Sports Person of the Week
Gaetano Thrives at the Midfielder Position
Junior Gabby Gaetano is in her third season as a starting varsity midfielder with the East Haven girls’ soccer squad. (Photo courtesy of Gabby Gaetano)
Gabby Gaetano has been a varsity starter from her first day as a member of the East Haven girls’ soccer team. Gabby, a junior, has made constant progress on the pitch the past few years to become a key part of the Easties’ success as a midfielder.
Gabby started playing soccer in the East Haven town league when she was six. Initially, Gabby took up the sport as a way to spend time with her friends. However, the more she played, Gabby realized how much she truly enjoyed soccer.
“All my friends were playing. I just joined for fun. It just grew from there,” says Gabby. “At first, when I was getting used to it, it was difficult. But once I started to get it, I actually really liked it.”
Gabby played in the town league until her freshman year at East Haven. Gabby feels that playing for the same coaches and with the same teammates proved crucial in her improvement, in addition to fostering her love for the sport.
Gabby was predominantly a defender during her time in the youth league. Once Gabby got to high school, Yellowjackets’ Head Coach Jake Hackett moved her up to the midfield. It was a difficult transition at first, but Gabby worked with Coach Hackett to learn how to play the midfielder’s position.
“Defense is totally different from midfield. I didn’t really have any experience with it,” Gabby says. “Coach Jake really had to work me through it and taught me a lot about the whole position—what to do and where to go. Without him, I wouldn’t have any clue what to do.”
Despite playing a brand-new position, Gabby earned a starting midfielder’s spot with East Haven’s varsity team in her freshman season. Between the position change and being a varsity starter, Gabby’s first year was a bit nerve-wracking. However, with her teammates by her side, Gabby felt more comfortable as the year went on.
“It was really scary. Youth is slower and just different. Getting up to high school and starting, you have a lot of pressure on you,” says Gabby. “I had to make sure I played the position right, especially after not playing it. I didn’t want to disappoint my team or my coach and make sure that everyone is happy with you and your performance.”
Coach Hackett saw Gabby’s potential when he named her a varsity starter at the outset of her high school career. In the ensuing seasons, Hackett has seen Gabby continually improve while displaying a great work ethic every single day.
“Gabby, since day one, has been a contributor to the program. Her work rate was the first thing that stood out to me. She was a player who wanted to work to get better,” Hackett says. “This year, Gabby is starting in our midfield, and I couldn’t be happier so far. She works hard every day and continues to develop her game. She is both a great player and great teammate.”
When she was a freshman, Gabby was afraid to have the ball at her feet. Now, she goes out of her way to get the ball. Gabby credits her teammates for that boost in confidence. Many of the athletes on this year’s team played together during Gabby’s U-12 season with the East Haven town league, where the team won the state championship. Gabby says that everyone’s chemistry has only grown stronger since then.
“Ever since I started, we have always clicked,” says Gabby. “We went to Maryland together when we won states. We have always just been super close. Getting up to high school with them really helped my confidence when I was starting as a freshman.”
In addition to soccer, Gabby is also a member of the East Haven girls’ basketball team. A guard, Gabby has played for the Yellowjackets since she was a freshman and saw consistent varsity minutes as a sophomore last winter.
Gabby is hoping to help the girls’ soccer team win as many games as possible and make a statement during the playoffs this season. After playing for East Haven throughout her career, Gabby feels honored to represent her hometown whenever she sets foot on the field.
“It means a lot to me. I love walking around school and saying, ‘We have a soccer game today.’” Gabby says. “East Haven has been my town forever. Stepping on the field and representing my town is the most important thing.”