New Wethersfield head coach Tony Leone has the Eagles flying high following four straight wins
Wethersfield girls’ soccer defeated Rocky Hill 7-1 last Tuesday night at McVicar Field in Rocky Hill.
It marked the second straight victory for the Eagles, who are gelling together after dropped their first two games under new head coach Tony Leone.
“The attitude from day one has been tremendous, everyone has been positive,” said Leone, who previously coached at WHS over a decade ago, “Style of play, program mentality, those are some of the culture things that I’ve tried to make a difference from day one, and they’ve brought in.”
After starting the season with narrow losses to Tolland and Berlin, the Eagles are hitting their stride following a shutout win over New Britain (7-0) and the road victory at Rocky Hill.
“They’ve been super competitive with each other but also supportive of one another and I think slowly but surely it will start to pay off. Tonight, I think was a perfect example of it starting to come together,” added Leone, who won a state title as the head coach in Cromwell and had a stint in Newington.
Madison Righi scored two first-half goals, a perfectly place kick to the bottom left corner at the 13-minute mark and a straight away blast less than a dozen minutes later, providing the Eagles a two-score advantage heading into the break.
Freshman Vanessa Venditti started in goal for Wethersfield, blanking the Terriers during her time in net.
Junior Ava Bielenda took over for Venditti in the second half, making a handful of stops, including denying a breakaway shot attempt from Rocky Hill’s Gillian Fernstrom.
Venditti and Bielenda are joined by sophomore Riley Ford in the goalie rotation.
“They’re all right there and it stinks for them because there is only one goal, but all three of them bring a great quality to the position,” stated Leone, “I’ve tried to tell them that one of you has to step up and make it yours. They haven’t quite done that yet, so we’ll keep rotating between the three until someone steps up. It’s a challenge to them and by the end of the year hopefully we’ll have one that has stood out the most.”
Leone’s offense broke it open in the second half on goals from captains Grace Conneely and Sierra Judson.
Conneely and Mya Pellegrino are senior captains, while Judson and Gabriela Villagra are junior captains.
“We are very blessed, they are tremendous leaders,” Leone said of his field generals, “Every one of them brings something to the table, be it on the field or off the field. I’ve been doing this for 20 years and they are right up there with four of the best captains that I’ve ever had. This group is very lucky to have them.”
Gracie Leahy added a short-range goal midway through the second half and then twin sister Annie and Emma Klementon got into the action, teaming up for the play of the night when Emma led Annie with a perfect pass for the Eagles sixth goal on the night.
Emma would later score a goal of her own, polishing off the victory.
The loss was the third in four games for the Terriers, who are in a rebuild mode after losing seven seniors from last fall.
“Hopefully we will rebound from this loss and move forward. We are young and our skill level isn’t where it needs to be right now,” stated Rocky Hill head coach Annmarie Catania, “But this team has heart and a good work ethic. I believe they will work hard to get where we need to be. They are all great kids, respectful, hard-working, and all are in many clubs in school and are on the national honor society as well.”
Inexperience in goal has been an issue through the first four games.
Senior Aleksa Peterson, who hasn’t played soccer since she was a freshman, started in goal against Wethersfield and junior Lily Aube finished the night.
Both made impressive saves but were unable to thwart the road team’s relentless offensive attack.
“My goalies are young. Neither one has been a varsity goalkeeper before, so it’s brand new for them,” said Catania.
Corrin Stablie scored the Terriers only goal late in regulation.
Wethersfield’s defense made it difficult for Rocky Hill’s all-state senior Bella Montalvo, who is the team’s leading scorer.
“Bella is just the hardest working player that we’ve had in a long time and she’s a great teammate. Her skill is unbelievable,” Catania said of Montalvo, who had a four-goal performance in a win over Middletown on Sept. 17, “it’s just hard getting the ball fed to her. She does everything that she can.”
Injuries and sickness have also hampered Catania’s club in the early going.
A knee injury to senior captain Sara Zarrilli will force her to miss the season, leaving the team with a leadership and talent void on the field.
Nicole Zarrilli (Sara’s sister), Talia Carlone, and Montalvo are the other three captains.
Catania added that the team needs to work on their passing to stay competitive but holds out hope that they can turn the corner.
“It’s little mistake, but passionately they’re there. They’re hardworking girls and if we can get our skill level to where it needs to be then I think we’ll be ok. It’s getting our skill up to the competition that we’re playing.”
Rocky Hill finished the week on as high note, blanking Hartford Public 8-0 last Friday to move to 2-3 on the season. Next up is a home game this Friday, Oct 4, against Glastonbury at 3:45 p.m.
A day after defeating the Terrier, Wethersfield won 6-2 victory at Windsor. The Klementon sisters continued to work in tandem, each scoring and assisting on each other’s goals.
Leone’s team finished the week with a fourth straight victory, shutting out Bloomfield 9-0. They next hosts Southington this Friday, Oct 4, at 6:30 p.m.
It’ll be the next step in the process for an Eagles team that has shaken off a rough start and are now thriving under their new leader.
“We have to work on finishing. We’ve played Tolland, the defending state champs, and we hit the post 6 times. We played Berlin and in the first half they cleared three or four off the line and get a PK at the end and we lose 2-1,” recalled Leone, “I want them to start rewarding themselves for the play but we have to score to win those games. Goals are contagious, but misses can be contagious as well.”
Following a home loss to Wethersfield, Rocky Hill girls soccer closed last week with an 8-0 win over Hartford Public
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Sports Editor for the Rare Reminder, Glastonbury Citizen, and Rivereast News Bulletin