FIELD HOCKEY: Cheshire’s Vagts taking All-Conference game to Bryn Mawr

FIELD HOCKEY: Cheshire’s Vagts taking All-Conference game to Bryn Mawr

CHESHIRE — Throughout her four years at Cheshire High School, senior Sophia Vagts displayed versatility as a three-sport athlete.

As much as she enjoyed her experiences in basketball and softball, though, she’s shined brightest in field hockey, and that’s the sport she’ll continue playing in college at Pennsylvania’s Bryn Mawr.

“After junior year, I figured out that I wanted to play field hockey in college,” Vagts said recently. “I feel a different connection to the sport compared to other ones. I enjoy playing it and can see myself wanting to keep getting better for the next four years.”

Vagts chose Bryn Mawr over Connecticut College, Western New England University, Mount Holyoke College and Clark University.

“I was looking for a strong academic school with a great field hockey program,” Vagts remarked. “Everything about the school fit for me.”

Vagts felt that she made an immediate connection after speaking with Bryn Mawr field hockey coach Victor Brady and some of his players. While the Eagles had their 2020 season canceled due to the pandemic, the Owls went 14-4 the year before and made the Centennial Conference Tournament.

This coming fall, Vagts hopes to earn playing time as a freshman.

“Victor Brady has been building up the program ever since he got there and I’m excited to be a part of it,” said Vagts.

Bryn Mawr is an all-girl school,  one of seven “sister” colleges in the Northeast. Vagts has heard great things about Bryn Mawr from Cheshire field hockey coach Eileen Wildermann, who grew up in the area.

“I think it is absolutely amazing to get to go to school where she grew up,” Vagts said.

Vagts started playing field hockey as a seventh grader,at Dodd Middle School. In transitioning to the Cheshire High School program in 2017, she worked her way into being a freshman starter and was then elevated to the junior varsity and varsity levels.

Vagts credits freshman coach Michelle Vieira for her rapid improvement. Vieira also coached Vagts in basketball before stepping down from the head varsity position at the end of last season.

“Michelle was a huge help to me at the start of my career,” recalled Vagts. “She also molded me in basketball.”

As a freshman, Vagts didn’t expect to get varsity time, but when she was given the opportunity, she took capitalized. Making her debut at Shelton, she tallied two assists in a 7-0 shutout.

“It was an underdog moment for me,” reflected Vagts. “I was able to grab the attention of Coach (Wildermann) to make it to varsity.”

In 2018, Vagts saw more varsity time off the bench and scored two goals. It was a senior-laden team and a strong one. For the first time in 28 years, the Rams earned an unbeaten regular season (16-0) and set a single-season record with 19 shutouts.

After winning the Southern Connecticut Conference regular-season title, CHS placed runner-up in the SCC and Class L tournaments.

“That year was amazing,” said Vagts. “The seniors were huge role models for everyone on that team. We wouldn’t be the players we are today without them.”

After graduation losses opened up starting positions in 2019, Vagts seized the opportunity to produce a breakout season. As a junior, she led the Rams in goals (14) and points (17), earning Offensive Player of the Year, All-SCC Second Team, and Connecticut High School Coaches Association Junior All-Star.

“I gained a lot of confidence last year,” Vagts said. “When you start on a new team, it is scary. It takes time to find yourself.”

In the 2019 SCC quarterfinals, Vagts scored Cheshire’s two goals at Daniel Hand, but the Rams came up short in a 3-2 loss decided by a 6-3 shootout.

Vagts came up clutch again in the first round of the 2019 Class L state tournament, tallying a goal and an assist to help propel Cheshire to a 3-2 victory over Fairfield Warde. She scored the game-winner in overtime on a pass from Olivia Salamone.

“Liv had an amazing drive and I just tipped the ball into the cage,” recalled Vagts. “It was great to have the seniors win their final home game.”

In returning last fall to compete amid the pandemic, Vagts felt fortunate to get to play in her senior season. While having their schedule scaled back, the Rams earned their second perfect regular season (10-0) in the last three years.

“Our season showed that we enjoy the moment,” said Vagts. “We focused on playing with each other instead of things that we couldn’t control.”

In one of her favorite games, the Rams beat Guilford 3-1 on Oct. 8 to end their rival’s 33-game unbeaten streak. Vagts contributed two goals, the second of which stood up as the game-winner.

“We came into that game with the mindset that we were going to have a lot of fun,” Vagts said. “We connected so well on the field.”

As a senior, Vagts compiled eight goals and six assists to garner All-SCC Division A distinction. In a personal milestone on Oct 28, she stepped up to earn her first hat trick in the fourth quarter of a 3-0 victory at Hamden.

Vagts enjoyed getting to play one more season under Wildermann, who earned her 200th victory with Cheshire’s 3-1 win over Branford in the SCC Division A semifinals on Nov. 9.

“She is an amazing coach,” said Vagts. “I was so happy that I could be on the team to get her that (milestone).”

The Rams took an 11-0 record into the SCC Division A final on Nov. 11, but Guilford used a 4-0 run to earn a 5-1 victory at Cheshire.

“We hadn’t been down in a game all year, so that was hard,” said Vagts. “The seniors were crying at the end, but it wasn’t because we lost the game. We realized that we weren’t going to play together anymore.”

Vagts will graduate among 13 girls from the Cheshire program.

“I’m going miss everyone,” Vagts said. “I’ll never forget turning to see (co-captain) Raegan (Bailey) and making funny faces at each other or looking back at Taylor (Warburton) on defense.”

While she has achieved most of her honors in field hockey, Vagts has also contributed to the success of the basketball and softball teams. As a courtesy runner in her first two years, Vagts used her speed to help the Rams win consecutive Hammonasset Division titles. In 2019, Cheshire also captured the SCC crown and made the Class LL semifinals for the fifth season in a row.

Last year, Vagts decided to make a change and try out for outdoor track and field, but the pandemic led to the spring season being canceled.

“Softball is an amazing sport, but I didn’t love it like field hockey. Coach (Kristine) Drust and Coach (Jaymie) Sommers are great people. They were so supportive when I told them that I was moving on,” explained Vagts. “I’m considering running track in the spring this year, but I also work, so we’ll see what happens.”

Vagts lists basketball as her second favorite sport. Last season, she provided a key bench role in the Rams winning their last three regular-season games to make the Class LL state tournament. In the regular-season finale, CHS pulled out a 47-42 overtime win over North Haven on Senior Night.

“I had so much fun winning that last game,” Vagts reflected. “The team played so well.”

Vagts is currently working out in hopes of playing her senior season for new head coach Angelica Ariola.

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