WESTPORT — The looks everywhere from Eve Chudowsy’s teammates on the field and watching from the Staples girls soccer team’s sideline were one of surprise. In a game earlier this month against Wilton, Lys Goldman, a senior co-captain, was taken down in the box. The Wreckers were awarded a penalty kick.
Staples had not been put in the situation in three years, and its coach, Barry Beattie, admittedly had not predetermined who would be in charge of handling the one on one situation between a shooter and goalkeeper.
While Beattie mulled the decision, Chudowsky grabbed the ball, lined up and scored. The result was not a surprise. Chudowsky’s boldness was.
Chudowsky is a freshman.
“I was all the way back on the halfway line and I was like who’s going to take it and Eve steps up and I thought ‘You go girl,’ ” recalled Gaby Gonzalez, one of the Wreckers’ veteran leaders. “She made it and she was awesome.”
Staples, the defending FCIAC champion, is currently 4-0-1 in the Central Region, one of three league teams still without a loss. There are a number of veterans left from a year ago, but a highly touted class of five freshmen — Coco Crombie, Eve Chudowsky, Presley Sutter, Gabby de Brito and Talia Moskowitz — has received varying degrees of playing time.
Beattie in retrospect resembled a straight-faced poker player holding four aces during the preseason when asked how the Wreckers would account for the loss of a very skilled senior class that helped the team to two state final appearances.
“I knew they were good, I didn’t know how good,” Beattie said. “I didn’t know Presley was going to come in and contribute four goals and four assists. Evelyn scoring twice against Wilton and the other three are all defenders and they have contributed. I have nine seniors. My junior class is quite big and my sophomore class is huge. We’re going to be good for a few years I think.”
Sutter, whose sister Reese finished with 55 goals and 92 assists the last four years and is now a freshman at the University of Pennsylvania, has earned a starting job at forward. Chudowsky has seen regular minutes up front, while de Brito, Crombie and Moskowitz have received time on defense.
“It was a little nerve-racking because everyone is older than us and know all of the players, but after a few practices it felt like we were a team and had been a team for such a long time,” Chudowsky said of the quick and seamless transition.
The girls have been playing together since they were six, so the adjustment was easier, the freshmen admitted, than had any been the lone 9th-grader on the roster.
“We’re all really competitive on and off the field but coming in as freshmen we wanted to make as much of an impact as we could,” Sutter said.
The players earned the immediate respect of their more seasoned teammates because of both their performances and personalities. The five girls by all accounts are confident but not cocky.
“They fit in right away,” Gonzalez said. “They’re just like all of us. Whenever they step on the field they have an impact right away. Within the team the dynamic is just amazing. They always have smiles on their faces and come to practice ready to play.”
Added Beattie, “The best thing about these kids is they are coming in with technical ability. I can make their ability better but I cannot give a kid their ability to have an attitude toward training. All five of them came in and train at a different level. There’s almost a hunger for them to be the best. They compete with each other, they compete with their teammates and it’s great to see.”
Beattie said the changes in the schedule this year due to the pandemic has also made it easier for him to give the quartet more minutes on the field than they might have otherwise received.
The five freshmen have been close growing up, from playing on the same youth teams to sharing carpools. That inner comfort level has likely eased the pressure and accelerated their development playing at the varsity level.
“It has kind of been an advantage coming in because we all know how we play,” Sutter said. “At the beginning we didn’t know how the others played so we passed to each other and made each other look better. We’re friends on and off the field and I think that makes us play better together.”
While it is premature, Beattie didn’t rule out the possibility that the five freshmen could find themselves next year in a familiar position of again starting together.
“I’ve always said this, if you’re good it doesn’t matter what your age is,” Beattie said. “When someone comes in as the new kid, the youngest kid, and they can fit in with their skills technically and athletically, as long as you have a decent personality you’re going to fit in. Those five do a great job for us.”