East Hampton’s girls’ volleyball championship was selected as the top local sports moment of 2022. The Bellringers won the program’s first ever championship on Nov. 19.
1. Bellringers Volleyball Wins It All
East Hampton girls’ volleyball won the program’s first state title, defeating Hale Ray at East Haven High School to win the Class S state championship on Nov. 19. The championship triumph ended a historic season for the Bellringers, who won their final 18 matches of the season, capturing both a conference and state title along the way. Senior captain Jordan Murphy was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player during a season in which she led the team with 262 kills this season, including 60 over the four state tourney games. Murphy, along with her sisters Jenna and Amber Murphy, and Chelsea Woods earned all-conference during the historic season.
2. Heslin Siblings Make History
On Feb. 27, Emma and Jackson Heslin of Marlborough became the first siblings to win a high school wrestling state championship on the same day. They also became the first brother-sister combo ever to be crowned State Open wrestling champions by the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference (CIAC). Emma Heslin also became the first female wrestler at RHAM High School to capture a state championship by winning the State Open in the girls’ 99-pound division. Jackson Heslin, a freshman at Xavier High School in Middletown, won the boys’ 120-pound bracket as Xavier won the State Open championship as a team.
3. Another Volleyball Triumph for RHAM
The girls’ volleyball team at RHAM High School won a state championship, defeating Woodland to capture the Class M title at East Haven High School on Nov. 19. It was the program's second straight state championship and ninth title since 2007. Ally Hadley was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player and joined Sarah West, Lani Fecho, Neve Tyler as all-conference recipients.
4. Anderson Phenomenal in Poll
Freshman Riley Anderson was named the Class S Swimmer of the Year after breaking the school record in the 50 freestyle and finishing first at the Class S championships with a time of 23.20. Anderson ended for first year in the high school pools with a State Open championship triumph in the 50 freestyle, besting her previous mark by swimming a 23.07 to cement the first-place finish ahead of runner-up Riley Kudlac, a senior from Glastonbury High School who will be swimming collegiately at George Washington University next year.
5. Repeat Performance for Portland Golf
The Highlanders swept through all 16 regular season matches before winning both the Shoreline Conference championship in May and Division III state championship at Fairview Golf Course in Harwinton on June 7. It was the team’s second straight state championship and the program’s fifth title in the past six seasons. Sophomore Luke Stennett again shined on the links, earning the co-medalist at the state championship events after shooting an eagle on the final hole to finish tied atop the leaderboard. Quinn Lapinski shot a 75 (+3) to finish 3rd, Eli Evison shot a 78 (+6) to finish tied for 7th, and Joseph LaMalfa shot an 84 (+12) to tie for 23rd.
6. Historic Season on the Links for Raptors
Boys’ golf at RHAM High School won the program’s first ever state championship, winning the Division II state championship at Tallwood Country Club on June 6. The Raptors ran away with the championship, defeating runner-up Ellington by 14 strokes as four RHAM golfers finished in the top 11 out of 85 total golfers. Carson Waddell and Conner Rabbitt led the way, each shooting a 77 (+5) to tie for 3rd individually. Holden Sullivan shot a 78 (+6) to finish tied for 7th and Jimmy Hulland shot a 79 (+7) to finish 11th.
7. Calhoun Shatters Record Books
Liam Calhoun rewrote the record books at RHAM High School in 2022, breaking eight school records. During the indoor track season in the winter, he rewrote school records in the 600 meters, 800 meters, 1,000 meters, 1,600 meters, 3,200 meters, and was part of the 4x800 relay team that set a new program mark. Calhoun continued his record-breaking ways in the spring, setting a new mark in the 3,200 and topping his own record in the one-mile. RHAM’s record breaker runner is now cross-country and track and field teams at Wesleyan University.
8. Bobcats Basketball Best Bellringers in Tourney
Bacon Academy girls’ basketball defeated East Hampton 30-26 in the Class M semifinals on March 14, earning a spot in the state championship game. Valerie Luizzi, who scored a game-high 17 points – including a dozen over the final 16 minutes, calmly sank a pair of free throws to put the game on ice with 4.6 left in regulation. The win advanced the Bobcats to the state championship for the first time since 2017.
9. Delisle Breaks Pair of PHS Record
Portland High School’s Owen Delisle broke the school record in the 800 meters, running a time of 1:59.92 to finish as the runner-up at the Class S championships at Willow Brook Park in New Britain on May 31. Delisle was also an anchor on the school’s 4x400 relay team –teaming with Simon Kandeke, Teddy Williams, and Jake Thompson – to break the school record in the 4x400 at the Shoreline Conference Championships earlier in May.
10. Remiszewski Lifts Bellringers Soccer
Jakub Remiszewski’s penalty kick ended a marathon of a game as East Hampton boys’ soccer advanced to the Class S semifinals with a win over Canton on Nov. 11. Playing on a rain-soaked field, the teams battled through 100 minutes of game play before the game went into penalty kicks where East Hampton’s all-conference goalie Thomas Fenton made a pair of crucial stops and the Bellringers netted all five of their penalty shots. Brennan Johnson, Oren Wilson, William Nafis, Ephraim Butson each made their kicks, setting the stage for Remiszewski to boot home the game-ender. East Hampton would defeat Notre Dame-Fairfield in the state semifinals to advance to the program’s first state championship since 2014.
11. Nylen Lights Up Scoreboard
RHAM High School football star Max Nylen had a game for the ages on Oct. 1, totaling 507 yards and scoring eight touchdowns as the Raptors beat Farmington 69-39. Nylen ran for 375 yards, scoring seven touchdowns on the ground and hauling in a receiving touchdown from 29 yards out. He added 103 return yards—31 on kick returns and 72 more on an interception. Nylen’s eight touchdowns tied him for the third most in a game in the history of high school football in Connecticut. This fall, he set a new single-season mark in touchdowns (24) and became the program all-time leader with 38 career touchdowns despite missing his sophomore season because of the COVID-19 cancellation.
12. Russell Joins Elite Club
Gyanna Russell, a 2017 graduate of East Hampton High School who went on to star on the basketball courts at Southern New Hampshire, scored her 1,000th career college point on Feb. 5. Russell is still East Hampton’s all-time leading scorer with 1,478 points and joined a rare group of 1,000 point double-dippers, achieving the feat in both high school and college.
13. Highlanders Hardball Dunks Bellringers
The baseball team at Portland High School beat East Hampton 2-0 at Dunkin’ Donuts Park on May 17. Under the bright lights in Hartford, Spencer Rosado pitched a two-hitter and scored the game’s first run when he was driven home by Michael Quesnel, who would later score an insurance run following a sacrifice fly by Austin Vess. It was a complete turnaround from the team’s game the previous month where the Bellringers dealt the Highlanders a 14-0 loss at PHS.
