Photo: Contributed / Contributed
Notre Dame-Fairfield girls’ soccer signees: Front row: Brianna Kydes (AIC), Erica Quinones (Post), Samantha LaValle (Wagner) and Nazae Craw (St. Peter’s). Back row: Principal Christopher Cipriano, head coach Wayne Mones, athletic director Rob Bleggi. less
Photo: Contributed / Contributed
Notre Dame-Fairfield girls’ soccer signees: Front row: Brianna Kydes (AIC), Erica Quinones (Post), Samantha LaValle (Wagner) and Nazae Craw (St. Peter’s). Back row: Principal Christopher Cipriano, head ... more
FAIRFIELD — The four sisters-in-arms were doing their best not to cry tears of joy as they celebrated their signing letters of intent to attend college and coach Wayne Mones was doing his best not to cry tears of sadness knowing the talent he has to say goodbye to.
Four of the most celebrated girls’ soccer players in Notre Dame-Fairfield history - Samantha LaValle, Brianna Kydes, Erica Quinones and Nazae Craw - signed their letters to attend Wagner, AIC, Post and St. Peter’s respectively, beginning a new chapter in their athletic lives and bidding a fond farewell to a high school career that has seen the Lancers rise from basically nothing four years ago into a two-time state championship program.
“It’s so unprecedented. I can’t think of a program that has turned around so much and so quickly,” Mones said. “All the credit goes to these girls, along with Delaney O’Keefe, the five seniors, they made this happen. It’s amazing what they were able to do over these last three years.”
Four years ago, Quinones and Kydes were part of a Lancers team that won just four times and was still looking for its first-ever winning season. But with the arrival of Craw and LaValle for the start of their sophomore season, things quickly changed for the better. ND-Fairfield went 15-6-1 and reached the semifinals of the Class S tournament. Last season, the Lancers sealed the deal, going 12-7-2 and tying Old Lyme in the Class S title game, earning co-championship status.
This season, Notre Dame lost just twice in 23 games, going 17-2-4 and again claiming a co-championship, this time in Class M.
“It’s been such an amazing experience,” LaValle said. “To go through this with these girls that I’ve gotten so close to. To have accomplished so much, it’s just amazing.”
Added Kydes: “These last four years have been amazing, going from nothing as freshmen to two straight year’s state champions. These girls … they’re like family to me.”
Kydes was looking at Assumption and Division I LIU-Brooklyn but decided on AIC due to its OT/PT (occupational therapy/physical therapy) programs.
“I just felt more comfortable with AIC, where I can concentrate more on my major and feel a little more relaxed,” Kydes said. “Also, I liked the girls a lot. It’s also very diverse, there’s a cool international aspect to it and that appealed to me a lot.”
AIC went 12-8-1 last season under coach Kevon Isa, 9-5 in the Northeast-10.
“(Coach) told me he expects me to compete right away,” Kydes said. “He sees me as more of a left wing or an attacking left back, not like how I played center back in high schools. He wants me to get up and down the field more.”
For Quinones, it was love at first sight, getting a great vibe for the campus while visiting a friend.
“When I went there it was basically … I just loved the feel of the school,” she said. “I went there for a club team and I went on the field and I just loved how the field felt, it felt like a perfect fit for me. I’m hoping that I play there as a starter. I love the coach, he has my feel for the game, it’s a passing game and I really like that.”
Post went 4-9-1 last season under coach Matt Micros, going 4-7-1 in the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference.
“I was looking at West Conn and Albertus (Magnus) but Post really grabbed me,” Quinones said. “I was talking with my parents and I knew that Post was the school.”
Craw had always thought about attending a school out in the middle of nowhere but after visiting St. Peter’s - a university right in the middle of Jersey City - she knew that’s where she wanted to go.
“I had always looked at schools that were kind of far away, lots of grass and St. Peter’s was completely different,” Craw said. “It’s right in the middle of the city and I liked it. There’s a lot of do around the campus and I’m just super excited about this.”
She’s also excited about getting St. Peter’s back on a winning track. Last season, the Peahens went just 1-13-2 under interim coach Melissa Sherwood.
“They have a new coach, so they’re rebuilding their program and I’m going to be part of that rebuilding,” Craw said, who plans to major in biology. “That’s awesome for me, I’m really excited. The MAAC is a really good conference but with this new coach and new players, hopefully we can change things around and see where that goes.
Craw missed a lot of her junior season with a knee injury but she bounced back strong with a solid senior season.
“My knee is great,” she said. “After months of hard work and training to get back. I tore my MCL in two places and after the surgery I was determined to work, work, work and get back. I refused to wear the brace. I had worn one for three years but this year, I refused, no brace.”
What can you say about LaValle that hasn’t already been said? In her three years at Notre Dame-Fairfield, the striker extraordinaire scored 81 goals, including 33 in the postseason. En route to the Class M co-championship, LaValle scored 12 goals - five against Bethel, four against East Catholic, two against Cromwell and one against Tolland.
Wagner went 3-15 last season and Phil Casella will take over as the Seahawks new head coach this season.
“They’re starting to build up again,” LaValle said. “They have a new coach, so I’m not sure exactly what’s going to happen but I’ve been talking with him for a while and telling me that I’m going to be a big part of the building, so we’ll see.”