Newington native Karley Welles grew up on the soccer field, idolizing footballers Mia Hamm and David Beckham.
However when high school rolled around, Welles decided to change course and join the field hockey program at Newington High.
“I always played soccer when I was younger, but I had previous ankle injuries and it got to the point that it wasn’t going to help my ankles,” said Welles, “So my freshman year I decided to try something new and I ended up falling in love with it.”
Little did she know back then that the sports swap would ultimately lead her to Southern Connecticut State University, as she continue her educational and field hockey journey.
Last Tuesday, the senior signed her letter of intent to join the Owls field hockey program at SCSU.
“I was looking at a lot of schools, but I wanted something that wasn’t too big but not too small, and something that was still close,” she reflected, “It was all about academics first. I toured the campus a couple of times and I went to games and I fell in love with it.”
Earlier this month, the Southern-bound star finished her senior season on the field for an Indians team that won nine of 15 contests and reached the postseason tournament for the third consecutive season.
The rise of the team’s success has correlated with the improvement and development of Welles, who had never played the sport prior to high school.
“I started my freshman year not knowing much about the sport and a bunch of us played on both JV and varsity. We kind of got thrown into games and I picked it up as I played. It has a lot of the same things as lacrosse or soccer,” added Welles, who has also played lacrosse since grade school, “Our freshman year we didn’t win many games, but this year we had a great record and we were in every game. We really improved as a team, so that’s a good accomplishment.”
The transition to the new sport wasn’t easy, but the natural athlete quickly picked up the nuances of the game and her skills allowed her to flourish on the field. She finished her high school career as the program’s all-time leader in goals (34), assists (35), and points scored (103).
Despite having productive sophomore and junior season, Welles again had to learn on the fly this past fall. She played forward for her first three years, but changed to center midfielder for the betterment of the team in 2016.
“We lost a lot of people last year, so I knew I was going to have to change positions. At first it was hard because I wasn’t fully conditioned and it was a lot of running, but I got used to it and I really enjoyed it,” said the three-time all-conference honoree, “At the beginning of the season I had 71 points and to be honest I thought it would be a stretch to get to 100, especially with the new position. I was really excited to get it.”
Her ability to adapt to a new sports and a new position is not surprising for an athlete that was raised surrounded by sports. Her older brother, Tim, was an all-conference golfer at NHS and her parents, Neil and Liz, have supported her throughout her sports odyssey.
“We’ve always been a sports family. My parents have been great, giving me the opportunities to do things like HTC (Field Hockey Club). For the last year and a half we’ve been doing tournaments all over the region. They’ve put a lot of time and effort into it and I really appreciate that,” said Welles, “My dad and I would go down to the field during the summer and he would help me become a better player.”
The Welles family also helps out with the Special Olympics during the summer, which coincidentally takes place at Southern Connecticut State University.
Welles commitment to the Special Olympics isn’t limited to the summer. She has been very involved with the school’s Unified Sports program, which is sponsored by the Special Olympics and allows students with physical and intellectual disability a chance to compete and train on school-sponsored sports teams.
“That’s something I’ve really enjoyed doing,” the young volunteer added.
The soon-to-be graduate is not done competing at a high school level and is unsure if she will play lacrosse this spring or if she will follow in her brother’s footstep and give golf a try.
Either way, she’s excited about the prospect of college life and playing field hockey at the next level.
At Southern she will be playing under the guidance of head coach Kelley Frassinelli, who is entering her 23rd season on the sidelines, and assistant coach Ann Farrier, who coached Welles during club field hockey.
“I’m excited to play for coach Frassinelli and coach Ann because they’re going to help me improve my skills and help make me the best that I can be,” added Welles, who will study either education or physical therapy, “I think Southern will be a great fit for me.”
Eagles Football Defeats Rival in JV Battle
Wethersfield’s junior varsity football team ended the season on a high note, scoring in all three phases of the game and blanking Newington 16-0 last Saturday morning.
Eagles quarterback Craig Elliott was back at the helm after missing a majority of the season with a concussion and he didn't miss a beat, throwing for the game’s only offensive touchdown early in the second quarter.
On the scoring play, the nimble quarterback improvised and rolled to his left before flipping the ball to Marc Generis in the end zone for a two-yard scoring toss.
“I was going to run it in, but then I saw that the cornerback stepped up and he was open. The easiest way to get there was a nice easy toss over the defender,” said Elliott, who has also played quarterback at the varsity level this season, “I was happy to be out there and help my team win. We had a good season and I was happy to come back for the final game.”
Wethersfield’s lead grew to 9-0 a few minutes later when a punt snap went over the head of the Newington punter and out of the back of the end zone for a safety.
Late in the third quarter, Wethersfield completed the scoring-trifecta when Luke Saharek intercepted a pass near the left sidelines and returned it nine yards for the game’s final score.
“I saw the slant so I jumped it,” recalled Saharek, “We were in a coverage where I have to stay in the flats, so I just jumped it and got the pick.”
Saharek has been one of the defensive leaders on a unit that ended the season allowing a total of just 52 points in ten games.
“Our line stuffs people up the middle and our defensive backs lock down the receivers,” Saharek said of the swarming Eagles defense.
Jason Sharp and Dominic DiMarco also had interceptions, and Josh Cronkhite and Jarrett Livingston each had two sacks in the finale.
The shutout of Newington ended a successful season for the Eagles JV’ers, who finished with a record of 7-2-1.
“We’re a close group, we’re like family,” added Saharek, “We’re looking forward to playing varsity next year.”
The future of football in Wethersfield seems promising. The young Eagles, who dubbed themselves The League of Shadows, will no longer be in the shadows when they start playing under the bright Friday night lights next fall.
Sports Editor for the Rare Reminder, Glastonbury Citizen, and Rivereast News Bulletin