14. RHAM-Grad Wins National Title
Alex Heline, a 2018 graduate from RHAM High School, became a national champion rower when she was one of nine girls at Worcester Polytechnic Institute that powered a boat that won the varsity eight+ Division III NCAA rowing championship at Nathan Benderson Park in Sarasota, Fla. on May 28. Heline’s name will forever be associated with the program’s first national championships and the rowers joined the 1986 men’s golf team as the only national champions in school history.
15. Bellringer Vaults to Top
East Hampton High School’s Nicholas Rivard-Lentz took first place in the pole vault at the Class S championships on May 31. Rivard-Lentz also won the Shoreline Conference Championship and finished as the runner-up in the State Open before taking his talent to new heights by vaulting a personal-best 14’3” at the New England championships in June.
16. Highlanders Round Ball Eliminates Top Seed
Portland High School boys’ basketball upset No. 1 seed Terryville, 57-52, in the second round of the Division V state tournament on March 10. Eli Evison scored 21 points and Joe Rusczyk added 13 to lead the Highlanders to the upset over a Terryville team that had won 19 of 20 games in the regular season. The Highlanders entered the state tourney as the No. 16 seed before winning a home tournament game over Coventry and knocking out the division’s top-ranked team in the second round.
17. Nudd Nets 1,000th Point
Bacon Academy High School’s Marissa Nudd scored her 1,000th career high school point as the Bobcats beat Ledyard on Dec. 20. Nudd surpassed the four-digit milestone on a layup with 37.9 seconds left in the first quarter, becoming the eighth player in program history to hit the 1,000-point mark. Her sister, Kellie Nudd, was the last player to surpass 1,000 points, achieving the feat in 2019.
18. East Hampton T&F Excels at States
The girls’ indoor track and field team finished as the runner-up at the Class S state championship on Feb. 12. Kaylee Gravel won the 1,000 meters and Brylee Montanari won the 55-meter hurdles to take home individual championships as East Hampton finished ahead of 28 other teams. Gravel and Montanari continued their championship way in the spring, each winning individual state titles at the Class S outdoor track and field championship on May 31. Gravel, who is now on the running teams at Central Connecticut State University, won the 800 meters and Montanari, who is now on the running teams at the University of North Carolina-Wilmington, won the 100-meter hurdles.
19. Martino Makes His Mark
Bacon Academy High School’s Jake Martino proved to be one of the best athletes in the state, finishing 8th in the decathlon at Willow Brook Park in New Britain on June 15. It was the second straight year that Martino competed in the 10-event challenge, which features 100 meter dash, long jump, shot put, high jump, 400 meter run, 110 meter hurdles, discus, pole vault, javelin, and 1500 meter run. The decathlon was the finale for what was a record-breaking junior year for Martino, who won the Class MM discus championship on June 2 and also previously broke the school record in the discus during a regular season meet, topping the previous mark by over three feet.
20. Salamone Achieves All-State
East Hampton High School’s Liana Salamone made the Connecticut High School Coaches Association All-State basketball team in March following a phenomenal first season on the high school hardwood. Salamone, who was the only freshman selected to the team, scored a team-high 445 points and averaged 17.1 points to power the Bellringers offense. The all-round point guard also did so much more than just score – averaging 7.0 rebounds, 3.3 assists, and 2.8 steals per game.
21. Highlanders Soccer Surges
In the program’s first year under new head coach Cory Tobler, the girls’ soccer team at Portland High School advanced to the Class S state semifinals and battled No. 1 seed Lyman Memorial into penalty kicks on Nov. 16. It was a remarkable turnaround for a team that won only one of their first six games in 2022 before ending the regular season red hot and winning three straight state tournament games behind senior captains Mia Quesnel and Amelia Hair. Quesnel, Hair, Camryn DiMauro, and Kaitlyn Hickey all earned all-conference.
22. Kleinhen Sparks Raptors
RHAM’s Ailish Kleinhen came off the bench to drain five three-pointers and score a game-high 20 points as the Raptors rallied in the closing minutes to beat Bacon Academy 43-39 in front of a spirited home crowd at RHAM High School on Feb. 3. Kleinhen drained her final three-pointer with 2:24 remaining in regulation, giving the Raptors their first lead of the game as the home team closed out the contest on a 12-4 run.
The girls’ cross-country team at GHS was named as the Girls’ Cross Country Team of the Year by the Connecticut High School Coaches Association (CHSCA) after winning a class title, state title, and regional title this fall. Pictured from left; Jackie Dudus, Ava Gattinella, Kelley MacElhiney, Brooke Strauss, Lila Garbett, Lucy Bergin, and Mikayla Nedder are pictured at the CHSCA Cross Country Banquet receiving the Team of the Year Award.
1. GHS XC Queens of New England
Glastonbury High School girls’ cross-country completed the Triple Crown of racing, winning the Class LL Championship, State Open, and the New England Championships. At New England Championships on Nov. 12, the Guardians proved to be the best of the best by finishing ahead of 28 other schools from across the East Coast and holding off runner-up Champlain Valley Union of Hinesburg, Vermont for the championship. Kelley MacElhiney led a well-balanced group of GHS runners that had five racers place in the top 53 out of the 245 racers that completed.
2. Youth Baseball Wins Title
Glastonbury Amateur Baseball (GAB) 13-and-under team coached by Ian Race won the first state championship in the history of the GAB on July 30. After finishing 23-3 in the regular season and earning the No. 1 seed in the state tournament, the 13U team swept through the state tournament with five straight wins, including a 7-0 shutout of Torrington in the championship game at Riverfront Park. In the handful of tourney wins, Glastonbury outscored their opponents 39-12 and connected on 35 more hits than the opposition. Zachary Bernabeo was named the Most Valuable Player of the tournament after starring from both the plate and mound, and Derick Li was named the tourney’s Most Valuable Hitter after reaching base on 70% of his plate appearances, along with leading the team in hit and runs scored this summer. Bernabeo, Li, Jack Fisher, and Cooper Saunders earned All-Star status after a historic summer on the diamond.
3. 500 Ks for Tracy
GHS softball pitching sensation Brooke Tracy struck out her 500th batter during a 16-strikeout performance in a tournament game against Trumbull on June 1. Tracy, who finished her high school career 503 strikeouts, was named All-State and All-Central Connecticut Conference (CCC) in each of her final two seasons at GHS. Tracy is now a freshman pitcher for the Bulldogs of Bryant University.
