and then served as the men’s head coach at Western Connecticut for 18 years where he guided the team to Little East Conference titles in 94, 95 and 03 and made multiple NCAA Tournament appearances.
In both of those cases he helped turn those programs around.
Here at Notre Dame, he’s in a familiar situation. But for Mones, who’s also the head coach of the Yankee United U16 girls’ squad, he doesn’t view this as a challenge.
“To me, it hasn’t been hard at all,” said Mones matter-of-factly. “They all want it because they’ve never had it, and that’s always been my experience. These girls want to do it. I think we’ve got players who can compete with anybody in the league. Time will tell.”
Beside a new coach, the wins are slowly starting to pile up for the team because of experience and buying into the system.
“It’s been really good,” said junior and co-captain Raina Ceryak, who came to Notre Dame her sophomore year from Naugatuck. “It’s definitely a different style of practice and a lot more structured, learning the game. We’re learning how to come together and play together.”
Last season the Lancers were close to making the postseason but lacked the experience factor down the stretch.
Ceryak and Wonsiewicz both agreed this roster, which returns eight players, features a nice blend of maturity, experience and knowledge of the game to have a competitive season.
“I think a lot of the girls on the team have the right mindset to be winners,” Ceryak said. “And I think as long as we can play and not lose our mindsets we’ll go far.”
The strengths of the Lancers start with a talented center midfield. In the first two wins of the season, the scoring was spread out as Brianna Kydes, Delaney O’Keefe, Erika Quinones, Bryanna D’Arcangelo, Katie Ciufo, Jillian Howe, Olivia Henrietta and Sam LaValle all found the back of the net.
LaValle, a sophomore transfer from Pomperaug, scored the two goals against Barlow. Mones said LaValle is strong in all aspects on the game.
“She can shoot with either foot, she’s good in the air, unselfish…if there’s a better player in the league…you’re going to have to show me,” Mones said.
Centerbacks Ceryak, Wonsiewicz, Tekarah Coward along with keeper Sierra Chavez all bring experience to the pitch as well.
While the team dropped its first game of the season, a 4-0 loss on Saturday to undefeated Immaculate, the team has high expectations and a goal of reaching the South-West Conference Tournament and playing in the Class S State Tournament.
“He (Mones) knows that we have the potential to make states, he really wants us to do our best and see how we can grow as a team,” Wonsiewicz said.