Milford's best and brightest find place at Albertus
It is said that in Italy, all roads lead to Rome. In Milford, for at least 10 former Foran High and Jonathan Law athletes, all avenues have led them to New Haven, where they have competed in five different sports at Albertus Magnus College.
Seniors Shelley Mirmina and Jess Radecki, along with junior Taylor Jagoe and sophomore Ryan Clark, recently completed a successful women’s soccer season in which the Falcons compiled a 14-5-3 record and reached the ECAC Division III finals before losing to Wheaten, 1-0, on Nov. 17.
All four played their high school soccer at Foran.
Senior Melissa Manning, along with sophomore Alyssa Puccilli and freshman Caitlyn Prete, were key contributors to the women’s volleyball team that finished the season with a 9-14 mark.
Manning excelled on the volleyball and basketball courts at Foran.
Puccilli was a three-sport (volleyball, basketball and softball) standout at Foran, and played on the Class L state championship softball team in 2012.
Prete, an outstanding player at Law for three seasons, took the court with Manning and Puccilli this fall.
Senior Annie Raucci is about to start her fourth season on the women’s basketball team. She was a key rebounder and scorer at Foran.
Raucci will be joined on the hardwood by Jagoe, a point guard and soccer player at Foran.
Freshman Sam DaSilva was a member of the mens’ soccer team this fall. He was a four-year starter and played both as a forward and midfielder at Law.
After a two-year stay as a basketball starter at Dean Junior College (Franklin, Mass.), Kyle Wiggins transferred to Albertus.
The former Law star will look to have a key role coming in off the bench for the Falcons, who have already captured the Mitchell College (New London) Invitational Tournament.
All were influenced by teammates or coaches from Albertus to attend the liberal-arts college which was founded in 1925.
“I’ve been here for seven years,” said women’s head soccer coach Nick Wajnowski, a West Haven native, who also played for the Falcons under then head coach George Bedocs.
“We’re always looking for that hidden gem. That kid who other coaches won’t necessarily recruit. I’ve been able to find quite a few of them at either Foran or Law.
“I’m always looking for the one who I might see potential in and another coach may not.
“I’ve seen tremendous growth in both Jess and Shelley in the four years that they’ve been here.”
Mirmina had her best season as a midfielder by scoring six goals and adding 10 assists. She closed out her career with 15 assists, tying the single-season record.
“My decision to come here was pretty easy,” said Mirmina, an Art Therapy major. “Jess and I played together throughout our high school career, and, when coach John Adams (the assistant at Albertus), talked to us we both accepted.
“It’s been a tremendous learning experience. I thought I might start right away, but that didn’t happen. I found out the game was so much faster than in high school.”
Radecki and Jagoe, who decided to come out for the team this year, anchored a defense that allowed only 11 goals in 22 games (0.50 goals against average) and gave up only 13 shots per contest.
“The college experience has been an amazing one for me,” said Radecki, an English major, who wants to become a teacher.
“It’s been great having the chance to play with three of my other former high school teammates. The soccer experience has absolutely been beyond my expectations in what we’ve been able to do.”
Jagoe said both Shelley and Jess twisted her arm since last spring about participating in college soccer.
“They never let up,” said Jagoe, a guard on the basketball team and a Business Management major. “When I first came here, I wanted to concentrate on basketball. I didn’t want to play soccer.
“The quality of play among all the players is very equal. That’s the biggest difference I’ve seen since I was in high school.”
Jagoe started 17 games as a defender in soccer.
Clark has seen a limited amount of on-the-field time this year, as the teams’ back-up goalkeeper.
“I’ve tried to work very hard in practice and I’m really looking forward to next year,” said Clark, a Psychology major. “Albertus turned into my choice because I’d heard so much about the school from my former teammates.
“The coaches came to see me play at Foran. I pretty much knew right away that I wanted to come here.”
Manning has spent time living on campus as well as being a commuter.
“It’s easier living here, because, as an athlete, you spend so much time here anyway,” she said. “This is a small campus, so, when I was looking at schools, this one fit in nicely. It feels more like a community because you get to know so many people.
“I’ve had relatives who’ve gone to school here. That, and the fact that so many of my former high school athletes are here, it wasn’t a difficult decision to make.”
In addition to volleyball, Manning played a year of softball before giving up that sport in order to concentrate more on her studies as an English major.
She had 205 kills (8.9 per game) and 232 digs (10 ppg) as a starter and outside hitter on the 2013 team.
Puccilli, a Sports Management major, was a defensive specialist in high school for coach Julie Johnson. Her responsibilities have remained the same. She led the team in digs this year with 254 and has continued to be a two-sport athlete by participating in softball in the spring.
“To me, coming here is like an extension of high school, only you make a few more friends,” she said. “I live here and go home on Sundays.
“Once I was recruited, the influence to come here was very strong. I have a chance to spend some time with my friends from Foran who’re here. It’s really great.”
Manning and Puccilli have been joined this year by Prete, who had had 130 kills and 228 digs and 33 aces in her first season.
“I’ve found the playing level very challenging so far,” said Prete, an Accounting major.
“It was a priority of mine to come to Albertus and join other kids from my town. I knew that a smaller college would be the perfect fit for me.”
DaSilva has found the degree of soccer expertise in college extremely demanding.
“I’m playing with a group of guys who really know what they’re doing,” he said. “It makes me feel like an amateur at times. The pace of the game is so much faster than it was in high school. The intensity level is up there, too.”
DaSilva is a Business major.
Raucci applied to seven schools, but it was Albertus that won out.
She scored 212 points (7.6) an had 232 rebounds (8.3) as a junior, and figures to be a key performer again as either a small forward or a guard on this year’s team.
“I’m very happy with the decision I made to come here,” said Raucci, a Psychology major with a minor in Counseling and Mental Health.
“It’s been crazy at times because we’ve had three coaches in my four years. But it’s been fun and a great experience.”
Although he’s a junior, this is Wiggins’ first year at Albertus. He played on a Dean Junior College team that had a 17-6 record last year.
“When I graduated from Law in 2010, I had talked to coach Mitch Oliver about coming here, but I needed two years of junior college first,” he said.
“I’ve known about how good this program has been. I like being a part of this team. And, it’s mentally comforting to be closer to home.”
“I’m an energy source,” he said. “I’m hoping to get enough court time this year so that I can work myself into a starting spot next season.”