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Two years after winning the Class B Sectional Championship for Westhill High School, junior center midfielder Sophia Caron was back in the 2019 title game.
Captaining No. 3 seed Westhill, Caron and her team entered the sectional championship on a 14-game winning streak where they outscored opponents 59-4. But against No. 1 seed Central Valley Academy, the Warriors fell flat, losing 3-1.
For Caron, the defeat was devastating. But she planned for her team to return to the title game in 2020, her senior year.
Then, in mid September, the league released a shortened 10-game schedule that didn’t feature a postseason. For Westhill, a program that has made the playoffs for the last seven consecutive years, the league’s decision to forgo a postseason was “hard to take,” first-year head coach Patrick Connors said. Still, Caron was grateful she could play.
In 2018 and 2019, Caron was named to the All-League, All-Section, All-Central New York and All-State teams. A four-year varsity player and two-year captain, she led the Warriors in scoring during her freshman and sophomore years and finished her career with 41 goals and 27 assists.
“She cemented herself as one of the best,” Connors said. “I don’t think there’s any doubt.”
Without a postseason, Caron “very easily could have written the season off,” Connors said. Instead, she emphasized the importance of developing younger players and preparing them for next year’s playoffs. As a senior and captain, Caron felt herself adjusting on-field because she knew younger teammates were looking to her for direction. Olivia Bolesh, Caron’s four-year varsity teammate and a senior captain, said that they had to give their younger teammates “another big push” before their senior year.
When one of the best players is also one of the most focused and hardest workers during practice and games, it sets an example for the rest of the team.
Ben Cassalia, Sophia Caron’s former high school coach
As a senior and captain, Caron felt herself adjusting on field because she knew younger teammates were looking to her for direction. She became more vocal while adjusting to the role. In past years, she was “not the most outspoken person,” said Ben Cassalia, Westhill’s head coach from 2018-19.
“When she did address her teammates, you could sense they paid particular attention,” Cassalia said.
Caron served as captain of the program during her junior year, a role that’s typically exclusive to seniors, which “speaks volumes about her character,” Connors said. She earned the respect of her teammates on the field by showing focus and effort, Cassalia said. In games, she consistently replicated her performances from practice.
“When one of the best players is also one of the most focused and hardest workers during practice and games, it sets an example for the rest of the team,” Cassalia said.
This year, the Warriors finished 7-3, outscoring opponents 21-2 in their first six games. During Caron’s final home game on Oct. 30, Westhill trailed 1-0 with eight minutes remaining — on track for its third straight loss.
Against a Skaneateles high school team that the Warriors defeated 2-0 the year prior, Connors said he could “picture (Caron) being absolutely everywhere on the field.”
“She was killing herself out there because there was no way she was going to let us lose that game,” he said. Caron assisted the game-tying goal and the Warriors secured a 2-1 comeback win.
Her role as a center midfielder built her into an “all-around player,” Connors said. Having one of Westhill’s best players at one of the most important positions was crucial, Cassalia added. At center midfield, Caron is “technically and tactically sound individually,” Connors said, which allows her to direct teammates on when to attack and defend. Her presence on and off the field will pay off next year, he said.
“Every team should want a Sophia Caron on their team,” Connors said.
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