CHESHIRE — As a four-year starter for the Cheshire High School girls soccer team, senior Danielle Ellis contributed heavily in ways that don’t jump off the stat sheet.
Ellis netted just one goal in her career, but as a defensive back, her mix of skill, consistency and game sense helped keep the ball out of the Cheshire net and enabled the Rams to stay organized on the field.
While Ellis wrote the last chapter of her Cheshrie soccer story last fall, she couldn’t give up on the sport that she has played since age 4. This fall, Ellis will start a new journey with the Division III program at Wellesley College in Massachusetts.
“I’m very excited,” said Ellis. “The coaches and team have been so welcoming, so I’m excited for the next chapter.”
Ellis also considered Bowdoin, Middlebury and Tufts. In the end, she liked Wellesley’s academic rigor and classroom experiences.
“I was looking at the school before playing soccer there,” said Ellis. “The coach (Missy Price) was very receptive to me joining the team there. They want you to succeed athletically and academically at the same time.”
Ellis visited Wellesley last year the weekend before the pandemic started shutting things down.
“It is a beautiful campus,” said Ellis. “I can’t wait to have new experiences there.”
Ellis looks forward to seeing where she will fit on a team that plays in the New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference.
“I want to work as hard as I can and form bonds with the girls and coaching staff,” Ellis explained.
Cheshire head coach Kylee McIntosh anticipates Ellis will have no difficult doing that.
“Dani is athletic, strong, and technical. Her work ethic is unmatched,” McIntosh said.
“Dani is quiet, but her example speaks volumes,” McIntosh added. “I think that she will make an impact right away in college.”
While excited for college, Ellis will be sad to not be around her Cheshire teammates and coaches this fall. Before getting to Cheshire High, she played with many girls growing up in the Academica Futebol Club (now Vale Sports Club).
“I’m going to miss coming to practice and games,” said Ellis. “The girls made everything so fun.”
As a freshman, Ellis was moved into the varsity lineup along with classmate Izzy Pellegrino. They helped the Rams win the Housatonic Division crown that year.
“It was a bit of a surprise to be a starter, but I worked hard before and during the season,” reflected Ellis.
After beginning her freshman year on defense, she was moved into the mi-field and netted her first goal.
“I remember celebrating with my teammates after I scored,” said Ellis. “It was great to play with girls who had so much experience.”
As a sophomore, Ellis missed time due to a hamstring injury, but returned to contribute to Cheshire making the playoffs again.
“It was really frustrating to have to sit out, but it was good to still come to practices and cheer on my teammates,” recalled Ellis. “When I got back on the field, I realized how special the game is to me.”
In starting her junior year at full health, Ellis played a key role in Cheshire posting a 14-4-2 record. Despite having three starters sidelined with knee injuries, the 2019 Rams won the Housatonic title at 7-0-1 and reached the postseason.
“It was good to win for the team, as well as for the girls who missed games that year,” stated Ellis.
As a junior, Ellis contributed to a defensive unit that helped goalie Seymone Rosenberg earn 10 shutouts.
“It has been fantastic to play with Seymone,” reflected Ellis. “She is such a quality goalkeeper and made the defense look good for a long time.”
After playing two seasons for coach James Luis, Ellis felt that there was a smooth transition to McIntosh taking over in 2019.
“All of my coaches have been amazing,” said Ellis, who also played for Luis and McIntosh in AFC. “I learned so much from James and it has been great playing for Kylee and (assistant) Eric (Rothbart).”
When the Rams returned to the field last fall, experience helped them persevere through the pandemic. Led by 13 seniors, Cheshire finished 8-4 and reached the SCC Division A final before falling to Mercy.
“With COVID, I didn’t expect to get a season at all,” Ellis said. “When it worked out, I was so excited to have the opportunity to play with my team.”
In a shortened season, Ellis teamed with Pellegrino, senior Aishwarya Benzy and sophomore Ella Crerar to contribute to five shutouts on defense.
“I love talking to everyone in the back line,” said Ellis. “From years of being around each other, our chemistry transitioned to the field.”
In a deep senior class last fall, Ellis was voted as a tri-captain with Rosenberg and Benzy.
“It was great to have the support of the team,” said Ellis. “I love the sport and the atmosphere it creates for you to bond with coaches and teammates. They have made the game fun for me, 13 years later.”
In recognition of her play throughout the season, Ellis earned her first individual honor as an All-SCC Division A selection.
“I’m super-proud of Dani. Having been a defender myself, I know that you don’t get a lot of credit, but Dani deserved to be recognized,” stated McIntosh, who played at Cheshire and Marist College. “Dani has been our rock for years. Without her communicating to our back field, we would have been in trouble.”
Along with her recognition, Ellis was happy for senior Ellie Pergolotti and sophomore Gabby Tirado to both be named All-State Class LL and All-SCC Division A. Pergolotti is going on to play at West Virginia Wesleyan.
“They both deserved those honors,” said Ellis. “For Gabby to also get All-New England, that is amazing.”
While Cheshire is graduating 13 players, Ellis believes the Rams have the talent to be strong for years to come.
“All of the younger girls are so good. They are also great people,” said Ellis. “I think they will do big things.”