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Sullivan, hired as Ledyard's girls' soccer coach, can't wait to get back to high school

By Vickie Fulkerson

Publication: TheDay.com

Published February 25. 2013 11:00PM   Updated February 26. 2013 12:02AM

OK, so Jen Sullivan played for the UConn women's soccer team in the 2003 national championship game against North Carolina. She coached at the Division I level at Providence College through 2011.

And yet she was nervous recently going to interview for her new job.

Sullivan, a 2001 Stonington High School graduate and a former all-state pick for the Bears, was hired last week to coach the Ledyard High girls' soccer team, an announcement which thrilled Colonels' athletic director Jim Buonocore.

"She will be an excellent role model for our student-athletes and she understands the importance of education and the role athletics plays in our educational mission," Buonocore said. "... Her extensive background in the sport of soccer as a player and a coach will be extremely beneficial for our girls."

Sullivan stopped coaching at Providence when she was hired as a guidance counselor at Stonington.

"The people I work with are fabulous. It's good to be at your alma mater," Sullivan said of Stonington.

Sullivan was away from high school sports for more than a decade. She was just a sophomore in 1998 she helped lift Stonington to the semifinals of the Class S state tournament, one of those fleeting things you never realize is so special, she said.

All that has come flooding back for Sullivan, who has yet to meet her new team. She has so many skills and drills to teach them, so many memories to impart, all while trying not to make it seem like an avalanche of information.

"I have a firm belief that nothing's ever guaranteed," Sullivan said of the nerves that presented themselves the day of her interview at Ledyard. "I wanted to make sure I know what I'm talking about."

Sullivan's uncle, meanwhile is Joe Mendonca Sr., the Wheeler boys' soccer coach, while her cousin is Joe Mendonca Jr., the Waterford boys' coach. She's hit them both up for a few tips, as well as watching the Stonington girls' team this past fall.

"It brings back a lot, seeing some of the former high school coaches I played against, watching the kids at the high school and seeing the pride they had. It's full circle," Sullivan said. "It's weird being older. ... It's a great level. Looking back now, it was special.

"I try to take a little bit of everything and make it into how I think soccer should be played."

Ledyard was 8-8-1 last year, falling in the first round of the Class L tournament. Sullivan gives a nervous laugh when talking about the girls' programs at Ledyard and the successes they've had recently, from a volleyball state championship in the fall to this winter's Eastern Connecticut Conference title in girls' basketball.

"No pressure coming in right now," Sullivan said. "But that's exciting. It's all happening so fast. It's a great opportunity. It's a great school, absolutely."

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