The Branford girls soccer team just completed its best season ever.
Nineteen victories. Appearances in both the SCC and Class L state tournament finals. Just three losses.
At the forefront of that success was the 2013 Register Area MVP Tanya Altrui.
Altrui would be the first to tell you the team as a whole accomplished all of the above, but it was Altrui herself that put the Hornets on her back in the season’s biggest moments.
“It really is her explosive speed that sets her a part from other players,” Branford coach Jen Kohut said. “Her first step is so fast that you can’t stay with her.”
Altrui, 18, finished with 24 goals, including the deciding goal in four of Branford’s postseason victories
“We had a solid group of juniors and seniors that worked hard together and that made us great,” Altrui said. “I was able to get some great through balls (from teammates), then able to go one-on-one with the goalkeeper. That gave me some good opportunities to score some goals.”
As a junior, Altrui helped Branford clinch a share of the SCC Oronoque Division crown and its first league tournament title. She was a Register All-Area selection that season.
Guilford may have cost Branford a pair of titles this season, but the Altrui and the Hornets still savor the fact that a program that had never been to a state final managed to get there for the first time.
“It was really upsetting that Guilford beat us at that moment,” Altrui said. “But the fact that we got to the finals is a great accomplishment. I’m proud of the team and how hard we all worked to get there (to the finals). It was a great season that didn’t go to waste.”
Altrui, the Southern Connecticut Conference MVP, scored the game’s only goal in sn SCC tournament semifinal win against Mercy. She did it again in consecutive Class L tournament victories against Wilton and Immaculate.
“What gave her a big boost this year was she had more confidence,” Kohut said.
Before the start of the season, Altrui received very little interest from Division I schools. That changed once she began scoring in bunches, including a visit from the coach of the state’s top university.
Kohut said after speaking with former longtime Sheehan head coach Brian Murphy about Altrui later in the regular season, Murphy volunteered to call longtime UConn women’s soccer coach Len Tsantiris to tell him about Altrui’s ability.
Tsantiris was in attendance to witness Branford’s win over Mercy in the SCC tournament. Altrui said she and her parents went to Storrs the following weekend on an unofficial visit, where a scholarship was offered. Altrui made an oral commitment to become a Husky.
“(Branford) assistant coach Billy Alessi said it is unheard of, getting recruited in a one-week period,” Altrui said. “To once be looking at not playing soccer (in college), then to get a chance like this is pretty crazy.”
Said Kohut: “(Tsantiris) told me as soon as he saw her run, he knew right then and there he wanted to have her on the team. He said, ‘That explosive speed, that is one thing you cannot coach. That is God-given talent.’”
College coaches cannot comment on prospective recruits until they sign a national letter of intent. That should happen early in 2014.
Then it will be on to a new challenge for Altrui.
“It will be hard to leave behind my friends and the coaches who I look up to,” Altrui said. “They really helped me to get to this point. But I will be beginning a new phase of my life and I’m excited for it.”