Over the last four years at Cheshire High School, senior Sophie Vagts has displayed her versatility as a three-sport athlete. However, while she has enjoyed her experiences in basketball and softball, she has shined the brightest as a four-year varsity player in field hockey.
“After junior year, I figured out that I wanted to play field hockey in college,” reflected Vagts. “I feel a different connection to the sport compared to other ones. I enjoy playing it and can see myself wanting to keep getting better for the next four years.”
After taking her time to go through the recruiting process, Vagts feels she has the most room to grow athletically and in the classroom at Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania. Last month, she picked the school over Connecticut College, as well as Western New England University, Mount Holyoke College, and Clark University in Massachusetts.
“It is amazing to commit there,” said Vagts. “I was looking for a strong academic school with a great field hockey program. Everything about the school fit for me.”
Vagts felt that she made an immediate connection after speaking with Bryn Mawr Head Coach Victor Brady and some of the field hockey players. While the Eagles had their 2020 season canceled due to COVID-19, the Owls went 14-4 the year before and made the Centennial Conference Tournament.
“Victor is a great guy,” stated Vagts. “I’m excited to play for him.”
This fall, Vagts hopes to earn playing time as a freshman at Bryn Mawr.
“Victor Brady has been building up the program ever since he got there and I’m excited to be a part of it,” stated Vagts.
Due to coronavirus restrictions last year, Vagts was unable to visit Bryn Mawr, but she will get to make the trip this week.
“This is actually the perfect school. You don’t need to visit because it is one of the most beautiful campuses. Over FaceTime, my coach (Brady) did show me the inside of the buildings,” stated Vagts.
After having a co-ed experience throughout her life, Vagts will now attend an all-girl school. Bryn Mawr is one of seven sister colleges in the Northeast.
“I’m excited about this opportunity,” stated Vagts. “I’ve spoken to people who go to all-girl schools.”
In having worked with Vagts as a player and student, CHS field hockey head coach Eileen Wildermann feels that she will thrive on the next level.
“I’m so happy for her,” said Wildermann. “She is so serious about her studies and has become serious about field hockey.”
This college choice has personal significance for Wildermann, who grew up in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania and had an all-girl high school experience at Sacred Heart Academy.
“I love the area,” said Wildermann, who played field hockey at Quinnipiac University before coming to coach at CHS in 2008. “I’m going to go see her (Vagts) play there. My family will also go to watch games without me.”
“I think it is absolutely amazing to get to go to school where she (Wildermann) grew up,” added Vagts.
As a seventh grader, Vagts started playing field hockey at Dodd Middle School. In transitioning to the CHS program in 2017, she worked her way into being a freshman starter and was then elevated to the junior varsity and varsity levels.
Vagts credits freshman coach Michelle Vieira for her rapid improvement. Vieira also coached Vagts in basketball before stepping down at the end of last season.
“Michelle was a huge help to me at the start of my career,” recalled Vagts. “She also molded me in basketball.”
As a freshman, Vagts didn’t expect to get varsity time, but when she was given the opportunity she took advantage of it. Making her debut at Shelton, she tallied two assists in a 7-0 shutout.
“It was an underdog moment for me,” reflected Vagts. “I was able to grab the attention of Coach (Wildermann) to make it to varsity.”
“She is so athletic,” stated Wildermann. “Sophie is an unconventional player in a good way. You can miss her at first like I did, but once you see her speed and determination, she is so fun to watch.”
In 2018, Vagts saw more time off the bench and scored two goals. For the first time in 28 years, the Rams earned an unbeaten regular season (16-0) and set a single-season record with 19 shutouts.
After winning the Southern Connecticut Conference regular-season title, CHS placed runner-up in the SCC and Class L tournaments.
“That year was amazing,” said Vagts. “The seniors were huge role models for everyone on that team. We wouldn’t be the players we are today without them.”
After graduation losses opened up positions in 2019, Vagts seized the opportunity to produce a breakout season. As a junior, she led the Rams in goals (14) and points (17), earning Offensive Player of the Year, All-SCC Second Team, and Connecticut High School Coaches Association Junior All-Star.
