The Day's All-Area Girls' Soccer Player of the Year: East Lyme's Angie Venditti

Throughout her career, four years as a starting defender for the East Lyme High School girls’ soccer team, Angie Venditti was around players who scored goals.

High school teammate Steph deLaforcade, an all-state selection, set the Eastern Connecticut Conference’s single-season record for goals in 2016 with 42, adding 32 assists. Meanwhile, at nearby Old Lyme, Venditti’s former Southeast Soccer Club teammate Mya Johnson was setting the Wildcats’ all-time scoring record, also earning all-state honors.

“I thought most of the people who got those awards were scoring goals,” Venditti said recently. “Mya was setting all these records. Steph was setting all these records.”

Venditti, as it turns out, generated just much excitement in thwarting goals, at least as far as East Lyme coach Rachel Redding is concerned.

“A great kid. I hope the best for her,” Redding said. “Everyone wants to say, ‘What’s their stats? What’s their stats?’ But who’re you going to pick? I wouldn’t blink. I would pick her every time, one of the first ones every time. It’s weird this calm I have when she’s playing back there. I always know, no matter what happens Angie’s going to be there to clean up the mess.”

Venditti, East Lyme’s senior sweeper, led the Vikings to this season’s Class L state championship game one year removed from a 4-12-1 season that did not qualify them for the tournament at all. East Lyme, with Venditti at the core of its defense, did not allow a goal in the state tournament until a 2-1 loss to Guilford in the final.

Honored as a member of the Class L all-state team, Venditti was named The Day’s 2019 All-Area Girls’ Soccer Player of the Year.

“I think a lot of people didn’t expect us to be that good; that really helped us,” Venditti said of East Lyme’s successes, which included the ECC Division I title, its first since 2016. “We were a young team. They thought we needed a building year. We didn’t.

“We just all kind of learned how to work as a unit (on defense). Grace (Wargo, a fellow All-ECC and All-Area selection) and I have been playing together forever. Ella (Mazzulli, sophomore stopper) in front. Sarina (McCollum) and Emma (Belleville) … it just felt good.”

East Lyme’s defense served as a season-long cornerstone. The Vikings (12-5-5) gave up just 18 goals in 22 games with 10 shutouts, eight shutouts in their last 12 games. They gave up one goal or fewer in all but three games.

As the No. 13 seed in Class L, East Lyme needed to win four times to reach the championship game and did so with four straight shutouts, one of which went to penalty kicks, spanning a total of 340 scoreless minutes.

Venditti called the day-to-day happenings during the state tournament, moments filled with bus rides (to the far end of the state) and pasta parties (all at her house during the state tournament out of superstition), the best memories of her soccer career.

“This year just making it to the finals,” Venditti said, “… everyone I saw said ‘Congratulations. You guys made it so far.”

Not that those tournament snapshots weren’t filled with anxious moments. The title game was played at 5:30 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 23, at Hartford’s sprawling Dillon Stadium. The professional venue lent its locker rooms and its public address announcer to the teams. And the game before the East Lyme-Guilford matchup went into double overtime, prolonging things.

“We were sitting there in the locker room. The stress kept building up,” said Venditti, whose team was making its first championship appearance since 1998, bidding for the first title in program history.

Venditti had a lot of experience dealing with stress throughout her career, however, starting as a freshman when she made the varsity alongside three players, deLaforcade, Hannah Belleville and Mackenzie Northcutt, who all signed to play for Division I programs collegiately.

They quickly took Venditti under their wing — “I was the young freshman,” she said — enough so that she became a starter at outside left back during the Vikings’ ECC championship season.

Redding, who coached Venditti previously at the youth level when Redding’s daughter Molly was also a member of the team, watched Venditti grow into a different role each season she was a member of the East Lyme varsity.

“Her role definitely changed through the years,” Redding said. “Freshman year, look who was around her. Sophomore year she was helping the transition (without the graduated seniors). Junior year she had to step up and be a leader. This year she was one of the main leaders on the field. … I hope she takes all the four years of things she’s learned.”

Redding has referred to Venditti as one of the best defenders she’s coached at East Lyme.

“She has a great knowledge of soccer, very good foot skills, always puts herself in the right position, knows when to pass and when to clear the ball,” Redding said. “She’s always there for her teammates. … (This team) had the will to win. They played their hearts and souls out.”

Venditti is planning to pursue her soccer career in college, although she hasn’t decided on a destination. There’s still high school softball season to come; Venditti alternated between catcher and third base last season, earning first team all-league honors there, as well.

She has played town soccer and softball and travel soccer and softball since grade school, keeping herself busy, as well as her family — dad, Jay; mom, Lori; and older brother, Aldo.

She recalls that when she played youth soccer for Redding, Redding would sometimes bring then-East Lyme star Meredith Moore to practice. Venditti still can’t believe that she’s walking in Moore’s shoes as a member of the East Lyme program — “It doesn’t seem like the same thing,” Venditti said.

And yet this season Venditti took part in another chapter of East Lyme history: a championship appearance.

“Going from game to game, we had to live in the moment,” Venditti said. “One game at a time, all the way to the finals.”

v.fulkerson@theday.com

 

The Day's 2019 All-Area Girls' Soccer Team

Player of the Year — Angie Venditti (East Lyme)

Forward — Margaret Dunne (East Lyme), Meredith Healy (East Lyme), Mackenzie Teper (NFA)

Midfield — Kaylee Armenia (Old Lyme), Vanessa Benjamin (Stonington), Lexi LaPerle (Ledyard), Kayla Park (NFA)

Defense — Emily DeRoehn (Old Lyme), Jillian Murallo (Montville), Grace Wargo (East Lyme)

Goalie — Samantha Gray (Old Lyme)

Utility — Lindsay Clement (St. Bernard), Olivia Davidson (Waterford)

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