Melina Ford, a junior at Mercy High School in Middletown, has committed to play Division I soccer at Central Connecticut State University (CCSU).
Ford, who has lived in Portland her entire life, became a nationally recognized goalie this past fall and will be protecting the nets in New Britain for the Blue Devils starting in 2023.
“I have always been interested in Central because my grandfather used to teach there and it is close to home,” said Ford. “Also, I already knew the coach and some of the players on the team.”
She will be playing under a familiar system at her next destination, having played club soccer under CCSU head coach Mick D’Arcy, who has been guiding the Blue Devils for over two decades and has led the program to 10 conference titles and 10 NCAA tournament appearances.
Ford’s journey to collegiate soccer started at the age of three.
The now 17-year old first started as a field player and began playing goalie for the town team around the age of 10. She continued to rotate between playing in the field and in goal throughout middle school before finally settling in as Mercy High School’s starting goalie as a freshman in high school.
Ford said playing multiple positions gave her a better perspective of the game, adding, “I feel like it gave me a sense of how different minds on the field work.”
She has thrived since taking over the goalie duties at Mercy, earning All-Southern Connecticut Conference (SCC) twice, All-State the last two years, and All-New England last season.
Ford also became the first Mercy soccer player to ever be named All-American this past fall.
The three-year starter has been a brick wall, registering over 30 shutouts, including back-to-back goalless games as Mercy was crowned co-champions of the Class M state tournament last November.
In the tourney semifinals, she blanked Granby and then held Sacred Heart Academy scoreless through regulation and two overtime periods (110 game minutes) as Mercy and Sacred Heart settled on a 0-0 tie in the title game.
Last fall was a banner year for the Tigers of Middletown, who won their second straight SCC title and the draw in the state title game earned the program their first state championship recognition.
Ford recalled the stress and exhaustion of the double OT tie in the title game, saying, “ It was exciting but it was very nerve-wracking because I didn’t want to let the team down with everything that was riding on the game. I felt like I had to step up and take it on.”
The season ended with a championship, but it started with a pair of losses in the first month of the season.
Things began to turn around for Ford and her team following a 3-0 loss to Guilford on Sept. 29.
“In the beginning it was a bumpy ride,” recalled Ford. “We really just needed that one loss to get us to work together.”
Mercy would not lose another game the rest of the season, including a redemption win over Guilford (1-0) on Oct. 21.
This fall, the Tigers will return all but one starter as Ford heads back into goal for her fourth and final high school season.
“We already have that team chemistry and we know how to work with each other,” said Ford, who has become an unquestioned leader on the field, taking over that role this past season.
Ford, who also plays basketball and has run outdoor track for Mercy, said it was important for her to make a collegiate decision prior to her senior season.
“It already feels like it has made a big impact and I won’t have to stress as much,” said Ford, who added that she looked at schools outside of the state before deciding to stay local. “I always had the feeling that I wanted to stay in Connecticut.”
Sports Editor for the Rare Reminder, Glastonbury Citizen, and Rivereast News Bulletin