Stratford's Ryann Wiltsie, right, races up the field against Bethel on Monday. (Photo by John Nash)

GIRLS SOCCER: To move forward, Stratford must take a foot out of the past

STRATFORD—The Stratford High girls soccer team seems to have one foot stuck in the past while its eyes are trained on the future.

The next step, though, needs to be stepping forward every game.

The Red Devils lost their season-opening contest on Monday night at Penders Field, falling to league rival Bethel by a 3-0 score.

It was a tale of two halves, however, as Stratford battled and looked confident as both teams put up goose eggs over the first 40 minutes of play.

All it took was one goal by the Wildcats, though, springboard the guests to the win.

“I was definitely happy with some things, in the first half, more so,” Stratford coach Sarah Stevens said. “There were some offensive spurts I was happy with, but we need to have that offensive mindset. We didn’t have that for the full game. That’s something we have to change. Our team is stuck in a defensive mindset. We have to pull out of it.”

Stratford’s Jenna Zajac, right, gets to the ball before a Bethel player during Monday’s game at Penders Field. (Photo by John Nash)

In the last 10 seasons, Stratford has only won 28 games—or an average of 2.8 wins a season.

That kind of struggle means the Red Devils have played a lot of defense, but this team does have some talent all over the field—if only can the squad could have the confidence to embrace it.

“There is talent on this team with the foot skills we have,” said midfield Chi Chi Anekwe, one of three captains and seven seniors on the team. “Sometimes we release the ball as soon as we get it and we have to take more time and move it. We have to have confidence in ourselves.”

In the first half, the Red Devils played confidently and while Bethel did control possession, Stratford was able to make some upfield runs.

“I was just telling (the team) in the huddle, the first half was the best I’ve ever seen this program play,” said senior goalie Helen LeFever, another captain. “If our season can continue like that first half, I think it could be a good one.”

Stratford’s Valerie Duque (17) redirects the ball away from a Bethel defender on Monday. (Photo by John Nash)

Bethel got second-half goals from Andrea Albu, Ana Fernandes and Abigail Correard to clinch the win.

For Stratford, Lefever made 12 saves for the Red Devils.

“I think we have a lot of basics to work on, simple stuff we need to get better at,” Stevens said. “If we master those things, it could have been a different game. But we’re just a step behind.”

Once it steps out of the past and races toward the future, though, this Stratford team could surprise a few people this season.

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Stratford Girls Soccer

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