Meet the Team: Pioneers Girls Soccer!

Sophia Salazar , staff writer

With the 2021 season underway, the Pioneers girls soccer team has been successful in maintaining an excellent record (7-0-1) after a devastating shutdown down during the 2020 season. Following a long summer and preseason, the girls are continuing to work as hard as possible to achieve the same team goal: winning states. Coaches Scott Murphy and David Fama have been pushing each individual player to reach their full potential in order to benefit themselves and the team.

The team started out the 2021 season still reeling from the abrupt loss of last year’s season.  On November 9th, 2020 right before states started, the girls season ended prematurely.

Current Junior Scarlett Granger said it definitely had an impact: “My least favorite would be my second year, sophomore year because COVID really took a toll on everything. After being seeded number one in our section, someone on the team tested positive and everything was over in a blink of an eye. It was really upsetting because we had come so far and done so well amid all the chaos still going on during the pandemic.”

On the other hand, the players are grateful for the time they did have together last year to work and bond as a team.

To look on the bright side, current sophomore Gillian Poiesz took her freshman year as an opportunity to grow as a player:  “It was an amazing opportunity being able to play with people who were both older and more experienced. It was definitely a confidence boost in knowing I was only one of two freshmen to be called up, and I enjoyed being able to step into my role and make an impact as such a young player.”

Next week the Pioneers will take on their biggest challenge so far this year against Governor Livingston; they have been working laboriously to make up for their overwhelming 6-1 loss against them in the 2020 season. The Pioneers are currently being led by two selfless senior captains:  Reagan Wawzycki and Kavita Parekh. Wawzycki has been on the team for all four years, while Parekh missed her sophomore year to commit to club soccer.  The team looks to them for leadership on and off the field.

We spoke to them, and to some of their teammates, to get to know them a little better.

What are your pre game rituals/superstitions?

Reagan Wawzycki: “My pregame ritual is pretty simple, I eat a granola bar and listen to music to get myself ready.”

Kavita Parekh: “I am really superstitious but I don’t have a specific pre-game ritual. I just like listening to music and relaxing before a game. With my superstition, I always tie my cleats the same way right before kick off as a way to mentally prepare myself to play.”

Scarlett Granger: “Before every game on game day, we go into the locker room and have a pep talk, then after to get us motivated, we tap the locker with our hands really fast, making a kind of drum sound. When we leave the locker room to run out on the field, we always slap the wall before we exit.”

Gillian Poiesz: “ I am a very superstitious person so I have my own set of things I do before each game. I always wear the same Pioneers shirt the night before a game and as a team we all wear our jerseys to school on game days. I always listen to the same 3 songs before games. I always put my right cleat on first and I tie my cleats in 3 knots. And to end off, Soph Salazar and I always do a little fist bump thing before kick off.”

Maddie Merrick: “I have a dime from the first real game I ever played in high school. I keep it in my soccer bag pocket and I have it with me at every game. The game I first found the dime at was when I scored my first goal, so I always have it with me now. Another thing I do is I draw a cross with my right pinkie finger on my thigh before the start of each game because about 4 years ago at a club game I did this and I had one of the best games of my life. I’ve done it since.”

What has been your most memorable moment?

Reagan Wawzycki: “My most memorable moment from a game was beating Belvidere in penalties my sophomore year to send our team to the section final. Storming the field after Emma Keneally scored that last penalty was so unreal.”

Kavita Parekh: “I think one of the most memorable moments from a game this year was our Delaware Valley win. It wasn’t a conference game, but we weren’t expected to win so when we got there and dominated the entire game, it was really special. Then with about 15 minutes left we scored and won the game 1-0. This game was an amazing team effort and really showed me that we have a chance to win sectionals or maybe even states.”

Scarlett Granger: “The most memorable moment out of all of my years so far would be when we won in penalties in our state tournament. Everyone was so nervous because if we didn’t win in penalties, we wouldn’t be able to go any farther in the state tournament. But when we won, it was amazing. Everyone was screaming and jumping and we all ran out on the field. It’s probably a moment I’ll never forget.”

Gillian Poiesz: “I think there are two moments that are the most memorable for me. The first would be scoring my first high school goal in our 2-1 win vs. Elizabeth. It was just such a surreal moment and something I will never forget. The second would be our game against Westfield last year during the County Tournament. I think as a team, that was one of the best games we had all season. We ended up losing 1-0 in overtime but the way we played that game as a team was unlike anything I’ve ever seen us do before.”

Maddie Merrick: “When I scored my first goal against Elizabeth. The moment when I turned around after the ball went in was insane. Everyone ran over and started picking me up and hugging me and it was the best moment ever. I have pictures from when everyone was hugging me and I look so happy.”

What do you think it means to be a part of this team?

Reagan Wawzycki: “To be a part of this team means to be a part of something bigger than yourself. Every player wants a ring or a trophy and everyone is willing to work as hard as possible to make it happen.”

Kavita Parekh: “Being a part of this team is so special. Every tradition we have, every game we play, we all just get closer and closer. Playing high school soccer at New Providence is so surreal because the girls are my best friends regardless of what grade they are in. I wouldn’t change it for the world and I can’t wait to see what we accomplish this year.”

Scarlett Granger: “Being a part of this team isn’t just about what you do on the field. It’s about having fun, and respecting each other as teammates. Tradition is something that is really valued in our team, and as a whole we do a good job with honoring the tradition of girls soccer in NP.”

Maddie Merrick: “It honestly feels like another family. Everyone is so incredibly close and it is overall just a great experience. Everyone on the team is so good at soccer and I feel like everyone has an amazing bond. Being a part of this team is just like joining another family.”

Gillian Poiesz: “I think being part of this team means being part of something bigger than yourself. To me, this team is my family, it’s where I have met some of my favorite people and has been a place where everyone will always be there for you. We are a team that can do great things this year and being a part of it means doing my role to help us get to where we all want to be at the end of this year. This team is so special and I am insanely lucky to be a part of it.”