NORWALK — It’s never easy to try something new.
Norwalk High School senior Julia Sferlazza not only tried something new, but has thrived in that new environment.
Sferlazza is a soccer player, and a talented one at that. In fact, she’ll be playing at Assumption College in Worcester, Mass., next fall.
This fall, though, with her college decision made and her Connecticut Football Club travel team dormant during the high school season, Sferlazza was convinced to give field hockey a try.
Now, with the Bears 7-2-0-1 and headed to another postseason appearance, Sferlazza has found herself cracking the starting lineup in a sport she didn’t pick up until August.
“I think I’ve always had a natural ability to play any sport,” Sferlazza said. “With great coaching and a lot of support for my team, I knew the rules and figured out the logistics and it just came.”
It came to a total surprise to longtime Norwalk field hockey coach Kyle Seaburg, too.
“To be honest, I didn’t know she was a soccer player. I just knew she was a friend of some of the field hockey players and I said she could try out,” Seaburg said. “We had a conversation about no promises, even with her being a senior, but she’s a great athlete and a hard worker. We made the decision that she belonged at the varsity level.”
Sferlazza had played soccer at Norwalk for three seasons, but decided late this summer to give field hockey a try.
Lily L’Archevesque, a longtime friend, received a text message from Sferlazza the day before tryouts so the two joined classmate Lauren Deering to knock the ball around.
“I knew she was a great soccer player because I had grown up with her, watching her,” L’Archevesque said. “When I saw her doing stick skills and shooting the ball, I was like, ‘This is crazy.’ What it took me three years to do, she was doing in five minutes.”
With every practice and workout, Sferlazza — who has played link, forward and midfield — got better and better, picking up the many nuances of the game along the way.
Being a top-notch soccer player helped her adjustment, Seaburg said.
“When I learned a bit of the story about her background, I realize she knew how to run off ball,” Seaburg said. “That part of the game is similar when you don’t have the ball. She knows that and that’s half the battle. Most of the game, you don’t have the ball.”
The more often she got the ball, though, the more she knew what to do it.
Then, one day about two weeks ago, Seaburg and his assistant, Lynette Martinez, were watching practice when they realized something profound.
“I looked at Lynette and said, ‘She looks like a field hockey player,’” Seaburg said.
And, yes, Sferlazza has wondered how good she might have gotten at the sport of field hockey had she picked it up when she was younger.
They are just passing thoughts, however.
“I know that soccer was meant for me,” she said.
In addition to raw skill and an abundance of athletic talent, Sferlazza — who is top 10 in her class, so she brings the smarts, as well — also brings another intangible to the Bears’ program.
“She’s a senior and she’s a leader and that’s what you want,” Seaburg said. “She’s very coachable, a great teammate. She’s been a pleasure to coach. It’s been a wonderful surprise.”
Sferlazza is just happy to still be a Bear, even if it’s a new sport and a new uniform.
“I really wanted to try something new and this is my last year,” Sferlazza said. “I knew I wanted to play a team sport.”
Her success, she admits, has even surprised herself.
“This is a great team,” Sferlazza said. “I didn’t think I’d play this type of role but coming out to practice every day and taking all the critiques from the players and coaches, I just took all that tried to get better.”
She tried something new and she thrived in it, which is paying off for the Norwalk High field hockey program.
“She’s not just that kid that was, oh, she played soccer and now she’s playing field hockey for the heck of it,” Seaburg said. “She’s a major part of our team.”