Athlete of the Issue: Christina Napolitano

By: Nimesha Gerlus ’13

Christina Napolitano is a 2012-2013 sixth-form captain of varsity soccer. Known and admired for her impressive talent and strong leadership qualities both on and off the field, Christina always maintains a positive attitude during soccer; the general consensus on the team is that her noticeable passion for the game and her high spirits are quite infectious. The combination of her remarkable skill as a player and a leader are what make Christina an athlete of the highest caliber.

Introduced to the sport at the age of five on a local recreational team, it is hard to believe that Christina did not perceive any particular talent in her playing until she was twelve. “Up until then, I was fast, but I had no skill,” says Christina.

Christina’s soccer experience atGrotonbegan with her entrance onto the varsity team during the season of her third form and first year atGroton. At first intimidated by her rookie status on the team, Christina quickly became more comfortable as her senior captains (Amelia Barnett and Abby Lincoln) took her under their wing, a sincere welcome to the team. “I didn’t feel babied the time – I felt equal. It was a carefree environment.” Christina reflected.

Fast-forward to the present, the season of Christina’s sixth form and last year atGroton. As a captain, Christina creates the same welcoming environment on the team as her captains created for her. She acknowledges that she never anticipated how she would act a captain, as a captain, she has gracefully and effectively handled the responsibility it takes. Christina notes, “I have to take into account the type of day a member on the team might have had and I have to gear the practice toward what people are in the mood for. It’s not about me, because I have to look out for my team mates, keep it fun and still be a leader.”

Mr. Cadeau has had the opportunity to observe her growth first hand. Mr. Cadeau had nothing but praise for her, saying that “Christina manages to convey her passion and her winning mentality to the team. She has improved physically and tactically over the past two years. She is really gritty on the field and always pressures the opponents’ back line. Christina is extremely effective in the air with good headers (she scored a beautiful one against Cushing last Friday), can hold the ball well with amazing technical skills and use both of her feet. She is also fast with or without the ball and hard to stop in the box where she tends to dive a lot—I mean she’s Italian, right?”

Although Christina concedes that she and Mr. Cadeau often butt heads over their rival nationalities, she views him as a major factor in her playing improvements since third form. His experience inFranceas a semi-professional soccer player allowed him to contribute to the more technical side of the soccer practice, always suggesting new ideas. In addition to Mr. Cadeau, Christina cites Ms. Mongan as another source of support throughoutGrotonsoccer. As her third form advisor, Ms. Mongan has consistently remained the team’s voice of encouragement. “She always knows how to keep the team going when we’re physically and mentally exhausted, and she knows how to rejuvenate our spirits,” said Christina.

Perhaps the most impressive aspect of Christina’s athleticism is her ability to juggle soccer with the other facets which comprise her life. In addition to girls’ varsity soccer atGroton, Christina plays on a club soccer team based inActon,Massachusetts. Her club team consists of year round practices three times a week, two games a weekend in the spring and three major club tournaments. “It’s definitely a really grueling schedule. It’s always been a struggle of mine to balance Groton life with my outside soccer, but as a result, I am better at time management and am also able make good judgment calls about what is more important in my life. I have had to skip school for certain events, but I knew when it was appropriate and when to tell my coach I simply couldn’t do it.” Additionally, club soccer has made Christina more appreciative of playing soccer just for the love of the game. “When I come to the field here, it’s not about the showcases or wondering what coaches might be there to watch me, if I’ll play enough or if I’ll be benched. If I have had a really stressful day, I can just play soccer,” says Christina.

Co-captain and fellow sixth former Catherine Walker-Jacks confirms Christina’s exceptionality as a player, commending her talent and corroborating Mr. Cadeau’s praise of her leadership qualities. “She’s really, really fast, and she is amazing as heading. She’s the best for sure. Christina is really aggressive, and never gives up opportunities on the field. She leads the team by example. She scores a lot, and can play for a whole game and not get tired. She is an impressive player,” says Catherine.

Christina’s hard work and tough balancing act atGrotonhave not been without rewards. Last spring, she was recruited to play soccer as a striker at College of the Holy Cross beginning next fall. “I have met my recruiting class and I have met current players at the camp this summer. They are all really nice girls with normal lives outside of soccer,” she says. We on the Circle wish Christina the best of luck with soccer and all other endeavors; her extensive accomplishments atGrotoncan only reap the most fruitful of results.

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