4. Oakwood Brings National Title Back to Town
The Oakwood Soccer Club U17 team became national champions on July 10, defeating Florida United to secure the Girls Academy (GA) National Championship in St. Louis, MO. The team, which featured Glastonbury players Skylar Fiske, Kelly Stepnowski, and Katherine Zaino, won three playoff games in California to reach the knockout stage in Missouri where they would beat three more nationally-ranked teams to secure the title.
5. Guardians Football Tops Maloney
GHS football shocked the local football world on Nov. 10, knocking off previously unbeaten and No. 1 ranked Maloney 28-21 in overtime at Falcon Field in Meriden. All-state running back Jack Petrone scored a 10-yard rushing touchdown on the Guardians first play of overtime and Jaelen Greene secured the victory with a sack on 4th down to end Maloney’s last ditch effort to extend the game. The victory was part of a three-game winning streak to end the regular season for the Guardians, who would go on to upset West Haven in the first round of the playoffs. GHS finished with nine wins, the program’s most since 2013.
6. Strauss Sizzles on the Trails
GHS sophomore Brooke Strauss returned from an injury just in time to win the Cross-Country State Open Championship on Nov. 4. Strauss ran a 19:05 to win the race, just ahead of Kathryn Marchand (19:11) of Trumbull who had finished nearly a full minute ahead of Strauss just a week earlier at the Class LL championships. The extra week of recovery allowed Strauss to be at full strength on the state’s biggest stage and add another championship to her growing list of titles.
7. Hamilton Delivers at Dunkin’
Elliot Hamilton threw a one-hitter, striking out 10 as GHS baseball sank Simsbury 12-0 at Dunkin’ Donuts Park on May 24. Hamilton, who will be playing for Salve Regina University this spring, retired 17 straight batters at one point and also drove in two runs from the plate to secure the win, which wrapped up a 14-win regular season and an unforgettable night under the lights in Hartford.
8. GHS 4x8 Triumphant in Boston
Annika Paluska, Kylie Hilliard, Ava Gattinella, and Brooke Strauss ran a season-best 9:29.14 to win the 4x800 relay at the New England Championships in Boston on March 5. The foursome entered the regional tournament as the seventh-seed based on best times during the state competition yet turned on the speed once the race started, besting runner-up Brookline High School and holding off a strong field of relay teams spanning Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Vermont, and Maine.
9. Boys Golf Takes Down Titan
GHS boys’ golf stunned the state’s No. 1 ranked team, defeating Fairfield Prep at Patterson Club in Fairfield on Sept. 29. Despite taking their longest road trip of the season, the Guardians took down the top-ranked team in Division I, edging the Jesuits (157-159) on their home course. Junior captain Gavin Kvadus finished as the co-medalist (sharing the honor with Fairfield Prep’s Robbie Rosati), shooting a pair of birdies to post a (+2) 38 at the historic, yet unfamiliar course. Sophomore Derek Thomas posted a 39, while senior Jared D’Angelo and junior Zachary Durant both posted 40 to help the Guardians secure a season-defining victory.
10. Hall of Fame Coach Wins 300th Game
Longtime GHS girls’ field hockey head coach Maureen Perkins had a fantastic fall. First she was inducted into the Connecticut Field Hockey Hall of Fame on Sept. 11 and then she won her 300th game in a home victory on Oct. 15. Perkins, who has been coaching the program since 1999, has led the team to a dozen conference championships and two state titles during her illustrious tenure.
11. Back-to-Back for Outdoor Track
The girls’ outdoor track and field team at GHS won a second straight state championship on May 31, easily edging runner-up Greenwich (118-63.5) at Willow Brook Park in New Britain. Anna Hilary (pole vault) and Layla Spann- McDonald (discus) won individual titles, while the 4x400 relay team (Riley Carroll, Meghan Smith, Alyssa Healy, and Molly Harding) and 4x800 relay team (Ava Gattinella, Kelley MacElhiney. Jackie Caron, and Annika Paluska) also won titles.
12. GHS Grad Wins College World Series
Ryan Bagdasarian, a 2016 graduate of Glastonbury High School, was the starting center fielder for Eastern Connecticut State University (ECSU) baseball team that won the 2022 NCAA Division III national championship on June 7. Bagdasarian drove in a pair of runs, which proved to be the difference in the championship-clincher, a 3-2 victory over Salisbury University at Perfect Game Field in Iowa. It marked a perfect end to Bagdasarian’s career at ECSU, capping a senior season in which he led the Warriors in hits (73), scoring 56 runs and driving in 51 more for a Warriors team that won 49 of 52 games.
13. GHS Indoor T&F is Class Champs, Again
The girls’ indoor track and field team at GHS won a second straight Class LL championship, blowing away the competition on Feb. 11. The Guardians scored 91.50 overall team points, finishing nearly 30 points ahead of runner-up Fairfield Ludlowe. Brooke Strauss (1,000 meters) and Zoe Spann-McDonald (55 meter hurdles) won individual titles, while the team of Annika Paluska, Kylie Hilliard, Jackie Dudus, Ava Gattinella won a relay title in the 4x800.
14. 11 Straight Conference Championships for Girls Swim
The GHS girls’ swimming and diving team dominated the Central Connecticut Conference (CCC) East championship at GHS on Nov. 3, winning the program’s 11th straight conference title. The Guardians won 12 of the 15 events, winning nine individual events and all three relays. Riley Kudlac had a perfect four-win afternoon, while Annika Paluska won three events. Brooke Sowka, Lauren Lord, MK Booth and Avery Kudlac each took home a pair of wins, and Lucy Boisoneau, Jade Casey and Belle Christensen also won individual conference titles. Once the waves had settled, Glastonbury scored a staggering 430 points, besting second-place South Windsor by 141 points.
15. Petrone Wins Ski Championship
Jack Petrone won a U.S. Skiing Junior National Championship at Utah’s Olympic Park in Park City, Utah on March 18. Petrone, who is also an All-State football player at GHS, defeated 79 of the best 18-and-under ski racers in the country. It was Petrone’s first national title, previously winning several regional titles, and was second year in a row competing at the former home of the 2002 Winter Olympics.
16. Local Runner Sets Marathon Record
Glastonbury resident Angie Rafter broke the women’s 5k record at the Hartford Marathon on Oct. 8. The 23-year-old ran the 5000 meters in a blistering 16:15, averaging 5:14 per mile, to shatter the previous record of 16:47 held by Amy Nedeau since 2003. Rafter, a graduate of Killingly High School, is an all-conference runner at Central Connecticut State University where she has broken several school records.
17. Home Cooking for GHS Tennis
The girls’ tennis team at GHS won their 15th straight regular season home match, sweeping Simsbury (7-0) on May 20. The program’s home winning streak dates back to May 15, 2019 and over the past two years the Guardians have won 30 of 31 regular season matches regardless of the venue. 2022 was also another banner year for the Guardians who won a second straight Central Connecticut Conference (CCC)-West title after beating Avon in the regular season finale. Nora Anderson, Annee Bess Blair, Sammie Chung, and Catie Zak were named all-conference following the season.
