ALL-RJ GIRLS SOCCER: Deju vu all over again (almost) for area’s best 

ALL-RJ GIRLS SOCCER: Deju vu all over again (almost) for area’s best 

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Seven repeaters give a familiar feel to the 2017 All-Record-Journal girls soccer team. 

Sheehan’s top-notch tandem of Kelsey Burr and Sam Larkin join the Southington defensive-minded duo of Abby Connolly and Alijah Vega once again. Maloney’s MacKenzie Wrinn, Platt’s Lizzie Garlock and Lyman Hall’s Demiree Cyr have again booted their way onto the R-J all-star squad.

A pair of Cheshire girls, Samantha Mathews and Elizabeth Lurz, as well as Southington’s Ariana Gazaferi and Lyman Hall’s Carly Jacobs, made their initial appearance on the elite squad.

Here’s the breakdown:

Samantha Mathews, Cheshire, sr., GK

Mathews, a four-year starter between the posts for Cheshire, totaled 10 shutouts as the Rams went 10-5-3 and repeated as SCC Housatonic champs in her farewell tour.

“The season was really good,” Mathews said. “A lot of girls got experience this year and they are going to be really good next year. It was a really good season and we really bonded. We’ve all been playing together a long time.”

Mathews’ primary strengths are communication and punting.

“I’m constantly talking with my teammates and telling them where to go,” she said. “That’s an important aspect as a goalie.”

Mathews plans to continue her career in college.

Elizabeth Lurz, Cheshire, sr., D

The versatile Lurz had been a forward all her career, but with the 2017 Rams losing their entire defense to graduation, plans changed and she became a staple in front of Mathews.

“I had always been a forward and this year coach moved us all around,” Lurz said. “It was kind of fun learning new positions and developing new skills as a player.

“I feel I had a strong season, maybe not stat-wise, but it was good to develop as a defender and move up when the new kids started in that role. I put a lot of work into Cheshire soccer and our team has been a big part of my life for a long time. it was a good season. We came off a strong season last year and we struggled a little bit in the beginning, but we got going towards the end and played really well as a team.”

After opening 3-3, the Rams closed the regular season with a 6-1-3 flourish, qualified for the SCC Tournament and reached the second round of the Class LL state tournament. Lurz finished the season with two goals and an assist.

Kelsey Burr,Sheehan, sr., MF

Burr is back on the All-RJ team despite an ankle injury suffered in the third game of the season. Burr missed seven games and came back and helped the Titans make a run to the Class M quarterfinals.

“The highlight of the season was going 12-2-2, which was better than previous years,” Burr said. “It was difficult for me playing through an injury.”

Burr added that the highlight of the season were the wins and the state tournament run. Ultimately, Sheehan lost to Weston on penalty kicks in the Class M quarters.

The captain made All-SCC First Team for the third time and made All-State Second-Team in 2016. Burr will be playing at Southern Connecticut next season.

Sam Larkin,Sheehan, sr., D

Larkin was a four-year starter for Rob Huelsman’s squad and a big reason for the Titans’ recent success. In addition to being a top-shelf defender, Larkin also came forward to score three goals this year.

Each of those goals was significant, either a game-winner or one that evened the score. The biggest was a header with 52 seconds left in regulation that forced overtime against Weston in the Class M quarterfinals.

“That was the best feeling ever,” Larkin said. “Our defense showed that defense is just as important as offense. Our defense was strong this year and that helped us be successful. We did great: 12-2-2. You can’t ask for anything else. It was a great way to end my high school career.”

Larkin is considering her options for college. She hopes to continue her career at the next level.

Lizzie Garlock,Platt, jr., D

Garlock was the star again for the Panthers. In addition to this being her second straight year on All R-J team, she’s also two-time All-CCC in 2016 and 2017.

Garlock is a center-back.

“I’m always busy,” Garlock said. “Our team is not the best, so the ball is always on my side of the field. I’m always on the ball and always there. I’m a very aggressive player and, when I can get the ball up, I try to.”

For her club team AFC, Garlock plays all over the field. She had four goals and eight assists for the Panthers this fall.

“For Platt, I usually get moved up in the final minutes of the first half or the last 20 minutes of the game. I try to get as many goals as I can.”

McKenzie Wrinn,Maloney, sr., GK

The reigning Record-Journal Girls Soccer Player of the Year logged another strong, multi-dimensional campaign for the Spartans this fall.

Maloney missed the postseason, but Wrinn praised the team’s work ethic.

