Wallingford natives Elizabeth Stanle, Caitlin Farrell, Elise Cobb and Emma Cook (left to right) were all instrumental in Choate's championship run.
April 24, 2014 11:36AM
By Ken Lipshez
WALLINGFORD — The first reactions were disbelief mixed with total exhaustion.
The Choate Rosemary Hall girls soccer team parried with Noble and Greenough School Sunday in Pomfret for 200 minutes in the New England Prep School Athletic Conference Class A championship game and settled for a scoreless draw.
The league title was Choate’s first since 2003. The Class A crown the first since 1998.
The ensuing reaction was celebratory. The Wild Boars, under the guidance of former Lyman Hall and Southern Connecticut State University goalkeeper Rick Koczak, finished the season 16-2-2 (13-1-1 Women’s Western New England Prep School Soccer Association) and gained the first seed in the NEPSAC tournament.
“The amazing part was the chemistry,” Koczak said. “These kids came in every day, worked hard and prepared for every game. We had a unique blend of fitness that we put into every training session and it all paid off. They all had one goal in mind. They wanted to get to that final.”
An unflagging back line featuring senior Elizabeth Stanley kept the Choate sheets clean in 15 matches and yielded but six goals all season. Explosive junior forward Caitlin Farrell contributed heavily to an offense that scored 59 goals.
Elise Cobb came into preseason with the determination to lock down a spot as holding midfielder, which she did with uncommon assertiveness for a first-year player. Emma Cook had her senior season obliterated by an ACL injury, but she relied on character too provide the glue that fosters unity that achieving teams share.
All four are products of the Wallingford Youth Soccer League.
“Being at Choate, they’re outstanding student-athletes, not only challenged on the soccer field but in so many ways academically,” said Koczak, whose fourth season came to a close with Sunday’s match. “All four are excellent students with incredible futures athletically and academically.”
Farrell, as the Wild Boars’ principal offensive threat with 24 goals and 10 assists, surely had her name on opposing coaches’ blackboards throughout the region.
“Caitlin is one of the best forwards in the league and in the state,” said Koczak, a Parade All-American at Lyman Hall in 1993 and an NCAA Division II champion at SCSU two years later. “She’s very special, super-fast and very dangerous.
“She’s probably the first one opposing coaches talked about in their scouting reports. She’s a spectacular front-runner. Sometimes she’s double-marked, which creates holes in the defense and opportunities for others.”
Farrell, whose mother Susan is Choate’s assistant coach and guided Caitlin through her WYSL days, is still contemplating playing 200 minutes and not winning it all.
“At first it a little anti-climactic and we were disappointed to not win it outright, but when everything sank in, we did actually win part of it and brought the trophy home,” Caitlin said. “We took it home with us on the bus and they’ll make another one for Noble.”
The team’s family-like environment had her thinking about her most memorable experiences in the WYSL.
“I played on the Green Tigers team that was very successful. We had a bunch of great kids on that team,” she said. “Mom was the coach. Everyone was good friends and it worked out well. I got the friendship part of it from youth soccer. We weren’t always winning but we were having fun enjoying the game.”
Stanley mans the right side of a stellar defensive unit that includes Emily Dryzgula of North Branford in the center and Kayla O’Brien of Wilton on the left.
“I wish every kid could be like Liz as far as her heart and desire,” Koczak said. “If you had 11 Liz Stanleys, I don’t think the other team would get past midfield. She’ll chase you down and aggressively stop you. She’s tough. She’s strong. In all the years I’ve been coaching, she’s one of my favorites.”
Stanley did not miss a game in three seasons of varsity play and she won’t be forgetting the final one anytime soon.
“At first I felt like we should be getting back on the field for another 20-minute overtime, but I was relieved because you wouldn’t want to lose after all that time and effort,” said Stanley, who hasn’t yet decided on college. “If you can make it through 200 minutes of soccer, both teams deserve it. It’s such a tremendous accomplishment and I’m glad to be part of it.”
She paid tribute to the WYSL and premier coach Scott Bradley.
“When I left the team because I was going to play in high school, he gave us all the book, “Vision of a Champion,” by North Carolina women’s soccer coach Anson Dorrance along with a letter wishing us well,” she said. “The book had so many lessons about life that I go back and read it a lot. Scott Bradley changed my life for the better.”
Cobb is Choate’s lone starting freshman.
“At the beginning, we were looking for someone to land that one specific position. Who was going to step up?” Koczak said. “Kudos to Elise. She prepared herself coming into preseason. Our first preseason was in the Berkshires and she got the job there. She’s started every game.”
With Cook’s season as a player wiped away, she contributed in other ways that propelled the Wild Boars toward their goal.
“She was very supportive from start to finish,” Koczak said. “Even though she wasn’t playing, she was a huge part of how the chemistry was with this group.”
Thirteen of the 17 varsity players are from Connecticut.
Goalkeeping twins Danielle and Christine Etzel are from Madison. One co-captain — Sara DeMarsilis — is from North Haven. The other — Leigh Schneider — is from New Canaan.
Also state-bred are Kristi Wharton of North Branford, Katherine Moeller is from Northford and Zoe Stublarec is from Rockfall.
The out-of-state players are Bella Crane (Lawrenceville, N.J.), Morgan Harney (Boca Raton, FL), Kristina Schuler (Webster, N.Y.) and K.C. Williams (Duxbury, MA).
In addition to Susan Farrell, Koczak is assisted by John Ford.