18. Perfect Regular Season, Conference Title for Spikers
The boys’ volleyball team at GHS wrapped up an undefeated regular season with a four-set win over South Windsor on May 23, finishing with a record of 18-0, and then won a Central Connecticut Conference championship with a three-set victory over Enfield on May 27. All told, the Guardians won their first 23 games behind a strong senior class led by all-conference recipients Ryan Barcikowski, Stephen Dayton, Paul Giliberto, Ryan Hoffman, and Eric Rose.
19. History Making Spring for Softball
The softball team as GHS finished the regular season 18-2, ending the season on a nine-game winning streak to capture the Central Connecticut Conference (CCC) Patriot division following a victory over Simsbury on May 20. The team’s .900 winning percentage marks an all-time best for the program. All-conference recipients Natalie Lessard, Sadie Scurto, Rayah Snyder, and Brooke Tracy led the Guardians as they made history on the diamond.
20. Anderson’s Tourney PK Advances Guardians
Sophomore Corey Anderson buried a penalty kick to end a marathon of a match and advance GHS girls’ soccer past Danbury in the second round of the Class LL tournament on Nov. 10. Gianna Angelillo and Riley Carroll each scored in the first half as the Guardians battled to a 2-2 tie with the visiting Hatters through regulation and two overtime periods. GHS goalie Marla Radikas made a crucial save in penalty kicks and GHS made four of five penalty kicks, highlighted by Anderson’s game-clincher in front of a packed house at GHS.
21. Lucky 13 for Boys Tennis
The boys’ tennis team at Glastonbury High School wrapped up a 13-1 regular season by blanking Simsbury on May 20. Christian Kaverud, Joseph Chan, Andrew Risinger and Josh Souder picked up singles victories, while the doubles teams of Matt Daniels / Niteesh Kalagni, Brendon Wagner / Nate Azimov, and Eric Hine / Arthur Cao also posted wins. The Guardians would go on to defeat Fairfield Ludlowe in the first round in the Class LL state tournament.
22. Another Conference Crown for Boys Swim & Dive
The GHS boys’ swimming and diving team won the Central Connecticut Conference (CCC) East Championships, capturing the conference crown on May 3. The Guardians dominated the multi-school event by winning all three relays and taking the top spot in six of the nine individual events, scoring 425 overall team points and beating runner-up Windsor by 151 points. Campbell McFall (200 Individual Medley / 100 Backstroke) and Sander Silverman (200 Freestyle / 100 Butterfly) each won a pair of individual races, while Jack Wilson (500 Freestyle) and James Liao (100 Freestyle) also took home conference victories. McFall and Silverman were named the Co-Swimmers of the Meet. Glastonbury has been the kings of the conference since its inception, winning every championship meet since the 2010-11 season.
1. CHS Softball Crowned Champs
Cromwell softball won the program’s first state title, ousting conference rival North Branford 3-0 to win the Class S championship at Frank DeLuca Hall of Fame field in Stratford on June 11. Standout pitcher Lily Kenney went all seven innings, allowing only one hit and striking out 11 to earn the championship game’s Most Valuable Player (MVP), while Malena Signorello and Victoria Wiatrak each connected on home runs to provide the offense.
2. WHS Skaters Ice State Title
The Eagles won the Division II championship, defeating North Haven 3-0 at People United Center in Hamden on March 21. It was the program’s first state title in 15 years, dating back to when they defeated New Milford in the Division III championship in 2007. Along with winning a championship, the Eagles also avenged a 4-1 loss to North Haven in February. Goalie Matthew Ruck was brilliant between the pipes, saving 28 shots to register a shutout against a normally high-octane offense that had scored at least one goal in the previous 23 games. Jack Millen, Colby Quinn, Will McCarter provided the goals.
3. Ice Hockey Title Triumph
Newington co-op ice hockey won the program’s third state championship in history, defeating Conard 3-1 on March 17 at the People’s United Center in Hamden. The Newington co-op—which includes players from Newington, Cromwell, Berlin, Canton, and Manchester— was the No. 2 ranked team entering the state tournament after winning 17 of 20 regular season games and then eliminated the Rocky Hill co-op in the first round, Staples in the quarterfinals, and Barlow co-op in the semifinals to reach the state title games. After falling behind 1-0 in the championship game, Tyler Leavitt tallied the equalizer for Newington and less than 20 second later Andrew Stribling scored the go-ahead goal for the Nor’easters. Stribling added an empty-netter in the closing seconds of play in regulation to put an exclamation point on the state title.
4. Speed Jumps Over Competition
Wethersfield High School’s Holden Speed completed the trifecta of triple jumps this spring, winning the event at the Class MM Championships, State Open, and polishing off his high school career with a victory at the New England Championships on June 11. Speed blew away the competition in the triple jump at the class meet and then set a personal-best mark in the triple jump at the State Open on June 6, covering 47’06.05, before winning at the New England title the following week. Speed is currently a freshman on the track and field team at Merrimack College in Mass.
5. Back-to-Back for Mercy Soccer
Mercy High School defeated Northwest Catholic 3-1 to win the soccer Class M state championship at Trinity Health Stadium in Hartford on Nov. 19. Laney Smith scored twice and Katie Donlan added a goal as the Tigers from Middletown polished off an incredible 20-win season with their second straight state title, also finishing as the co-champion with Sacred Heart Academy in 2021.
6. Guerrera’s Gigantic Game
Rocky Hill’s football captain Frankie Guerrera had a night to remember, totaling 217 all-purpose yards and scoring six touchdowns as the Terriers beat Lewis Mills 42-7 on Oct. 28. Guerrera, who is also the team’s kicker, scored all of Rocky Hill’s points after going a perfect six-of-six on his extra point attempts. He finished the season with 132 total points, scoring 19 touchdowns and kicking 14 extra points as the Terriers finished 7-3 and won a conference title.
7. Xavier Wrestling State Open
Xavier High School’s wrestling won the State Open on Feb. 27, dominating the field by scoring 204 overall team points and besting runner-up Danbury by 59 points. Jackson Heslin (120 lbs.) and Thomas Lunt (220 lbs.) won individual State Open titles, while Maximum Morse (113 lbs.) took home second place and Dylan Levesque (138 lbs.) and Colin Loria (152 lbs.) won their third-place matches. For Xavier, who also won the Class LL title, the State Open victory was the program’s first in a decade, last winning in 2012.
