Winning the FAA Tournament title is a goal the Greenwich Academy soccer team has achieved the past two seasons, with its latest championship coming in dramatic fashion.
The Gators are preparing for the upcoming season with a third straight conference title in mind, but have also expanded their sights.
“Capturing the FAA championship again last year was phenomenal,” GA coach Alistair Lonsdale said. “One of our goals this year is to go far in the New England tournament. We’ve never been past the first round and we’ve been there five times. We would like to go further and put ourselves in a position where we could have home field advantage in the tournament, instead of traveling two-ad-a-half, three hours to a postseason game.”
First things first though for the Gators, who must produce an ultra-successful regular season, then fare well in the FAA tourney, before qualifying for the New England Tournament.
“We are out to defend our FAA title and show everyone what we are made of,” GA senior tri-captain/striker Olivia DeGulis said. “Also, we want make a strong run at the New England Tournament — GA has never won that.”
Under Lonsdale’s watch, the Gators have been a tactically sound soccer squad.
“We pass well and we move well,” senior midfielder/tri-captain Karina Toub said. “Keeping shape and playing the ball, not just hitting it forward and booting it up are some of the aspects we’re focusing on doing.”
As is the case each year, a group of key players graduated from last season’s championship squad. Yet GA is optimistic it can fill numerous roles.
“We’ve had a great start to the preseason and we’re excited for the season to begin,” said defender Daisy Stuart, also one of the Gators’ captains. “We have three freshman joining us and one sophomore and they are playing at the same level as our four-year seniors, so they are mixing right into the group.”
Said Lonsdale: “It will be interesting to see where we end up, but I think we have a very strong team.”
Greenwich Academy opens its season Sept. 12 at Choate Rosemary Hall.
AT THE HELM: Lonsdale, who is starting his 10th season on the sideline at GA, guided the team to a record of 15-5-1 in 2017. The Gators registered a 2-1 comeback win in overtime against visiting Hopkins School in the FAA Tournament final. GA’s season ended when it dropped a 6-0 decision to host Loomis Chaffee School in the quarterfinal-round of the NEPSAC Tournament.
Kate Sands, a Greenwich Academy graduate, who played soccer at the school, joins the staff as an assistant coach. She played on the soccer team at Williams College, which won two NCAA Division III titles while she was on the squad.
WHO’S GONE?: Defenders Phoebe Casey and Emmeline Kelley, both of whom served as captains in 2017 graduated. Christina Lawrence (defender), Elizabeth Dunn (defender), Isabel Sorensen (midfielder), Lily Bloom (defense) and Grace Surgent (midfielder/defender) were also among the graduates.
WHO’S BACK?: Greenwich Academy returns a potent scoring combination in juniors Taylor Lane and Katie Goldsmith. The duo combined to score the game-winning goal in overtime against Hopkins in last season’s FAA final, as they both got a foot on the ball on the winning play. Goldsmith and Lane (who plays at midfield and forward) should help power the Gators up front with their speed, shiftiness and shooting ability.
Sophomores Margaret Maruszewski and Paige Lipman provide depth at the forward position, along with DeGulis, a striker, who will be relied upon to spark the squad offensively. DeGulis scored the team’s first goal in its first scrimmage game. Toub is a returning midfielder, a position she has made her mark at in previous seasons.
“I am playing holding midfield, so I am trying to keep the space and shape,” Toub said. “We have an attacking midfielder there too.”
DeGulis may also see time at right midfield.
“Katie (Goldsmith) and I work really well with quick passes and Karina (Toub) is great at headers and getting you the ball,” DeGulis said.
Sophomore Ella Fugelsang returns in goal, after turning in an impressive freshman campaign. Returning to the backline are Stuart, sophomore Schuyler Sargent, junior Christina Maldonado and senior Paige Keating.
Sargent sent Greenwich Academy’s FAA title matchup against Hopkins into overtime when she tallied in the 78th minute, evening the score at 1-1. Juniors Tessa Brooks and Chloe Burraway add to the squad’s speed and scoring potential. Also back are Emily Hock (senior), Chiara Polvara (sophomore) and Brecon Welch (sophomore).
STRENGTHS: “We are a quick, fast team with the ability to turn it on,” Lonsdale said.
Said DeGulis: “We lost a lot of seniors last year, about seven. So that is a big transition, because we lost a lot of our defensive line. But we have four new players, who are a really good bunch of tall, strong players.”
Experience in competing in pressure-packed, postseason games is a plus for this squad, as is its scoring prowess.”
CAPTAIN’S COMMENTS: “Being a captain this year is definitely different, it feels good,” Toub said. “There is a lot you have to do behind the scenes, it’s really good.”
“Working as a team and as a unit and holding each other accountable, as well as playing aggressive the entire time will be some of the keys for us,” Stuart said.