TRUMBULL — The biggest obstacle for the St. Joseph girls soccer team this fall may be focus.
Quite simply, the Cadets want to look back for motivation, fast forward ahead for salvation but must stay in the moment for revelation.
“It’s going to be difficult for our team because all we’ve talked about is the playoff games,” said Jenna Bike, the Cadets’ star forward and reigning state Gatorade Player of the Year. “I think we just have to stay patient and get better, because we know how we play at the end of the season is not going to be how we are playing now.”
That’s a scary thought, consider St. Joseph is currently 6-0 and has outscored opponents by a 35-3 margin. And coach Jack Nogueira feels the execution has been lacking in a couple of outings.
“I understand it’s a marathon, not a sprint, and there will be games where we are not clicking or not playing as well as we can play,” said Nogueira, who has led the Cadets to three league and three state titles since 2007.”
None of them came a year ago, when St. Joseph was stunned on penalty kicks by New Canaan in the opening round of the FCIAC Tournament, and by Fairfield Warde in the quarterfinal round of the state tournament.
“The big talk is we don’t want what happened last year to happen again,” said Bike. “It definitely sparks us to do more with this year. The opportunity we have with the team we have is special.”
Four Cadets were named All-FCIAC a year ago and have already given Division I verbal commitments, including Bike (Boston College), Leah Lewis (Colgate), Lindsey Savko (Fairfield) and Marissa Grasso (Bryant).
“We want to come out and win every game,” said Lewis, who tore her ACL two years ago and is now fully healthy for the first time since. “We want to give 100 percent. The seniors want to win a championship. I love having players like this around me.”
The Cadets are loaded. They have experience and promising newcomers, like freshman Jessica Mazo, who has already started to make an impact.
“I don’t like comparing teams,” Nogueira said. “I can say I truly believe this could be the best offensive team that we’ve had. The most complete team? That’s still to be determined. Offensively I think we are the most explosive since I’ve been here. It’s not just Jenna, it’s not just Leah, we have Lindsey, Grasso, Mazo. Offensively I think we are going to be very good. We are going to have to work harder defensively.”
The Cadets are also going to have to solve Fairfield Warde, which it was unable to do a year ago. The two teams are prohibitive favorites to follow up their regular season meeting on Oct. 17 with a rematch in the FCIAC final and perhaps again in the state playoffs.
“I look at the game that’s next,” Nogueira said. “I want to win all games. I’m sure if you ask the girls they will say they have Warde penciled in on the calendar because they beat us twice and were the better team. Our great players are going to be great. That’s not going to change. It’s going to be how fast our freshmen develop and how our role players are going to play.”
Nogueira is in tune with his players’ mindset and aware his team is one of two being targeted by the rest of the league.
“I’m expecting great things,” Nogueira said, “but I take nothing for granted.”