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Article Published April 20, 2022

Raffone Loves Patrolling the Midfield for the Thunderbirds

By By Dan Fappiano

Marissa Raffone first started playing lacrosse when she was in 8th grade—just four short years ago. In that amount of time, Marissa has transformed herself into a standout midfielder with the North Branford girls’ lacrosse team, becoming an All-Shoreline Conference and All-State player along the way.

Growing up, Marissa watched her sister Gabrielle play lacrosse for the Thunderbirds. Marissa saw her sister’s determination and admired her dedication to the game. Marissa wanted to emulate those qualities when she joined the team at North Branford Intermediate School as an 8th-grader.

“I always watched her, and I thought it was really cool. I decided to try it out, and I ended up absolutely loving it,” says Marissa. “The way she took the game so seriously, she was at practice every day. It got me interested in it. She would help me pass in the backyard, and then I signed up my 8th-grade year.”

When she took the field, Marissa did so as a midfielder, and that’s where she’s been playing throughout her lacrosse career. Marissa loves playing the midfielder position, because it gives her a chance to be an active participant on both offense and defense.

“Midfield can be really tough sometimes, but I love how you get to run up and down the field and play both attack and defense,” Marissa says. “I love that I can score, but at the same time, help my goalie out. I’m in the circle for the draw, so I get to run in and be aggressive, which is a lot of fun, too.”

After playing for a year in middle school, Marissa joined the T-Birds as a freshman and competed for JV team in her first season. While she lost her sophomore season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, that didn’t stop Marissa from preparing for her junior campaign. Marissa “always had a stick” in her hands during the interim, helping her get ready for the jump to the varsity level.

Marissa made the leap as a junior and earned a spot as a starting midfielder for North Branford’s varsity squad. As a freshman, Marissa felt happy to simply be a part of the program and compete alongside her teammates. However, when she stepped on the field for her junior season, Marissa was determined to prove that she belonged on the varsity stage.

“Playing at the varsity level definitely wasn’t easy at first. I had no idea what to expect, because it is different from JV, but taking that jump was amazing,” says Marissa. “I loved being a part of the varsity team and being able to be a starter.”

Marissa helped North Branford have a great year with an overall record of 15-4 last spring. The Thunderbirds made it back to the Shoreline Conference final and claimed a 9-3 win over Old Saybrook, solidifying their third-straight conference title. Marissa scored a goal in a victory that proved an amazing moment for everyone on North Branford’s roster.

In addition to winning a conference crown, Marissa finished her first year as a varsity player with some major accolades to her credit. When the season came a close, Marissa was named to both the All-Shoreline Conference Second Team and the All-State Second Team for her performance. At first, Marissa didn’t really know what it meant to receive those distinctions. However, once the realization hit her, Marissa understood just how far she had come as a lacrosse player.

“It was a big accomplishment for me. There were players that had been playing since 2nd grade,” Marissa says. “It showed that I picked up lacrosse and showed how much I loved it.”

Now back in her starting midfield role as a senior, Marissa is enjoying her time on the field as she forms strong bonds with her fellow Thunderbirds. As she looks to follow up on her solid junior season, Marissa is leading North Branford as a senior captain alongside Olivia Toto, Braeden LeBeau, and Saoirse Burke this year.

“Becoming a captain was absolutely amazing. I never expected to even run for captain,” Marissa says. “When I did and I got it, I was shook. I really wanted to be a captain. Showing that I could have that responsibility meant a lot for me.”

After only picking up the sport four years ago, Marissa never expected to earn a starting varsity role and become the lacrosse player that she is today. With all of the wins and honors that she’s been a part of, Marissa says that her biggest victory is that she’s been able to do all of it in North Branford.

“We have such good chemistry on this team. Everyone is friends. We all take it seriously. We all work hard, get out there, and go to practice,” says Marissa says. “Being a part of North Branford lacrosse is a great opportunity more people should do as freshmen. There’s such great team bonding, alongside playing varsity and winning those awards. It all adds up in the end.”