8. Brush’s Hat Trick Perfect Season
Wethersfield’s Kathleen Brush scored three goals as the Eagles defeated Newington 3-0 at Cottone Field on Nov. 1. The win polished off an undefeated regular season for the Eagles, who wrapped up the Central Connecticut Conference-North. Allie Leahy dished out two assists with perfect lead passes to Brush and goalie Vanessa Venditti was flawless in net, making a handful of stops.
9. Black Jack! Panthers Win 21st Straight on Senior Night
Cromwell/Portland football held off Valley Regional/Old Lyme 28-27 in front of a packed house at Pierson Park on Oct. 28. It was the Panthers 21st straight win, a streak dating back to Nov. 27 of 2019. Playing Senior Night, senior defensive back Johnny Beltre deflected a pass in the end zone on a two-point conversion attempt to keep the streak alive. Alex McKiernan found the end zone twice, scoring on the ground and catching a touchdown from quarterback Cole Brisson, who also connected with Machi Campbell for a scoring strike. Freshman Tyler Cipolla also scored on a run, which started the Panthers rally after they fell down 21-7 in the second quarter.
10. Historic Season for NHS Tennis
Girls’ tennis at Newington High School had a season for the ages, advancing to the state championship match for the first time in history of the program with a win over Joel Barlow on June 3. The Nor’easters won 14 of 17 matches in the regular season, finishing in a three-way tie for the Central Connecticut Conference-(CCC) North championship, before eliminating three state tournament opponents en route to the state title appearance. Michelle Novakova, Anusha Singh, Dianna Sliwinsky made all-conference following the historic season.
11. Centurelli’s Complete Game Carries Terriers
Ben Centurelli pitched a complete-game shutout as Rocky Hill baseball eliminated St. Joseph 1-0 in the opening round of the Class M tourney on May 31 at Griswold Middle School. Jack Pawlich provided the offense by delivering a line drive shot down the left field line, scoring Jaiden Reyes from second base. The state tourney triumph marked the Terriers third memorable game in a matter of weeks, also earning a walk-off win over New Britain on Senior Night thanks to an RBI single from Tyler Carlstrom and them shutting out Lewis Mills at Dunkin’ Donuts Park in the regular season finale on May 25.
12. Revengeful Panthers Win SLC
Cromwell boys’ basketball defeated Morgan, 55-39, to win the Shoreline Conference Championship and avenge the Panthers’ only regular season loss. Gianluca Albert was named the SLC Player of the Year after draining four three-pointers and scoring a game-high 23 points in the title game. It was the defense that put the clamps on the conference championship, limiting the Huskies from Morgan to a signal bucket in a decisive third quarter in which Cromwell held a 17-2 scoring advantage.
13. Zocco’s Freebie Sends Nor’easters to Mohegan
Karissa Zocco hit a free throw in the closing seconds to lift Newington girls’ basketball over E.O. Smith in the Class L semifinals at Plainville High School on March 14. Lilly Ferguson tied the game with a three-pointer in the closing minute, paving the way for Zocco to seal the game with the free throw on the ensuing possession. The win propelled the program to the state championship for the first time since 1993.
14. Pettaway Nets 1,000
Middletown High School’s Tyah Pettaway had a Valentine’s Day netted her 1,000th career high school point as the Blue Dragons celebrated Senior Night by beating the visiting Spartans of Lewis Mills on Feb. 14 in front of a packed house of family and friends at Middletown High School. Pettaway scored a game-high 26 points, including 19 in the first half, and broke the four-digit scoring barrier with 7:19 left in regulation when she drove around two defenders and hit a running bank shot from the left side.
15. Perry Sweeps Shot Put
Rocky Hill’s Marina Perry won the State Open in the shot put on June 6. The victory completed a clean sweep in the shot put for Perry, who won the conference, class, and state finals in the event over the course of a two-week period. She also won a conference title in the discus and javelin during spring’s outdoor track season. Perry is now a freshman thrower for the track and field team at Central Connecticut State University.
16. Dramatic Opener for WHS Football
Wethersfield football won what turned out to be a crucial season-opening game at Windsor, defeating the Warriors 21-20 on Sept. 9. Quarterback Cam Righi ran for two touchdowns and threw another to Ethan Lemos to provide the offense. Wethersfield’s defense sealed the game when Luke Whitaker and Noah Pasquaretta combined to stuff a two-point conversion late in regulation.
17. Bolhke Siblings Tear Up Trails
The brother-sister duo of Michael and Katie Bolhke each yielded championship results in 2022. Michael, who is now a freshman at George Washington University, had several top-five finishes during the cross-country and track seasons and then ran a personal best (14:39.94) to win the CT Distance Festival on April 22. Katie won the Central Connecticut Conference (CCC) championship on Oct. 18 and is in the middle of her senior year at NHS where she still has the indoor and outdoor track seasons to add more hardware to her mantle.
18. Bayek Bests Competition at States
Rocky Hill’s Braydan Bayek won the cross-country Class M state championship, running a 16:16 and beating runner-up Liam Fedigan of Johnathan Law by 20 seconds at Wickham Park on Oct. 29. Bayek had a memorable senior year on the trails, placing fourth overall at the State Open and then setting a personal-record by running a 15:47 at the New England Championship.
19. NHS LAX Adds Pair to 100-Goal Club
Newington girls’ lacrosse added two names to the program’s 100-goal scorers. Morgan Hellman first reached the triple digit mark during a victory over Watertown on May 19. On May 25, Hailey Gaydos netted her 100th goal as Newington defeated Tolland in the Nor'easters’ regular season finale. Both earned all-state in the spring as Newington won a conference title.
20. NHS FB Beats Eagles
Newington football defeated Wethersfield 17-14 to win the 46th annual Thanksgiving Classic at Cottone Field on Nov. 23. Playing in his final game, senior quarterback Paddy Brown rushed for a touchdown and threw a scoring strike to Akari Rosemond as Newington upset a Wethersfield team that had only lost once in their previous nine games. Brown, who is also the team’s placekicker, made both of his extra points and kicked a crucial field goal before the defense secured the victory when Chase Leonard intercepted a pass late in regulation. Newington now holds a 25-20-1 advantage in the series, which first started in 1976 with Newington winning the initial battle 24-22.
21. Reilly Sisters Net 10 goals
Carly and Lenna Reilly, sisters on Cromwell High School’s lacrosse team, combined to score 10 goals (five each) as the Panthers defeated Haddam-Killingworth 12-11 in a barnburner on May 12. The sister provided the bulk of the offense, but it was junior Bridget Russ who scored the decisive goal to earn the team their second victory of the season.
