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Stonington's Solar to take a one-year leave due to pandemic

Paulla Solar has spent 29 seasons on the sideline as the Stonington High School girls' basketball coach and she plans on there being more to come. As she said Wednesday in a letter to her players, it's taking a pandemic for her to step away, even briefly.

Solar announced she is taking a one year leave of absence from coaching the team for the safety of herself and her family due to COVID-19, with the high school winter season tentatively set to begin on Jan. 19. Stonington assistant Falecia Cabral will take over as interim head coach and former assistant Kaitlyn Sullivan is coming back to assist Cabral, Solar said.

Solar hand-wrote a letter and Cabral texted a photo of it to the Stonington players in which Solar told them "I'll be thinking of you, praying for you and supporting you."

"The people that are taking it know the system that we're under. I have confidence in Falecia and Kaitlyn," Solar said in a telephone interview Wednesday. "The kids are very lucky for these two to step up. Before I made my decision, I talked to Falecia. I said, 'If I decide to take a year medical leave, would you be willing?' She said 100% she would.

"... I like working in the gym with the kids, just their enthusiasm. The kids are very positive and uplifting. That's stuff I'm going to miss. They make you laugh. I'm very happy I have five very capable seniors, leaders."

Solar, a member of the Connecticut Women's Basketball Hall of Fame, is 428-205 with two state titles in a career that started in 1974. She took a break from coaching after the 1983 season until embarking on a second stint at Stonington which has now lasted 20 seasons.

"I just really have great kids with great character," Solar said of the difficulty of making the decision to step away. "I'm missing a whole group of seniors, great seniors."

v.fulkerson@theday.com 

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