Placing pieces into a winning puzzle key for Gaelettes

Arianna Malick returns in goal for Shelton, after the then junior was named Most Outstanding Player in the SCC tournament.

Arianna Malick returns in goal for Shelton, after the then junior was named Most Outstanding Player in the SCC tournament.

John Vanacore / For Hearst Connecticut Media

There are spots that need to be filled well when Shelton High begins defense of its 2018 Southern Connecticut Conference title with a visit to South-West Conference challenger Masuk High.

“We have the right tools, now we need the players to learn their roles,” said Gaelette head coach Marvin Miller, who is beginning his 14th season at the helm. “The desire is there to do it. This has been a good preseason. This year is more about reloading then rebuilding.”

Shelton defeated Mercy of Middletown 3-2 on penalty kicks in the 2018 SCC final. They were 17-1-1 entering the Class LL state tournament. As the No. 4 seed, the Gaelettes were then upended by Trumbull.

Back in the fold are captains Leah Vohra and Haley Oko, along with goaltender Arinna Malick.

“Leah Vohra is an attacking midfielder, who can really play anywhere for us,” Miller said. “She is one of the strongest players in our program. Leah places a high standard on herself and plays up to that standard. She also wants to get the newer players to reach that standard.

“Haley Oko is a fine outside midfielder. She has plenty of goals in assists (in her first three seasons), so teams are not going to be surprised by her. We want her to take it in the last third when she has the ball on her feet.

“Arianna covers the whole box and was the Most Outstanding Player at the SCC tourney. She is an absolute fearless player. She has a great positive attitude. Arianna has fun out there and is not afraid to show it.

“We have the principal players; we need to find the right rotation.”

Shelton graduated its backline.

“We have four juniors (Emily Sandin, Sarah Panek, Carolyn Maher and Caitlyn McNeil) as well as two seniors (Abby Carlson and Zoe D'Auria) who are solid in the back,” Miller said. “Freshman Kaleigh Bartlett has been a pleasant surprise.

“But there is a learning curve because they are all new to starting at the varsity level. There are certain things they need to do. I’m happy in our scrimmages. They have made mistakes, but they are playing with composure and making good progress.”

Liz Porto will join Vohra and Oko at midfield.

“Liz will be on the other side of Haley at outside attack and has played well for us,” Miller said of his senior. “Jaylee Zwaan and Devon Wildman are a pair of juniors we need to take on more responsibility in the midfield. Mia Ferrara is a rising sophomore who showed ability is our last jamboree.

“We started seven seniors (in 2018) and had a lot of juniors sitting behind them. Now they will be playing primary positions.”

Among those graduated from Miller’s crew are Mackenzie Joyce, Maggie Howard, Zoe Rogers, Izzy Rosa, Erin Kearney, Heather Garrett and Haley Adcox.

“They all did a great job for us,” said Miller, who will be assisted by Joe Gill, junior varsity coach Stephen Bell and third-year volunteer assistant and former Gaelette Carly Shomsky. “Mackenzie and Izzy will be tough to replace up front. Lindsay Taylor and Noelle Garretson (juniors) are both good strikers. Cali D'Auria gives us flexibility, as she can go on attack or impact our play in the midfield.”

Depth concerns Miller.

“We had a small sophomore class,” he said. “We have a good group of freshmen and they will have the chance to jump right in and play for the junior varsity.

“I worry we might be a little thin on varsity. We have talent, fitness and the right effort. The girls got themselves ready over the summer and there is good camaraderie, which is always good.”

2019 Schedule

Sept. 13 — at Masuk, 3:45 p.m.

Sept. 17 — AMITY, 7 p.m.

Sept. 20 — at Branford, 3:45 p.m.

Sept. 24 — at Lyman Hall, 3:45 p.m.

Sept. 26 — SHEEHAN, 7 p.m.

Oct. 1 — LAURALTON HALL, 7 p.m.

Oct. 5 — MERCY, 5 p.m.

Oct. 11 — at Amity, 3:45 p.m.

Oct. 15 — BRANFORD, 7 p.m.

Oct. 18 — LYMAN HALL, 7 p.m.

Oct. 21 — at Sheehan, 6:30 p.m.

Oct. 23 — at Daniel Hand, 6 p.m.

Oct. 25 — at Lauralton Hall, 3:45 p.m.

Oct. 28 — at Mercy, 7 p.m.

Oct. 31 — HARDING, 7 p.m.

Home games in CAPS