By John Goralski
They picked up their pens with the precision of a synchronized swimming team, and began scrawling their signatures across the papers before them. Since cutting their teeth on youth travel teams, Erica Kosienski and Nicole Wershoven have been charging towards the goal as a tandem. This time there was just a bigger goal.
On Wednesday, Feb. 6, the former Lady Knight soccer players sat at a conference table in the high school and signed letters of intent to play soccer at the collegiate level. A misty-eyed Sal Penta beamed as the varsity coach greeted reporters to the event.
He said that moments like these rank right up there with any varsity win, including his state title.
“You coach years and years but you really get the sense that this is what it’s all about,” said the coach, “to see these girls grow up to be young women, to see them going on with their lives, and knowing that you had a little responsibility of making them what they are.”
For Kosienski, the day marked the start of an even bigger chapter in her soccer career. For four years, she dominated the scoring in the challenging CCC West with 47 career goals and 21 assists. She was a four-year all-conference player. Twice, she was named to Connecticut’s all-state roster. That’s why it was no surprise that Kosienski’s signature signaled the start of a NCAA division one career at Boston University.
“There’s going to one level there, and it’s going to be good. It’s going to push me as a player, and it’s going to make me better than I am now,” she said. “Not only is it a great academic school, but I went there and met the team and the coaches. They are just amazing. I know that I’m going to fit in there.
They were very welcoming, and I love the team and love the city. It was just perfect.”
Penta said that BU coaches were attracted to Kosienski’s efforts in practice and in games. They liked her speed, her leadership, and her ability to lift those around her. Penta said that he only spoke to them once, and all that they wanted to know is if Kosienski was as good off the field as she is in the games.
“It was a 45 second conversation. The coach just wanted to ask about her practice habits and her leadership qualities. I let her know what they are, and she said, ‘That’s exactly what I thought they were. Thank you very much,’” he said. “The thing about Erica is that she can play anywhere on the field. She’s been playing forward for us for four years, but you could drop her back to the midfield. She has the capability and knowledge to do that. She can be a defender or whatever they want her to do.”
Kosienski said that the process has been a long one, stretching back to emails and phone calls in her sophomore year, but her final decision came down to Boston University, UConn, and Providence College. She settled on the Terriers after a campus visit and plans to study for a career in physical therapy.
“It’s been a huge day. I’ve been looking forward to this for so long. In fact, I can actually sign this paper after I put all that time into soccer. It’s amazing,” she said. “My family has supported me so much with all the money and all the time they spent bringing me to tournaments, practicing every week. I couldn’t have done this without them.”
Wershoven said that she was proud to be able to share the moment with her former teammate. For the past three seasons, they have battled side-by-side on the varsity field. Wershoven contributed with 18 career goals and 11 assists as a forward and was named to the all-conference roster as a senior.
“I wanted to be here for Erica just to witness her signing,” Wershoven said. “I know it’s been a long time coming and a lot of hard work for the both of us, but it’s exciting to see us finally make a final decision.”
Wershoven made her commitment to play soccer next year at Castleton State College in Vermont, and Penta said that the Lady Knight forward will be a great asset to the division three program.
“Athleticism is the first thing I think about with her,” said the coach. “She just makes things happen, whether it’s stealing the ball away from a defender, or scoring on a hustle goal. She’s just someone that makes players around her better.”
Wershoven’s decision came down to Clark University, Brandeis University, Manhattanville College, and the University of Massachusetts. She’s planning on taking a pre-med course of study.
“I had a few decisions on the table, but ultimately after visiting all of my final decisions I fell in love with the campus at Castleton,” she said. “Even though I’m not going to be in the city, it has a lot to offer.”
Penta said that the signings were a good way to end a disappointing soccer season that fell short of the Class LL tournament, but he said that Kosienski and Wershoven continue to raise the bar for those that follow. They’ll be hard to replace.
“As every year goes on, from freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior year, you get closer to these girls,” said the coach. “It’s kind of like having a daughter leave for college. I’m happy for the success that they’re going to have, but I’m going to miss them. I always tell the girls when they leave that they have to come back for at least one game to watch and yell at me from the sidelines. Now that they’ve graduated, they can do it and not get into trouble.”
To comment on this story or to contact sports writer John Goralski, email him at jgoralski@ southingtonobserver.com.