“I gained a lot of confidence last year,” recalled Vagts. “When you start on a new team, it is scary. It takes time to find yourself.”
In the 2019 SCC quarterfinals, Vagts scored Cheshire’s two goals at Daniel Hand, but the Rams came up short in a 3-2 loss (6-3 in shoot-out).
“I don’t get those goals without the girls getting me the ball,” Vagts explained. “The defense played amazing in that game, too.”
Vagts came up clutch again in the 2019 Class L First Round, tallying a goal and an assist to help propel Cheshire to a 3-2 victory over Fairfield Warde. In overtime, she scored the game-winner on a pass from Olivia Salamone.
“Liv had an amazing drive and I just tipped the ball into the cage,” recalled Vagts. “It was great to have the seniors win their final home game.”
In returning last fall to compete amid the pandemic, Vagts felt fortunate to get to play in her senior season. While having their schedule scaled back, the Rams earned their second perfect regular season (10-0) in the last three years.
“Our season showed that we enjoy the moment,” said Vagts. “We focused on playing with each other instead of things that we couldn’t control.”
In one of her favorite games, on Oct. 8, Cheshire won 3-1 over Guilford to end their rival’s 33-game unbeaten streak. Vagts contributed two goals, the second of which stood up as the game-winner.
“We came into that game with the mindset that we were going to have a lot of fun,” reflected Vagts “We connected so well on the field.”
As a senior, Vagts compiled eight goals and six assists to garner All-SCC Division A distinction.
“From junior year on, she got better every game,” reflected Wildermann. “She came into this year with such a love for the game.”
In a personal milestone on Oct 28, Vagts stepped up to earn her first hat trick in the fourth quarter of a 3-0 victory at Hamden.
“I could tell by her face that she was going to score,” recalled Wildermann. “She was chomping at the bit to come back for that last quarter. We were dominating with possession from the start, but she allowed us to relax in that game.”
Vagts enjoyed getting to play one more season under Wildermann, who earned her 200th victory with a 3-1 win over Branford in the SCC Division A semifinals on Nov. 9.
“She is an amazing coach,” said Vagts. “I was so happy that I could be on the team to get her that (milestone).”
The Rams took an 11-0 record into their SCC final on Nov. 11, but Guilford used a 4-0 run to earn a 5-1 victory at CHS.
“We hadn’t been down in a game all year, so that was hard,” stated Vagts. “The seniors were crying at the end, but it wasn’t because we lost the game. We realized that we weren’t going to play together anymore.”
Vagts will graduate among 13 girls from the Cheshire program.
“I’m going miss everyone,” reflected Vagts. “I’ll never forget turning to see (co-captain) Raegan (Bailey) and making funny faces at each other or looking back at Taylor (Warburton) on defense.”
While she has achieved most of her honors in field hockey, Vagts has also contributed to the success of the girls’ basketball and softball teams at CHS. As a courtesy runner in her first two years, Vagts used her speed to help the Rams win consecutive Hammonasset Division titles. In 2019, Cheshire also captured the SCC crown and made the Class LL semifinals for the fifth season in a row.
Last year, Vagts decided to make a change and try out for outdoor track and field team, but the pandemic led to the spring season being canceled.
“Softball is an amazing sport, but I didn’t love it like field hockey. Coach (Kristine) Drust and Coach (Jaymie) Sommers are great people. They were so supportive when I told them that I was moving on,” explained Vagts. “I’m considering running track in the spring this year, but I also work, so we’ll see what happens.”
Vagts lists basketball as her second favorite sport. Last season, she provided a key bench role in the Rams winning their last three regular-season games to make the Class LL Tournament. In the regular-season finale, CHS pulled out a 47-42 overtime win over North Haven on Senior Night.
“I had so much fun winning that last game,” Vagts reflected. “The team played so well.”
She is currently working out in hopes of playing her senior season for new head coach Angelica Ariola. As of press time, the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference is planning to have winter sports teams start practice on Jan. 19.
“It is sad that Michelle (Vieira) stepped down at the end of last season, but the new coach is a sweetheart,” stated Vagts.