Garretson, Shelton girls soccer seniors focused on making own mark

Noelle Garretson and her 8 senior classmates have helped Shelton start the season 3-1-1.

Noelle Garretson and her 8 senior classmates have helped Shelton start the season 3-1-1.

Shelton High Athletics / Contributed photo

SHELTON -- The nine senior members of the Shelton girls’ soccer team made a pact to change any perception out there that coach Marvin Miller’s Gaelettes would take a downturn this season.

Shelton had graduated a like number of upperclassmen from a team that went 10-2-4 a year ago, before it lost to semifinalist Ridgefield in the Class LL state tournament.

“We had an amazing player in Leah Vohra, and she did account for a lot of our goals (7) and assists (7),” senior Noelle Garretson said of Shelton’s All-State forward. “All the talk was that would be our downfall.

“Going into our Amity game (a season-opening 1-0 victory), that was in our minds. We wanted to show that we are still a strong team even though we lost a great player.”

Garretson scored a goal with 8:35 remaining to provide the decisive point.

“I’ve been receiving great balls from my teammates,” said Garretson, who had both Shelton goals in a 2-1 win against Law on assists from juniors Adriana Franzese and Lily Bacca.

Shelton, captained by Sarah Panek, Liz Porto and Devan Wildman, is off to a 3-1-1 start.

“We have a great senior class this year, solid leaders, very motivated,” Miller said. “They have set a high standard and work hard each day to play to it.”

Senior Emily Sandin scored goals in a 1-1 tie with Foran and a 2-1 loss to Cheshire.

The shortening of regular-season games from 18 to 11 brought about a counsel of sorts.

“We talked about it (no CIAC tourney) and decided we would go as hard as we can,” Garretson said. “We know it won’t be the same as states. What we will focus on is proving to people that we can still go far.”

Jaylee Zwaan, Lindsay Taylor, Carolyn Maher, and Caitlin McNeil join classmates Panek, Porto, Wildman, Sandin and Garretson as long-time teammates.

“We seniors have been playing together since we were 8, we worked together to get ready for this season,” Garretson said. “I feel in better shape because of conditioning, but we lost our first scrimmage (Naugatuck) and I think it was because we hadn’t been able to work on actual game play.”

Garretson started playing soccer when she was 4 and began competing with Shelton FC four years later.

“My dad (Sean) has played soccer his whole life,” she said. “My grandfather was a football and basketball player. My dad broke the mold (playing real football) and I just followed in his footsteps.

“I’ve always played a forward position. I’ve pushed myself hard and felt bad when I wasn’t getting the result (a goal). I put a lot of pressure on myself, it is a relief for me to help my team and get those shots in.”

Miller, assisted by Joe Gil, has worked with her to get better.

“Coach pushes us to be the best we can be,” Garretson said. “He has pushed me since I was a freshman. I have become a better player because of the way he coaches.”

Garretson began receiving time with varsity as a sophomore. An injury last season cut into her time on the field.

“I tore the meniscus in my right knee in May of my sophomore year,” Garretson said. “I didn’t know and played another month then had surgery. I got out of physical therapy 2 weeks before tryouts going into my junior year. Coach wanted to be safe, so he took it slow with my playing time and increased it as the year went on.”

Garretson, who had earlier fractured the femur in her right leg twice, took the injuries as a learning moment.

“They were on-contact injuries, so I need to move with the ball better,” she said. “I wanted to get better on my foot skills and I feel like I have.”

Miller said: “Noelle is one of those athletes who only understands one thing…give all you got for as long as you can. Off the field, she's a real quiet and very nice kid. Polite and always respectful of her coaches and teammates. When that whistle blows, she just changes into one of the fiercest competitors we've had in this program.

“Noelle is one of our hardest working players and totally "all in" during training and of course, it is evident in every game she plays. She loves to attack and provides an excellent press on opposing defenders. The words "relentless" and "ruthless" come to mind every time she plays.”

Miller is proud of his team’s adjusting to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I think they've handled the unique challenges we face this season with a positive mindset,” he said. “They've made the commitment to do what they must to have this season. I've had little need to chase after them to comply with the policies set by our community and Board of Education. Our goal has been to normalize this season as much as we can, and our senior class has done an excellent job leading the effort.”

william.bloxsom@hearstmediact.com Twitter: @blox354