The last decade has seen the Branford cheerleading program establish a tradition of excellence which had featured six Southern Connecticut Conference titles and then a state championship in 2011. But after claiming all those crowns in the coed division, the Hornets competed with a strictly female squad last season and came up shy of any postseason victories. Consequently, Coach Megan Morrissey created a theme for this year's team called 'Back to Basics,' which involved Branford stressing cheerleading's fundamentals in an effort to be once again crowned the SCC's best. That's exactly what transpired at Shelton High School on Feb. 2 as Branford performed a stellar routine which used a mix of fundamentals and glowing personalities en route to a first-place finish in the girls' division at the SCC Championship.
"This says that we're back and that we don't need a boy to help us win," said senior captain Marissa Koch, who earned All-SCC honors. "We can do it ourselves because we're motivated to do whatever it takes."
The Hornets' two-and-a-half minute routine was comprised of one minute of cheering and 1:30 of music that included The Beatles's hit 'I Want to Hold Your Hand' during their pyramid stunt, along with plenty of rapid running and tumbling. Coach Morrissey said there was one slight mistake during the middle of the performance, yet was glad to see her 12 athletes make a swift recovery in executing a clean routine.
"We started strong and ended strong and maximized points wherever we could," said Morrissey, who was recently named Connecticut's Coach of the Year. "We have a lot of new faces on the team this year so we made our theme 'Back to Basics' because we had to train the new kids by breaking everything down to its basic form and then building up. We felt our girls had done one of their best routines so far as they really hit the things we had been working on."
Still, Morrissey wasn't completely sold that her Hornets would emerge victorious because "the division was extremely competitive this year with so many fantastic teams." But in the end, after Foran was named the runner-up with 74.2 points, it was indeed Branford which was announced as the SCC champion by totaling 78.
"It was a complete shock to hear our names called with so many good teams in the SCC," said Morrissey, who's in her 13th season and is assisted by Melissa Hall and Melissa Mansi. "This season has been an absolute dream come true so far and now we're going to enjoy this and then focus on areas we still need to improve to get ready for states."
The athletes who guided Branford to the SCC championship are senior captains Kosh and Becka Sharretto, juniors Jackie Rahl, Julia Goodwin, Nicole Bonfiglio, Paige Lyon, Sabrina Kosh, and Sarah Costa; along with sophomores Aviance Clinepeat, Alexa Boyd, and Taylor Miller; plus freshman Gerling Daniels.
Like her fellow captain Kosh, Sharretto was expectedly thrilled to help Branford cheerleading get back to the top of the SCC and discussed some of the things which ensured that happened, both at the meet and in the weeks leading up to it.
"Definitely, our personality. We were so happy to be on the floor together like a family and that showed in everything we did," said Sharretto of the routine. "We all get bumped around a bit at practice, but then we get right back up and know we can't give up because we want it so bad."
Added Kosh: "After we finished our routine, we knew we had done the best we could. After we won, we were all crying and it was the best feeling in the world."