Fall sports

Sacred Heart Greenwich soccer preview: experienced Tigers set to contend for FAA regular season, tournament titles

Photo by David Fierro: From left to right: Lauren Giuriceo, Charlotte Marvin and Chelsea Hyland are senior captains of the Sacred Heart Greenwich soccer team, which opens its season on Sept. 15 on the road against Taft School.

Sacred Heart Greenwich’s soccer team features nine seniors and four juniors, making it the most experienced group Stuart Smith has coached in his six seasons at the helm.

“We’ve never had more than seven seniors, so this is an experienced team,” Smith said. “They know what to expect, they have been there and done it, so that will go along way toward our success this year.”

The Tigers’ roster also includes several underclassmen expected to add to the team’s impressive dynamic.

“The energy and eagerness of the younger players will be a good complement to our experienced players,” Smith said.

Indeed, Sacred Heart is hoping the blend of experience, skill and young potential will lead it to another successful season in the FAA. In 2019, the Tigers had the best regular season record and won the FAA regular season title. The 2020 season was abbreviated and modified due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so Sacred Heart is eager to play a full schedule this fall, featuring a number of its longtime rivals. Along with last season’s shortened season, the FAA Tournament was not held, as teams played just a handful of scrimmages.

“A big part of this year is coming back into the FAA league,” said senior Charlotte Marvin, one of Sacred Heart’s captains. “Being able to compete in the FAA Tournament semifinals and quarterfinals was taken away last year, so to have that this year is a really big deal.”

Photo by David Fierro: Charlotte Marvin is a senior defender/captain on Sacred Heart’s soccer team.

The Tigers’ 2021 captains are Lauren Giuriceo, Chelsea Hyland and Marvin.

“Being captain is a dream for the three of us, because we were the three freshmen that made varsity and we’ve been together for the last four years, so it’s perfect,” said Marvin, who usually plays left centerback or at the left midfield position. “We have a lot of new players, so I’m excited to see how the younger generation is going to formulate and evolve over the season.”

Smith is highly impressed with the leadership skills the captains bring to the varsity program.

“We have three captains, who are four-year varsity players,” he said. “They were excited to be elected and from November from when they were elected, they started thinking about this year and what they can do to make the team better. They are all about how do we bring the team closer together. We look forward to seeing their leadership taking their team to success.”

The trio of captains are filling the role 2021 graduates Alana Frederick and Lara Patricio had. Frederick, an outstanding goal-scorer and playmaker, is continuing her soccer career at Carnegie Melon University. Fernanda Serna, a 2021 graduate who was also an offensive threat, is playing soccer at Fordham University. Rachel Keefe (playing lacrosse at the University of Chicago), Hannah Dempsey (playing lacrosse at Bucknell) and Isabel DeVita were among some of the graduates from last season’s squad.

Hyland, a centerback, will also be relied upon to solidify the Tigers’ defense.

“We have a strong backline this year,” Hyland said. “I’m excited our senior year is pretty much back to normal. We have a full game schedule, sometimes we have three games in one week, so I’m really excited for it.”

Each season, Hyland has raised her level of play for the Tigers, who will contend with teams such as St. Luke’s, Greenwich Academy, Hopkins and Greens Farms Academy, for the top spot in the FAA.

“Freshman year, I was the youngest and each year I progressively grew more and felt more comfortable and I want to make sure the freshmen this year feel just as comfortable,” Hyland said. “We definitely want to do well in the FAA and our defensive line wants a lot of shutouts this year.”

Chelsea Hyland plays centerback and is one of the captains of the Sacred Heart Greenwich soccer team.

Giuriceo is looking forward to bringing her knowledge and talents to the center midfield position – a spot where the Tigers should possess plenty of depth.

“We graduated our two former center mids, so now we’re trying to rotate our players to see who best fits to play the center position with me,” Giuriceo said. “We have really strong girls who can really see the field, so I’m confident we can make it a really good team.”

Sacred Heart returns a pair of consistent goalkeepers in juniors Zara Black and Daphne Hartch.

“Zara Black was one of our biggest surprises as last year,” Smith said. “Daphne has good athleticism as a goalkeeper.”

Hyland, Marvin, senior Franny O’Brien, who is an All-American lacrosse player, Lydia Fullerton (senior) and sophomore Maggie Bacigalupo are among the team’s defenders, while Giuriceo should help pace the midfield.

“We have eight defenders, so there will competition at each spot,” Smith said. “A lot of seniors that can bring speed and experience play on defense.”

Lauren Giuriceo is a senior captain/midfielder on the Sacred Heart Greenwich soccer team.

Among some of the team’s forwards are sophomore Madison Hart, who has been on the varsity squad since she was an eighth-grader, junior Karina Sethi, junior Justine Hounsell (competed in the AAU Junior Track and Field Olympics recently), Madison Hartnett (junior), Bettina Holden (junior) and freshman Eva Wilkerson.

“Our forwards have a lot of pace, we are blessed with a lot of speed at the position,” Smith said. “Madison Hart has a lot of pace, Karina has good ball skills and Justine is a great track runner with a lot of speed.”

Silvio Ferraro and Lewys Jones return as varsity assistant coaches, while Isabelle Dumoulin joins the varsity coaching staff.

SCHEDULE: Sacred Heart’s home games include: Loomis Chaffee (Sept. 18), Hamden Hall (Sept. 25), Greenwich Country Day (Oct. 2), Hopkins (Oct. 6), Suffield Academy (Oct. 13), Miss Porter’s (Oct. 23), Greens Farms Academy (Oct. 25) and Holy Child (Oct. 30). Games on the road include: Taft (Sept. 15), Rye Country Day School (Sept. 22), St. Luke’s (Sept. 27), Greenwich Academy (Sept. 29), Millbrook (Oct. 11), Hotchkiss (Oct. 15), King (Oct. 20), Choate (Oct. 27) and Masters (Nov. 2).

Stuart Smith addresses the Sacred Heart soccer team following a recent practice.

“We’ve worked a lot on team chemistry and it has shown on the field,” Giuriceo said. “We work for each other and we know each other’s strengths, one of those being our speed. Our hard-working aspect, movement on and off the ball and sticking to our game plan will be the keys to our success.”

Said Smith: “We want to retain a championship and go a step forward and try and win in the playoffs, which we haven’t been able to do since I’ve been here. We’ve come close, we went to PKs (penalty kicks) with GA (2018 FAA Tournament semifinals), so we are to go a step forward this year.”

Added Marvin: “St. Luke’s and GA are definitely going to be big games, so we’re excited for that. We had two girls who went off to play in college, so they were really big parts of our team. But just like we lost players, we added players that have had experience for many years, so I’m excited to see how they grow and evolve and how our team grows.”

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