For Cheshire teenager Julia Hendrick, the game of soccer has impacted her life in many ways. In reflection, Hendrick feels that she has made countless friendships through the sport and also learned a lot about herself on and off the field.
“I would say that for all of my close friends, we met playing soccer. It is good to know people who have the same goals as you,” explained Hendrick, who started competing at age 3 or 4. “I like the creativity in the sport and the fact that I can work on my own to get better. Growing up, I practiced by myself, as well as with my dad and friends.”
After graduating from Cheshire High School last month, Hendrick looks forward to continuing to play soccer this fall at Western New England University in Massachusetts.
“I’m very excited, but also nervous because it is the next level and you need to be bigger and stronger,” said Hendrick, who played defensive back and outside mid-fielder at CHS.
“I’m proud of her,” said CHS girls’ soccer head coach Kylee McIntosh. “To see girls go on to be successful and follow their dreams is incredible.”
Hendrick considered Eastern Connecticut State University and the University of New Haven, as well as Franklin Pierce University and Keene State College in New Hampshire, but felt that she fell in love with WNE when visiting the campus last October.
“I got to meet the soccer team. I could see myself playing with them,” reflected Hendrick. “I was able to go in the buildings because the coach (Kristin Hensinger) worked there. The coach reminded me of Kylee and all of the other coaches I’ve liked in the past.”
The Golden Bears play in the Commonwealth Coast Conference. In joining the Division III program this year, Hendrick wants to fit in with her teammates and try to earn a starting spot.
“I was told that I would get a lot of playing time, so I just need to work my way up,” explained Hendrick.
As a sophomore at CHS, she first became interested in pursuing a college career.
“I saw other players going to the next level and I knew that is something that I wanted to do,” Hendrick said.
In reaching her goal, Hendrick is appreciative of the support of her parents and older brother John.
“I don’t think the I would be where I am today without my family,” Hendrick reflected.
Hendrick is happy that Cheshire teammates Danielle Ellis (Wellesley College-Massachusetts), Ellie Pergolotti (West Virginia Wesleyan College), and Seymone Rosenberg (Bard College-New York) will join her in college soccer this year.
“I think they are going to be really great,” said Hendrick. “They have great mind-sets and want to keep playing.”
For her favorite sport, Hendrick started playing in the Cheshire Soccer Club and then joined Academica Futebol Club at age 10. Last year AFC merged into Vale Soccer Club, but Hendrick chose to keep playing on the premier level.
“The coaches and players have pushed me to get to the next level and play in college,” stated Hendrick. “If I was struggling, they would work with me to get around it.”
Many of her club teammates also played at CHS.
“It was really nice not having to transition to new people,” said Hendrick. “As friends, we know each other’s skills, strengths, and weaknesses.”
After playing on the freshmen and junior varsity teams as an underclassman at CHS, Hendrick moved up to varsity and tallied five points (three goals, two assists) in her last two seasons.
With Cheshire dealing with injuries in 2019, Hendrick was among the players who stepped up and contributed to the Rams earning a 14-4-2 record.
“I was very excited,” said Hendrick. “Becoming a starter was a big confidence booster for me.”
The 2019 Rams went undefeated (7-0-1) to win the Housatonic Division crown and closed the regular season on a 11-1-2 stretch. Cheshire also won a game in the Southern Connecticut Conference and Class LL tournaments.
“We were upset about the injuries we faced, but it brought us together as a team,” said Hendrick. “We had to fight and see that we really wanted to have success.”
Hendrick felt that McIntosh helped her transition to the varsity level. In 2019, McIntosh moved from assistant to head coach to succeed James Luis.
“At first, we were all nervous about having a change, but thought that it was great to have a female coach and someone who played in college (at Marist),” stated Hendrick. “For recruiting, Kylee has helped a lot of girls go through the process.”
In returning among 13 seniors last year, Hendrick was thankful that the Rams could still play during the coronavirus pandemic.
“I was scared that we weren’t going to have a season,” recalled Hendrick. “When we were allowed to play, we wanted to do our best and win.”
While not allowed to play in states, Cheshire automatically qualified for the SCC Division A playoffs and reached the title game against Mercy. In a defensive struggle, Hendrick made a key play in clearing the ball away from an open net in the second half, but Mercy picked up a goal and earned a 1-0 victory.
“I was really proud of my team,” Hendrick said. “It was tough to lose, but it was a great game and we did our best.”
In joining the squad at WNE this year, she feels that adjusting to new teammates will be hard at first.
“I don’t know what I’ll do without my teammates,” stated Hendrick. “Hopefully, I’ll make a new group of friends when I go up there.”
Hendrick is currently working to prepare for the college game. This summer, she is teaming with Pergolotti on the Connecticut Fusion Second Team that competes in the United Women’s Soccer organization.
“Being a part of this team over the summer has made a stronger and smarter team player,” Hendrick said.
Hendrick feels that she has been pushed to her limits in competing against players like McIntosh, who competes for the Fusion First Team.
The Fusion Second Team has two more games left in their regular-season slate.