Recommended Video:

With safety precautions in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the season sporting a new-look, this fall, more than ever, the role team captains play is significant.

“Our captains have been great, both in terms of leadership and in terms of getting everyone on the same page and understanding what we do,” Greenwich High School girls soccer coach Simon Rumbold said. “There’s been a very real threat all the way through that this can all end at any given point. So getting on top of everyone and making sure they are working and understanding how important that is has been key.”

Sophia Bastek and Kristen Berzolla are the senior captains Rumbold spoke of. Berzolla, a center midfielder and Bastek, who plays forward, have embraced the added responsibilities that have come with their role during these uncertain times.

“We have to focus a lot on keeping everyone safe and socially distancing and keeping masks on,” said Bastek, who has paced the Cardinals’ offensively the past several seasons.

The tradition of holding team dinners and team-bonding gatherings won’t take place this season, due to the need to practice social distancing, so the captains have to try to lead as much as they can on the field.

“We’re working on building team spirit during practice,” said Bastek, a Second Team All-FCIAC selection in 2019. “Everyone is trying to encourage each other on the field.”

Berzolla is enjoying watching out for her teammates, while helping the squad build chemistry.

“There’s a lot more stress and responsibilities, because of COVID, but it’s been fun helping organize everything,” Berzolla said. “We’re making sure everyone stays safe and follows the rules. Because we hadn’t been able to play each other yet in practice until this week, we’ve been making everyone on the team feel welcome and get to know each other.”

After practicing in cohorts of 10 players the past several weeks, the Cardinals like all teams, were cleared to conduct full-squad training sessions, beginning this week. They open their 2020 campaign with a game against New Canaan on Oct. 3.

Unlike previous seasons when its schedule include 16 games, against 16 different teams, Greenwich is scheduled to have eight matchups this fall. In their FCIAC West region, they will face New Canaan, Darien, Stamford and Westhill twice.

“We are so grateful to be out here and we have rivalry games, which is nice,” said Rumbold, who is starting his fourth season at the helm. “Traditionally, the teams we are going to play we’ve had good games against. It’s a good mix of different playing styles that are going to present themselves to us.”

Each team in Greenwich’s region will qualify for the postseason, with the first team earning a bye and the four other squads playing each other in the opening round.

“New Canaan has been an up-and-coming team for the past two, or three years,” Rumbold said. “Darien is very athletic, very well-organized team, while Westhill and Stamford have improved the last few years. So all those games are challenging.”

Bastek, who will be relied upon to help spark the squad’s begins her fourth year on the varsity squad.

“Sophia has been our biggest attacking threat the past two or three years,” Rumbold said. “She’s grown as a player, as a person and taken on the captaincy role, which she deserves, nicely.”

The Cards are coming off a 5-8-3 season in which it missed narrowly missed qualifying for the FCIAC Tournament.

“It’s been great to just be out here playing again and being given the opportunity to have a season, even though it’s different,” Bastek said. “The past two weeks of practicing have helped us get warmed up for the season. It’s been really fun so far, as we’ve been working to improve our skills.”

Isabella Gega replaces Clay Garrett, a 2020 GHS graduate in goal, while Berzolla will be looked to solidify the backline, along with senior Celine Cohen.

Senior Carly O’Brien and junior Kelly Martyanov are among some of the returning players who should complement Bastek at forward.

Skylar Scavo (defender), Allie Pennella (midfielder), Brooke Wilkowski, Megan Ross and Julia Acosta were mentioned by Rumbold as being among the new additions to the squad that could make an impact.

“We are younger than we were last year and we lost some important players,” Rumbold said. “Technically though, we have strong players who are comfortable on the ball. We have players who are looking forward to becoming the main people our team looks to for leadership.”

Added Berzolla: “There’s a lot of chemistry already, a lot of us have been working together as a team for the past year or two years.”

COACHING STAFF: Erin Martschenko is the varsity assistant coach, David Heelor will coach the junior varsity team and Sophia Ruelle, a 2019 GHS graduate, who was an All-FCIAC defender, starts her first season as the Cards’ freshman coach.

SHOWDOWNS: New Canaan, home Oct. 3; Westhill, home, Oct. 6; Stamford away, Oct. 8; Darien, away, Oct. 13; New Canaan, Oct. 20; Westhill, away, Oct. 22; Stamford, home, Oct. 27; Darien, home, Oct. 29; New Canaan, home, Nov. 5.

dfierro@greenwichtime.com