22. NHS Baseball Defeats Rival at Dunkin’
Newington baseball defeated Wethersfield 6-1 at Dunkin Donuts Park on May 23. Gavin Gray pitched a gem at the gorgeous venue, striking out a handful and allowing only two hits in five solid innings. Austin Howe led the offensive charge with a pair of hits, including a home run in the sixth inning. The Nor’easters broke the game open in the six inning with four runs, highlighted by a two-run blast by Howe.
2022 Portland High School graduate Teddy Williams will live out his childhood dream as he plays football with the Huskies of UConn.
Teddy Williams, a 2022 graduate of Portland High School, has committed to play football for The University of Connecticut starting next fall.
Only a year ago, joining the Huskies football program seemed like a long shot for Williams.
Despite being a finalist for the Walter Camp Connecticut Player of the Year in 2021, Williams said he didn’t receive many college offers to continue his career on the gridiron, calling the recruitment process “pretty slow.”
All that changed after Williams opted to do a postgraduate season at Salisbury School, a private college-preparatory boarding school, allowing him to experience a new lifestyle and showcase his football talents against the best of the best this fall.
“I thought my body could mature more and I can become more independent in a place before I go to college,” Williams said of his decision to go to Salisbury.
Just like he did in high school, Williams played both sides of the ball at Salisbury and made an immediate impact by catching a touchdown in his first game with the Crimson Knight.
Williams said the experience in Salisbury helped him as both a player and a person, adding, “It just helped me become more independent. Managing my time is where it helped me the most.”
While attending a summer camp, Williams began to talk with the coaches from UConn more frequently before the official offer came through to join a Huskies program that plays their homes games at Rentschler Field in East Hartford.
Williams will be joining a team that won six games this fall and earned and appearance in the Myrtle Beach Bowl under the guidance of first-year under head coach Jim Mora, a former coach in the National Football League.
Williams said that playing at UConn is a “dream come true” and wants to be an inspiration to local athletes that may have been overlooked.
“A lot of kids think that since they play at a small school they can’t get recruited by bigger schools and can’t play DI, but I like having that feeling that I’m an example that you can do at it as long as you work at it,” added Williams
Williams’ ascent from a wide-eyed high school freshman to a Division I athlete has been rather remarkable.
Cromwell/Portland head coach Randell Bennett remembered seeing Williams for the first time in 2018 and admitted that he could have envisioned at the time that Williams would one day be playing for the state’s largest collegiate football program.
“He was really short and had a little baby fat on him, and I couldn’t see it,” recalled Bennett. “But he actually scored two varsity touchdowns that year.”
As a sophomore, Williams started to show flashes of the player that he would become, starring alongside All-State linebacker Owen Brunk as the Panthers battled through a 2-7 regular season with a young roster.
Then COVID-19 shut down high school football locally in 2020.
Williams made the most of the cancellation, becoming a beast in the weight room, working with Bennett, Brunk, and former University of Penn State football standout Jarvis Miller during the long layoff.
The time in the gym paid big dividends as Williams returned to the field to post a senior season that earned him the nickname “Teddy Ballgame.”
Williams served as the team’s main receiving threat, scoring 30 touchdowns and gaining nearly 2,000 all-purpose yards with 1,396 of those yards coming through the air.
He was equally dominant on defense, racking up 110 tackles, including 16 tackles for loss. He also forced and recovered six fumbles and intercepted four passes for a stacked defense that allowed less than eight points per game.
Following a 10-0 regular season, Williams took his game to another level in the playoffs, scoring nine touchdowns in three playoff games as the Panthers polished off a perfect season (13-0) with a state championship victory over Bloomfield on Dec. 11, 2021.
Bennett observed that Williams plays football like he was playing a video game, adding, “He’s always attacking, always going for a strip, always going for an interception, always going for a fumble.”
“His motor is just so ridiculous; it’s like he’s not real. He plays all over the field and never gets tired” added Bennett. “He pushes himself to the limit every time. Only the special guys have that type of drive.”
Williams said that having Bennett as his coach helped him improve both in his physique and his intelligence on the field, saying, “Coach Bennett really opened my eyes. He has a really good football IQ and he shares it with everyone. He is good at sharing his knowledge.”
After wrapping up his post-grad season at Salisbury, Williams came back to be on the local sidelines as Cromwell/Portland team that made the state semifinals this season. Bennett said that Williams was one of the team’s biggest supporters during the team’s playoff push.
Bennett and Williams have remained close since the state championship last fall, continuing to train together.
“It’s exciting to be still working together. To go on this journey together has been a really cool experience,” added Bennett, who played collegiately at Grambling State. “He’s done things the right way and now he’s reaping those benefits.”
Portland’s hometown football hero now begins to craft the next chapter of his football story.
Williams said he was originally recruited to play slot receiver at UConn, but added that he is “willing to do whatever the team needs”
“I like playing both offense and defense, so it doesn’t matter where I play,” stated Williams. “I just want to be able to play.”
Marissa Nudd - Bacon Academy High School (Basketball): Nudd scored her 1,000th career high school point as the Bobcats improved to 3-0 with a 52-45 victory over Ledyard. Nudd, who has committed to play college basketball at Southern Connecticut State University, opened her senior season with a 25-point, 11-rebound performance in a 52-24 victory over East Lyme on Dec. 13. She then posted 23 points and eight rebounds in a 71-23 victory over Waterford on Dec. 16.
Spencer Rosado - Portland High School (Wrestling): Rosado, who placed third at the Class S championship in 2021, has picked up right where he left off a season ago. The senior, who wrestles at 145 lbs., defeated Jacob Guarino of Middletown in his opening match of the season as the Highlanders defeated the Blue Dragons 53-30 on Dec. 14. Rosado also swept his matches as Portland competed and won four of five contests in the Pomperaug Duals at Pomperaug High School on Dec. 17.
Sarah West - RHAM High School (Basketball): West scored 52 points in three games as the Raptors started the season with a trio of wins last week. West, a senior, scored 24 points in a 54-41 victory over Coventry on Dec. 15. She also scored 16 points in a win over South Windsor on Dec. 16 and dumped in a dozen points in the Raptor’s season opener, a victory over Maloney on Dec. 13. In the victory over Maloney, sophomore Maddy Evans canned a handful of three-pointers to lead RHAM with 19 points.
Liana Salamone - East Hampton High School (Basketball): Salamone scored 33 points as East Hampton upended Haddam-Killingworth 63-30 on Dec. 15. The sophomore point guard, who is coming off an all-state freshman campaign, opened the season with a 29-point effort in a win over Amistad on Dec. 13.
Rocky Hill football captains #22 M.J. Torres, #20 Alex Peruta, and #1 Frankie Guerrera highlighted a senior class that helped head coach Rich Dance put his stamp on the Terriers program over the last four years.
