The drive for four straight state championships is very much alive for the St. Joseph girls.
Not only did the Cadets complete a three-peat last year by defeating RHAM in Class L, it was also three consecutive shutouts, not to mention four titles in the past five years.
So despite losing eight seniors, including Tory Bike and Veronica O’Rourke, the goals remain the same for the Cadets.
“Every year, we have the same three goals: to be the regular-season champion in the FCIAC, then win the FCIAC (tournament)championship, then win a state championship,” St. Joseph coach Jack Nogueira said. “We talk about that right from the beginning.”
St. Joseph won the FCIAC crown for the first time in three years last fall over Staples 1-0 — the same score St. Joseph beat RHAM by. Maddie Fried scored both goals — and she was just a freshman.
Now the sophomore, who has verbally committed to Villanova already, will likely draw even more defensive attention than a season ago.
The Cadets will be led by Jessica Mazo, who will play for UConn when the 2019 season rolls around.
“It’s been her team since her sophomore year,” Nogueira said. “As soon as Jess leaves, it will be Maddie’s team as a junior. Clearly, those are our two best players by far. We have a lot of very good players after them and also some good freshmen. At some point, our freshmen will be very, very good.”
Nogueira realizes full well that this fantastic run has a lot to do with “being blessed to have great players” who have bought into his system and perform well on the biggest stages. If a fourth championship is in the cards, the Cadets will have to do it in the Class LL division.
St. Joseph won LL in 2013 over Suffield before winning the last three in Class L. Plenty of FCIAC teams will be in LL come November, including last year’s finalists: Ridgefield (champion) and Staples. If successful, it would be the fourth title in the last five years and seventh in the last 12.
“It’s going to be a war. We’ll probably have 25 teams that make it, and 12 or 13 will be FCIAC teams,” Nogueira said. “You sprinkle in Glastonbury, Newtown, Southington, South Windsor and it’s going to be very, very hard.”
Swapping division again
As the Southern Connecticut Conference enters year No. 25, several sports changed its divisions again, including girls soccer.
The teams were ranked in order of record in its counting games (division and crossover) over the past two seasons with considerations being made for primary rivalries. Speaking of, the SCC’s two biggest soccer rivals are back together again in the Hammonasset.
Hand, the defending tournament champion, is the No. overall seed and is joined by Guilford, which had won the previous five division titles, the last two while Hand played in the Quinnipiac. West Haven, Lyman Hall and East Haven are also in the Hammonasset.
The Housatonic is comprised of Shelton and Sheehan, both of whom return after both were in the Oronoque the last two seasons, along with Lauralton Hall, Branford and Wilbur Cross. Cheshire, Mercy, North Haven and Hamden make up the Quinnipiac.
Law, last year’s SCC tournament finalist, is in the Oronoque along with Amity, Foran, Sacred Heart Academy and newcomer Career/Hillhouse.