During challenging times, soccer has helped bring happiness, comfort and a sense of normalcy to the members of the Greenwich Academy soccer team.
“Being part of this team has been one of my favorite parts of high school,” Greenwich Academy senior tri-captain Ella Fugelsang said. “We all share such a strong bond and that friendship has been the light during this dark time. Being able to connect with each other and being with each other on the field has made this year easier to go through.”
The COVID-19 pandemic shortened the Gators’ season. Instead of the playing approximately 20 games, including postseason matchups, Greenwich Academy’s fall season has included a handful of scrimmages, since the NEPSAC and FAA canceled interscholastic games and the postseason this fall.
“The GA soccer team is a real special team, so knowing that my senior year would be slightly different was a little upsetting,” said Greenwich Academy senior Paige Lipman, also a tri-captain. “But we have all kept a very professional attitude and we are trying to make it as fun and intense as can be.”
The Gators lost to St. Luke’s School in the FAA Tournament finals in 2019 and won the tournament championship in 2018 and 2017, under the guidance of coach Alistair Lonsdale.
The Greenwich Academy coach knows his squad had the potential to make their mark in a normal season.
“We lost a very strong senior class from last year’s team, but this year, we also have a really good team,” said Lonsdale, who is assisted by Kate Sands and Jack Booth. “It’s been tough for them to play in scrimmage games, but we’ve tried from our end, to mix things up as much as possible. We haven’t had the same practice twice.”
Indeed, like the players, Lonsdale has also had to adjust to a season with plenty of modifications.
“For me as a coach, it has been strange,” Lonsdale said. “I love the competition and I thrive in going out there to coach in pressure games. But I’m still having fun coaching and getting to know the kids. They are my No. 1 priority. We want to build for the future — for next year and beyond.
Schuyler Sargent, a senior defender/midfielder, who also played at the forward position, has provided significant leadership as captain, along with Lipman and Fugelsang.
“I think part of being a captain is making sure everyone is optimistic and giving it their all in practice,” Sargent said. “Even if it is super tough, we still have to work super hard, which the entire team has done.”
Sargent said the team has followed the example the coaching staff has set.
“Our coaches have been taking the season very seriously and that has been nice,” Sargent said. “Everyone is so happy to be on the field, we had no idea what type of season we were going to have coming in. We are thankful to have Alistair and a coaching staff that’s willing to coach during a pandemic.”
Said Lonsdale: “Schuyler has produced some wonderful goals and has been at her best this year. Coaching her is an awesome experience.”
Like Sargent, who said the goal she scored her freshman year in the 2017 FAA final, “will live on with me,” Lipman is in her fourth season on the varsity squad.
“It’s an instant family whenever we step on the field,” Lipman said. “I’ll always remember our team winning the FAA title my freshman and sophomore year, the friendships I made and building these bonds that last a lifetime.”
Lipman has been one of the Gators’ top playmakers during her highly productive career.
“Paige Lipman is a phenomenal athlete and she is a pure leader,” Lonsdale said. “There is a not a game when she is not giving you optimum effort.”
Also an standout lacrosse player, Lipman will continue her lacrosse career at the University of Pennsylvania.
“I am so happy that I’m going to be a part of a special team at UPenn,” she said. “It should be really fun and I’m looking forward to becoming part of their family.”
Lipman said some of the skills she learns in soccer carries over to lacrosse — especially in terms of conditioning drills.
“Every now and then, Alistair reminds us that we are going to be playing at the collegiate level, so he has taught me a bunch of things about preparing for the season,” Lipman said. “You have to be able to run the field, display your skills and be confident.”
Fugelsang has been a mainstay in goal at Greenwich Academy since her freshman season.
“It has been a super rewarding position and it’s given me a different perspective of the sport,” Fugelsang said. “I have become more confident each season and I have gained more confidence in terms of trusting my skills.”
Said Lonsdale: “It is going to very tough to be without Ella next year, she’s a top, quality performer. She’s come up with some huge saves over the course of her career.”
One of the games Fugelsang recalls while reflecting on her Greenwich Academy career is the 2018 FAA Tournament semifinal-round matchup against Sacred Heart Greenwich. The Gators edged the Tigers on penalty kicks, with Fugelsang making key saves.
“That was one of the best moments of my life,” Fugelsang said. “I’ll always remember that moment.”
Along with the captains, Margaret Maruszewski, Rachel Rogers, Chiara Polvara and Brecon Welch are seniors.
Maruszewski has been a consistent force at the midfield and forward positions, while Rogers has excelled at the center midfield spot. Polvara has performed well as a starting midfielder this season, while Welch also played midfield on the squad for several seasons.
The junior class includes Lauren Harteveldt (midfielder), who sparks the team offensively, along with Taylor Glanville (midfielder), Ali Jacquiery (midfielder) and Sonya Schloss (goalie).
Sophie Burraway, Ellie Burdick, Kit Harned, Robyn O’Connor, Winnie Welch and Kate Haffenreffer are sophomores and Molly Moore joined the varsity team as a freshman.
“This team would have been pushing for an FAA title once again,” Lonsdale said. “Their attitude has been brilliant and they have given their all in every friendly game we’ve had.”
Indeed the team will certainly look back on the 2020 season as being unique.
“Playing soccer is definitely something I look forward to every day,” Fugelsang said. “It’s an escape from all the hard things that are going on outside the team. When I look back on COVID, I’ll remember that I was a captain on GA’s soccer team and that we all helped each other get through this experience together.”