Prior to the season, Rocky Hill High School football coach Rich Dance believed his team was capable of winning seven games this fall.
Then the injury bug hit, forcing starters Alex Peruta, Oleg Korotkyy, and Jaiden Reyes to miss a majority of the season.
Despite the early setbacks, Dance and his Terriers still managed to reach seven wins in what turned out to be a banner season in Rocky Hill.
“It was terribly unfortunate for those kids, but I told the team if you knew we were going to lose these three guys for the season so early and still go 7-3 who would have believed us,” stated Dance. “It’s an achievement and a credit to the team.”
Following a win over Tolland on Nov. 14, the Terriers clinched the Central Connecticut (CCC) Tier IV title. It was the team’s first conference championship since Dance took over in 2019.
“We really put it all together this season and now we're seeing what is possible,” added Dance. “We now see what can happen when we work guys through the system for four years.”
Peruta, who was a returning two-way captain, was lost to a season-ending knee injury in the opener, leaving a major void on the field.
All-conference senior captains Frankie Guerrera and M.J. Torres stepped up and took their games to another level, powering an offense that was led by sophomore quarterback Joey Motes for a majority of the season.
Guerrera was the jack-of-all-trade, racking up nearly 1,700 all-purpose yards and scoring 19 total touchdowns.
In a 42-7 win over Lewis Mills on Oct. 28, Guerrera had a game for the ages when he totaled 263 yards from scrimmage and scored six touchdowns.
Torres was the team’s chain mover, grinding out 940 yards and 13 touchdowns on the ground. He also led the team with 58 tackles.
Fellow seniors Alex Muniz, Chris Adamczyk, Vrisan Kuttin, and Yazdan Aftab also made all-conference this fall.
When Dance took over in 2019, the member of the Class of 2023 were freshmen and battled through a 2-8 season and the Covid-cancellation before posting back-to-back competitive seasons the past two years.
Dance said the departing seniors were instrumental in helping him put his stamp on the program.
“This is a special class because it’s the first group of players that I have been with for four years,” said Dance, who joked that the only people that saw the seniors more than him were the player’s parents. “Football is a 12-month out of the year commitment and I work in the building, I live in town, and have gotten to know these kids really well. They have a special place in our hearts for what they’ve meant to the coaches and also what they’ve meant to the program.”
The silver lining to the early-season inquires was that several young players had a chance to be in the spotlight and shine.
Junior Daryl Asante, along with sophomores Eddie Kocaqi and Jayzair Hall each made all-conference.
Dance said the experience the returning players earned should pay dividends going forward.
“We’re bringing respectability back to the program after a couple of down years. Teams are starting to take Rocky Hill football seriously again just like they did with coach [Dave] Coyne and coach [Mark] Fritz,” added Dance. “When Rocky Hill shows up on the schedule, teams know they can’t take us lightly.”
Wethersfield senior Justin Nardella leads the Eagles football team onto the field prior to a home game against Bristol Central on Nov. 5. Photo courtesy of Grafx.Eagle
For the second time in three seasons under head coach Matt McKinnon, the football team at Wethersfield High School won eight games and made the playoffs.
Along with winning a conference crown, the Eagles also had several memorable wins that highlighted the season, including one-point victories at rivals Windsor and Middletown.
“This was one of the best teams to ever come through Wethersfield High School,” stated McKinnon. “We always played hard, giving it our all every single game,” stated McKinnon. “The coaches were so proud of this team and all they accomplished.” “
Sophomore quarterback Cam Righi engineered an offense that ran for 235 yards per game and scored 27 touchdowns on the ground.
Righi, a University of Connecticut baseball-commit, was named to the Connecticut High School Coaches Associations Top-26 team after rushing for nearly 1,200 yards on the ground and scoring 14 rushing touchdowns. He also threw for nine more touchdowns through the air.
All-State defender Kaleb Garcia led a defense that allowed less than 13 points per game in the regular season.
Garcia finished with an incredible 27 tackles for loss, including a team-high 14 sacks.
Evan Christian was also named all-state for his work as a tight end/quasi sixth offensive lineman. Christian also made a big impact defensively.
Garcia and Christian are part of a large senior class that also included all-conference players Luke Whitaker, Justin Nardella, Felipe Lozano, Joey Yost, and Ethan Lemos.
McKinnon said that – despite being robbed of their sophomore season because of the Covid-cancellation – the departing seniors set a standard of excellence by winning a pair of conference titles and making the playoffs twice.
“They were the hardest workers in the weight room. [They] led by example for the entire program to follow, and set the tone for the underclassmen to take over,” added McKinnon. “They were an honor to have in our program and will be missed.”
Righi will again head a team next year that will feature returning all-conference running back Jova’n Hill, who had over 1,000 all-purpose yards and found the end zone nine times.
McKinnon believes the cupboards are again full for next season, saying several of the young players made huge impacts in 2022 and that the coaching staff has already starting planning for the 2023 season.
“We have tremendous momentum going into the off-season. Our players are ready to get after it in the weight room,” added McKinnon. “We are going to be very fast on offense and very aggressive on defense.”
Paul Winbish, Elijah Hill, Lucas Witkowski, and Dylan Bathrick – Cromwell (Indoor Track): The all-sophomore foursome of Winbish, Hill, Witkowski, and Bathrick broke the school record in the Sprint Medley Relay, running a state-qualifying time of 3:57.64 at the Hillhouse Invitational on Dec. 16.
Brayden Bayek - Rocky Hill (Cross Country): Bayek was selected All-State after a phenomenal final year on the high school cross-country trails. The senior finished fall by winning the Class M state championship on Oct. 29, placing fourth overall at the State Open on Nov. 4, and then running a personal-best 15:47 at the New England Championships on Nov. 12.
Kathleen Brush - Wethersfield (Soccer): Brush completed the triple crown of awards, getting selected All-Conference, All-State, and All-New England following a year in which she was the main scoring threat for an Eagles team that finished the regular season undefeated and advanced to the semifinals in the Class L state tournament.
Beckham Alderucci - Newington (Soccer): Alderucci earned All-State following a season in which he led the Nor’easters in point (37), scoring a team-high 14 goals and dishing out a team-high nine assists. The senior captain helped lead Newington to the semifinals in the Class LL tourney, winning 14 total games this fall.
Shayln Smith – Middletown (Basketball): Smith scored a career-high 33 points as the Blue Dragons upended Bristol Eastern 58-57 on Dec. 16. Smith, a junior, opened the season with a 17-point effort in a 55-49 victory over Farmington on Dec. 13 as Middletown has started the 2022-2023 season with back-to-back victories.
Glastonbury High School senior Riley Kudlac is one of the most accomplished swimmers in school history and next year she’ll be looking to make more history at George Washington University in Washington, DC.
