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Waterford - The similarities between Chris Ghiglia and Rob Brule, the present and former Waterford High School girls' soccer coach, respectively, come in their knowledge of soccer, their teaching ability and their passion for the game.
Ghiglia, while a bit more soft-spoken than Brule, has a puppy named Leo, the nickname of Argentine star Lionel Messi.
Ghiglia's dad hails from soccer-crazed Italy.
"I live the game. I had a ball at my feet since I could walk," said Ghiglia, still the all-time leading scorer at Bristol Eastern High School. "My wife (Christine) said it might be too much of a passion. The sport's really special to me."
This week, however, was about the Waterford players learning the differences between the two coaches.
The Lancers won the Class M state championship last season, beating Haddam-Killingworth 1-0. That was followed by Brule's retirement during the offseason after 20 seasons and 243 victories. Ghiglia, a math teacher at Clark Lane Middle School in Waterford and the former successful girls' soccer coach at St. Bernard, was a natural fit to take Brule's place. Ghiglia was a former assistant under Brule for three seasons.
"We're lucky to have those two coaches who know so much about soccer," Waterford senior captain Sally Scarpa said from practice earlier this week. "(Ghiglia) is different in the way he says things. ... He's not as loud. He's more like a teacher. You can't yell someone the directions on how to do a math problem.
"He's trying to learn the way we practice and we're trying to learn the way he coaches."
The Lancers, who have won Eastern Connecticut Conference titles in 13 of the last 15 seasons, would have been starting over regardless of the coaching change, though, missing former senior leaders Genaya Loftis, Hannah Swanson and Melina Spanos, The Day's 2013 All-Area Player of the Year.
Scarpa and Summer Wyatt, both senior center backs, will serve as Waterford's captains, while Scarpa and junior forward Claire Hurley are returning All-ECC picks. Hurley scored the game-winning goal in the state championship victory, the Lancers' first title in program history.
"I'm excited to start over anyway," Scarpa said. "I've been waiting for this day (as captain) since I was a freshman. Ever since I was a freshman, playing in the back you tell people what to do. You never stay quiet. ... Sometimes you don't want to change things. You want them to stay that way forever. But that's life. You have to deal with it."
Hurley said opening practice with so many changes still made her nervous, despite her status as an upperclassman.
"There's new kids, new coaches. ... It's definitely a transition," Hurley said. "You never know. You still have to go out and give it everything."
Hurley credited Scarpa and Wyatt for helping lead the team.
"When I was a freshman, I was so nervous," Hurley said. "They took me aside and said, 'Hey, it's OK.' I got close to them."
Ghiglia coached St. Bernard for eight seasons, with the Saints going 16-5 last year with a Class S semifinal berth and the program's third straight ECC Small Division title. Under Ghiglia, St. Bernard went to the semifinals three times and reached the 2008 state championship game.
Ghiglia said one thing that's consistent between he and Brule is their expectations for the program.
"The kids are wonderful. Each and every day they come out and play hard. That's built into the program. Expectations are high. That's how we play," said Ghiglia, who was at the state championship game to support Waterford even before he knew he would coach the Lancers.
"Waterford has always been a special program to me. I've been around Waterford a long time now."
Then came another similarity to Brule.
Ghiglia was asked if he's pleased with things so far.
"It's the first week of the season, so no," Ghiglia said with a smile before elaborating. "We showed glimpses (in a scrimmage) against Fitch. Our defensive tactics were good, but we want to have a good passing game, play through the midfield and get numbers forward. Where we want to get the ball forward in three passes, sometimes it took us five or six passes.
"We're still in the get-to-know-each-other phase."