“We have a very young team,” Wrinn said. “It was a challenging season. We played harder teams this season, but I think we played well. We were missing our top defender, but we adjusted.”

In addition to her duties in goal, Wrinn added four goals and a pair of assists.

“I love to talk to my defense and they listen,” Wrinn said. “They help a lot too. Communication is my biggest strength. I plan on playing in college.”

Wrinn is having surgery on her knee this month to repair a torn ACL and meniscus, injuries sustained in the school’s Powder Puff football game.

”McKenzie is a pleasure to watch in goal," Maloney coach Eoin McClure said. “She has an incredible work ethic and always keeps her composure. She was a true leader on the field. She will be very successful at the collegiate level.”

Abby Connolly, Southington, sr., D

Connolly was a 2016 and 2017 All-CCC player. She paired with Alijah Vega to form a dynamic duo that only allowed 11 goals this season.

“I’m grateful to be recognized,” Connolly said. “We had a great season. It’s really an honor. We had a really successful season. We worked together really well. It was the best season we have had since I have been here.”

Connolly was in a major leadership position for the 12-4-2 Blue Knights.

“I felt I really helped out this team this year,” she said. “It was a lot of hard work, but it was all worth it. I didn’t score this year, but we had a lot of shutouts and Alijah and I take a lot of pride in that. I would say the defense was the core of the team.”

 Southington coach Mike Linehan said Connolly is a natural leader.

“She’a a captain and has leadership capabilities,” the coach said. “She leads by example on the field and off the field.”

Ariana Gazaferi,Southington, sr., MF

Gazaferi overcame a torn ACL in her sophomore year and returned to form as a senior. She had five goals and three assists on the season.

“I’ve grown a lot over the years starting with my freshman year on the varsity team. That was a challenge to start off,” Gazaferi said. “I learned to be more confident in myself and grow as a player.

“We had a really great year. It was the best year we had in my four years here. We had a 12-4-2 record and our chemistry was great on the field. That helped us get all the wins that we wanted. We responded really well as a team.”

Gazaferi was Southington’s most versatile player.

“She has played just about all roles, offensively and defensively,” Southington coach Mike Linehan said. “She’s the type of player you need on the team. You play her where you need her.

“She went throught a serious ACL injury in her sophomore year. We weren’t sure if she was going to play again. Her commitment and the way she prepared herself to being as good as she was as a sophomore is a tribute to her and I give her a lot of credit for that.”

Alijah Vega,Southington, jr., D

The junior central defender formed an umbrella in front of the goal with Abby Connolly. Vega, like her playing partner, was All-CCC in the last two years.

“As Coach Mike would put it, me and Abby Connolly were the leadership and communication of the team,” Vega said. “We would help our teammates. We get to stop goals. I’m excited about being a leader on the team.”

Vega was also named All-State.

“She’s the smartest and most technical player we have,” Southington coach Mike Linehan said. “She reads the game beyond her years. She makes others better with the way she can read a game.

Demiree Cyr,Lyman Hall, sr., D

Cyr has been a force in the Lyman Hall backfield throughout her career. She was All-SCC the last two years.

”It was a great honor and I wasn’t really expecting it,” Cyr said. “The team improved from last year. Everyone stepped it up and it make it a lot more fun.”

Lyman Hall coach Tony Crane said Cyr is a force on the field.

“You’ve seen her on the field. She’s a big strong player,” he said. “I saw her in a photograph and the kid’s about 5-4. She’s really not that big, but her strength and determination make her big. She can strike a ball as good as anybody I’ve seen. Just a good smart player.”

Crane said Cyr is the Trojans’ top defensive player and leaves a big hole to fill.

Cyr said she’s able to anticipate well.

“I seem to know where the next pass is going to go, so I’m in a position to break things up,” she said. “I’m talking a lot and I’m more of a leader on the field.”

Carly Jacobs,Lyman Hall, jr., D

The defender was strong in the back with Cyr and will expand her role next year as team captain along with Julia Blanchard.

“These are two special players,” Crane said of Cyr and Jacobs. “They are two good choices. They are good, strong players.”

Jacobs had three goals and five assists this fall.

“Honestly, it’s a great honor to be selected for this,” Jacobs said. “I’m only a junior, so I wasn’t expecting it. I’m really happy about it. Compared to last year, it was a lot better as a team and I’m really looking forward to next year.”

“Carly is likely to take Demiree’s spot,” Crane said. “She probably doesn’t like defense, but in order to make things work I think she’s going to do well.”

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