TRUMBULL — There are few parts of Maddie Fried’s life that are not a contest, a way to measure herself, where at times she is trying to claim victory and others not to lose.
“Everything I do in life I need to complete and need to complete with the best ability I can,” said Fried, the star forward on the St. Joseph girls soccer team. “That is me competing against myself to see how far I can go. Always competitive, always looking to go against someone and win something.”
That applies to this fall, when Fried will complete a storied career for the Cadets. In her first three years, with her deft skills, blistering shot and a drive matched by few others, Fried has earned a spot in the pantheon of one of the state’s top programs in the sport, on the top mantle with Jenna Bike, Jessica Mazo, Sabrina Toole and Sami Grasso.
“She’s certainly one of the best to play here,” said St. Joseph coach Jack Nogueira. “And that’s what makes her great. You look at all the players I’ve had here. All those players had the same competitive drive to be the best they could be. That’s what made them the players that they are.”
Fried will not get the chance to close out the final chapter of her scholastic career in the manner she hoped in this pandemic-affected season. The Cadets won league and state titles in her freshman season but have not added to the trophy case since. They lost to Staples in the FCIAC final a year ago.
“It’s frustrating because we can’t win that back this year,” Fried said. “What can you do?”
Fried was referring to a terrific round robin that played out last year between the Cadets, Wreckers and Ridgefield. The teams had head to head ties in their meetings but went unbeaten during the regular season.
St. Joseph defeated Ridgefield in the league semifinals before falling to Staples. The Tigers got revenge in the state quarterfinals, a game with a different draw that could have been for the title.
With a 10-game regular season, St. Joseph is in a different pod than Staples and Ridgefield. It is placed with town rival Trumbull, Fairfield Warde and Fairfield Ludlowe.
“It is very frustrating because they are the top teams that go against us and to not have that competition kind of makes it seem like we are not having a season,” Fried said. “But we are still playing our biggest rival, which is Trumbull, so at least we have that.”
It is especially frustrating because with its returning talent the Cadets would have been the favorite in a conventional FCIAC regular season.
“It makes it tough when you think you’re going to be one of the top teams in the league and you can’t play for a championship,” Nogueira said. “That’s what a lot of these kids come to St. Joe’s for. We have to reset our goals this year and that’s what we did. We have 10 games in the regular season to try and win them all and try to go into the postseason, whatever that postseason is, and to try to win them all also. Those are our goals.”
Fried is a joy to watch for purists of the sport. At times the ball seems magically tethered to her cleats. Few players are better at creating space going against a defender to get off a good shot.
So what makes Fried so special?
“Whenever anyone asks me, the obvious answer would be her technical ability,” Nogueira said. “Her explosiveness with the ball. Her athleticism. But I think the biggest strength is how she approaches soccer, how she approaches games, practices. She’s very strong mentally. The other aspect of it that a lot of other players don’t have is she has soccer sense. She knows how the game is going, she knows where to be at certain times, she knows what to do at certain times where a lot of girls that play soccer don’t have that soccer sensibility.”
In terms of winning titles, Fried said she and her teammates are just going to try and achieve whatever is available in this adjusted season and appreciate the journey.
“It’s hard because we are dealing with so much and we didn’t think that we were going to have to deal with this,” Fried said. “We thought it would be just a normal senior year. We’re figuring it out as we go and we’re making progress. We just have to win everything that we play.”
Now Fried has no more than a dozen games left for the Cadets. The way she plans to close out her high school career will come as no surprise.
“My personal goal is to play each game as if it’s my last and leave everything on the field,” she said.