When she first started getting recruited to colleges, Kudlac admitted that she didn't know much about the school in The Nation’s Capital. However, after touring the campus she quickly discovered that it was the place she’d be spending the next four years
“I fell in love with the program and everything that the school had to offer,” said Kudlac, who visited the campus in February. “I realized that I loved everything the team stood for.”
She added that the historic location and meeting her future coaches and teammates during the visit cemented her decision to join the Colonials swimming program.
During her time at GHS, Kudlac was responsible for breaking five school records and four other pool records.
This past season she broke the school record in the 100 freestyle (50.62) and was a leg on the record-breaking 400 freestyle relay. She also set the pool record in the 100 butterfly (56.56)
In 2021, she set a new school record in the 50 freestyle (23.36) and was part of the school record in the 200 freestyle relay.
GHS swimming and diving head coach Suzie Hoyt said that Kudlac is cool as a cucumber before meets, yet turns on the competitive juices when the races start.
“She’s got a relaxed persona, but inside she has a core of steel. She is a competitor,” added Hoyt. “It’s easy to underestimate her because she is always very cheerful, but she loves the competitions. She wants to do her best, not just for herself but also for the team.”
Kudlac started swimming with her twin sister, Avery Kudlac, at the age of five with encouragement from their dad, who was an avid swimmer.
At age seven, Kudlac started swimming competitively and the sport quickly turned into a fulltime commitment.
Outside of swimming at GHS, Kudlac competes in club swimming in the summer and also for the Laurel East Hartford YMCA (LEHY) swim team under the tutelage of swimming coach Kaeley Steinnagel.
Kudlac said she enjoys the challenge of being a year-round swimmer, saying that success in the sport is linked to the time invested in the pool.
“The harder you work, the better you get and that is what I really liked,” stated Kudlac. “You get rewarded for all the hard work you put in.”
She added that the individual swims are great, yet it’s the relays that have been the most rewarding over the years.
The school’s record-breaking 400 freestyle relay team has been swimming the event for better part of the last six years and Kudlac said that the group is so in-synch that they could swim the event with blindfolds on.
“Our relays in the past two years have really been something special for me. We have all grown up together,” added Kudlac, who credited the competition and camaraderie at GHS with allowing her to succeed. “The support system that we have is really special. That sense of family that we have in Glastonbury is amazing.”
Outside of swimming, Kudlac has participated in DECA at GHS and this year joined the school’s initial Knitting and Crocheting Club, which she said allows her to tap into her creative side.
At her next stop, Kudlac will join a Colonials program that has won four Atlantic 10 titles over the past six seasons under the guidance of head coach Brian Thomas, who swam collegiately at The University of Connecticut.
Kudlac, who has competed in nearly every swimming event in high school, says she had an instant rapport with Thomas and is looking forward to specific race training at the next level, adding, “It’ll be super cool because once you get to college your goal is to win and get better and faster.”
Hoyt believes that Kudlac has what it takes to succeed at the next level because of her tremendous work ethic, adding,
“She’ll do whatever it takes to meet her goals.”
At George Washington, Kudlac will study psychology with the hopes of one day working in the forensic psychology field.
GHS senior Gianna Angelillo will play soccer at The University of Miami. Angelillo is pictured with her mom Elizabeth Angelillo, sister Savanah Angelillo, and father Edward Angelillo at college commitment signing day on Nov. 9.
Glastonbury High School’s Gianna Angelillo will be kicking it in The Sunshine State next fall.
Angelillo has committed to continue her athletic and academic journey at The University of Miami where she will play Division I soccer for the Hurricanes.
“I loved the coach and the program is great,” said Angelillo, who made her decision last February after visiting the vast campus in Coral Gables, Florida. “I also loved the environment. The weather is my favorite; I’ll be around palm trees all the time.”
For Angelillo, who grew up in Connecticut and moved to Glastonbury in the eighth grade, the challenge of playing at the highest level of collegiate athletics is what excites her the most.
The Hurricanes play in the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), a Power Five conference which produced two of the four Final Four teams in the NCAA Division I Women’s Soccer Tournament this fall.
“I’m looking forward to it. That league is just so hard, but I’m really competitive and I love the challenge,” Angelillo said of playing in the ACC. “I know I can do it. I just have to work hard.”
Those that have coached her locally believe that she has the tools to succeed at the next level.
GHS girls’ soccer head coach Mark Landers said that Angelillo’s “mental toughness” and “competitive fire” will suit her well at her next destination.
“One thing that will separate her from some of the other girls coming in is her will to win and commitment to the team and program,” stated Landers. “She brings it on the practice field every day and she has all the technical skills.”
During her four years at GHS, Angelillo has crafted an impressive resume. She was a freshman on the 2019 state championship team and she said that initial high school season drove her desire to want more championships, calling winning a state title “surreal and amazing.”
Over the past two seasons, Angelillo has earned consecutive All-Central Connecticut Conference (CCC) honors and this past fall she was named to the Connecticut High School Coaches Association (CHSCA) Class LL All-State team.
When she wasn’t playing for GHS, she was sharpening her skills with the FC Stars, a highly-competitive club in Massachusetts. She joined the Stars as a freshman and would play with them all four years during the high school offseason.
She credited her coach and mentor with the Stars, Jason Dewhurst, with helping her get recruited by Miami. Angelillo called Dewhurst “an amazing coach.”
Dewhurst said Angelillo’s growth during her time with the club was tremendous, saying she has improved her game in all areas.
“Gianna is a player that makes things happen on the field. She is great as an attacking threat due to her technical efficiency, tactical awareness and athletic ability,” stated Dewhurst, who also credited Angelillo’s defensive effort. “She works very hard at her club training, but also works very hard outside of this to improve her game.”
Angelillo’s parent were instrumental in getting her rolling on the soccer field, introducing her to the game at the age of four by creating a team that she could play on.
She quickly learned the skills needed to play the game and her interest increased with each passing year. She said she now enjoys the process and embraces the grind, often coming to practice early or staying late to hone her skills.
“I just love [soccer] so much and being on the field is amazing. It is my getaway from all the distractions,” added Angelillo. “It’s my favorite thing out of the day. I love getting out of school and knowing I have practice.”
At Miami she will play under head coach Sarah Barnes, who is entering her sixth season heading the Hurricanes. Barnes played soccer at the University of Connecticut, where she was a captain and All-Big East honoree before graduating from Storrs in 1997.
Angelillo plans to study business at Miami as she tackles her next soccer challenge.
“I’m excited to go to the next chapter of my life. It feels like it’s a new beginning,” she said.
Sports Editor for the Rare Reminder, Glastonbury Citizen, and Rivereast News Bulletin