Alana Frederick and Lara Patricio are dynamic playmakers on Sacred Heart Greenwich’s soccer team, and though their opportunities to showcase their skills are limited during this unprecedented season, the passion they bring to the field each day certainly hasn’t wavered.
“It’s a different year, but our team has always been really good as far as staying positive,” Frederick said. “It might be our new normal, so we’re staying really positive during this time and we have tried to have fun and stay competitive at the same time.”
Due to guidelines involved with the COVID-19 pandemic, the NEPSAC and FAA canceled its regular season and postseason schedules. Therefore, the Tigers’ modified soccer season includes six scrimmages against nearby/FAA opponents.
“We don’t have a league, but we still have games each week that we’re determined to win and I think we still have a very high level of determination,” Patricio said. “It’s still a pretty competitive season.”
Frederick and Patricio captain the squad, which advanced to the FAA Tournament semifinals in 2019. A forward, Frederick, who scored 20 goals last season, has played on the varsity team since she was an eighth-grader.
“Alana has always had tenacity and speed,” Sacred Heart coach Stuart Smith said. “She has incredible speed, she always had the technical skills and with each season she has gotten stronger.”
Smith appreciates the drive Frederick shows each practice session.
“She brings so much energy and focus,” Smith said. “She gets everyone else out on the field each day and she’s a real competitor, with the ability to consistently push herself.”
Frederick has committed to attend Carnegie Melon University, where she will play on the women’s soccer team.
“It’s a dream come true,” Frederick said of having the chance to play at the collegiate level. “It’s everything I hoped for and more. I wanted to get a really good education as well as play for an excellent soccer team, so I’m looking forward to it.”
Said Smith: “Alana is going to be a great asset to Carnegie Mellon. She’s going to be a fantastic collegiate player.”
In her third season on the Tigers, Patricio has shown her versatility each year. She was a striker her first season, was a midfielder a year go and this season, is more of a defensive midfielder.
“Lara knows the game, she loves the game,” Smith said. “Like Alana, she has a great passion for the game that is infectious among the program.”
Patricio, who has shown a penchant for scoring clutch goals during her Tigers career, has also risen to the challenge of being one of the team’s captains in an atypical season.
“We always try to set the example for our team, in terms of wearing masks and social distancing,” Patricio said. “Overall, the team is doing a great job of social distancing.”
As for the season, Patricio likes the approach the team is taking.
“I think it’s a little more relaxed, but at the same time, we’re still determined to win every game,” she said. “We miss our seniors who graduated from last year’s team, but we have a lot of new talent, so I see the team doing really well in the future too. We’re also focusing on building new relationships with our teammates.”
Smith, whose coaching staff includes assistants Silvio Ferraro and Lewys Jones, had to make adjustments in preparing his team for the season, due to COVID-19 safety precautions that were put in place.
“The first three weeks were a real challenge, it was non-contact for a few weeks,” he said. “We were trying to find activities and drills that would engage them. COVID has many challenges, but we as coaches have refocused on skill development and developing our program. It’s an opportunity to do things in a different way.”
Added Frederick: “We’re all trying to keep our competitiveness. We have 1 vs. 1s on Tuesdays, where we all compete in a championship bracket. Things like that are a great way to challenge us and help us continue to build our skills.”
Senior midfielder Fernanda Serna is also a college-bound soccer player. Serna will bring her soccer skills to Fordham University’s Division I program in 2021.
“Fernanda has scored a lot of goals for us over the years,” Smith said. “She is a technical player with great skills, who has really come into her own. She’s one of the top players in New England and she will be greatly missed.”
Rachel Keefe, a defensive standout and forward Isabel DeVita, who has sparked the squad offensively throughout her career also lead the Tigers’ strong senior class that includes defender Hannah Dempsey, Kaitlin Langer (forward), Abigail Barnett (defense), midfielder Grace Gasvoda and Ella Drummey (forward).
Junior Chelsea Hyland, a defensive starter, returns, along with midfielder Lauren Griuriceo (junior), forward Charlotte Marvin (junior), ) and juniors Justine Hounsell (forward), Francois O’Brien (defender) and Lydia Fullerton (defense).
“I’m trying not to think what this team’s potential could have been this year,” Smith said. “This is my fifth year and a lot of these seniors have been with the team for four years — it’s my strongest team. We would have been extremely competitive in the FAA and had a good shot of competing in New Englands (NEPSAC Tournament) this year.”
Sophomore Zara Black begins her first season as the team’s starting goalie, while fellow sophomores Karina Sethi and Bettina Holden lineup at forward, respectively. Madison Hart made a significant impact as an eighth-grader up front in 2019, while freshman Maggie Bacigalupo saw playing time on defense. Freshman Olivia Leahy bring depth at the forward spot.
“I think we would have gone on to accomplish great things, but we have perspective and we are thankful we can have games.”
Smith is also grateful for having dedicated senior captains and an enthusiastic group of upperclassmen.
“Our senior captains have had a big impact on the program,” he said. “Their confidence has grown each year and I have seen their leadership qualities emerge, which is a real test of their character. “I’m pleased with how they have kept everyone motivated each day. They’ve helped develop a competitive program at Sacred Heart and are leaving a legacy, as are all of the seniors.”
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