NATIONAL SIGNING DAY: Blue Knights package four (for starters) for the next level

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SOUTHINGTON — Three girls soccer players and one baseball player put pen to paper Wednesday during Southington High School’s National Signing Day ceremony at the school.

The Lady Knights had a pair of Division-I signees in Jessica Carr, who is heading to UConn, and Sofia Scalise, who commited to Holy Cross. Their teammate, Avia Burns, inked with D-II Post University.

Also heading to Post is pitcher C.J. Pierce.

The three soccer playes were aboard for four of the most successful seasons in program history. The 2019 team made the Class LL state final, the 2020 Knights were unbeaten regional champs in the COVID-shortened year that saw no state tournament and the 2022 team reached the Class LL quarterfinals.

“Each of the three players signing this afternoon made a significant contribution to the program and we thank them and wish them the best of luck as they pursue their dreams in playing soccer at the college level,” Southington coach Mike Linehan said during Wednesday’s ceremony. 

Carr, a two-year captain, was a starter as a freshman on the 2019 Class LL runner-up team. She’s been an elite player in the conference and in the state as her career advanced.

“Jess is a ball-winner and a fierce competitor in the midfield,” Linehan said. “She is a player you build teams around. She has great ball-control and can make the final pass that makes you scratch your head and ask, ‘How did she do that.’ I can’t count the number of times I have said, ‘Great pass, great ball!’

“Coaches, referees, reporters, other players, fans have commented on how well she can see the field and, frankly, can make the game look so easy,” Linehan added. “She makes great decisions with the ball and other players enjoy playing with her. She reads the game so well, which allows her to make the one-touch pass to the right player at the right time.”

Linehan added that Carr’s trademark is her ability to head the ball both offensively and defensively.

“She was so good in the air. Winning head balls is both a skill and a passion, and she was one of the best at it for the past four years,” Linehan said. “Jess has the maturity of a leader on and off the field and has led by example.”

The midfielder has a career total of 38 goals and 24 assists. She was named All-CCC and All-Recod-Journal all four seasons. She was also named All-State and All-New England and was an All-American nomination.

Carr has played for the Elite Club’s National League FSA FC for the last four years and was a three time ENCL All-Conference selection and was named two times to the New England Soccer Journal Northeast “Players to Watch” List. Carr was also a ICC International Futures Team Selection four times and was a Olympic Training Center invitee.

The next stop is Storrs, and Carr made it official while flanked by her parents Kimberly and Ernie.

“It feels great to finally set this in stone,” Carr said. “My parents were great athletes and my siblings are in college and doing well. There was some pressure for me to do well, too, and I liked that.”

Billy Carr plays football at Springfield College and Allie Carr plays soccer at Pace University. One more Carr sibling — Thomas — is in eighth grade.

Jess Carr intends on studying business at UConn.

“It was the best four years of my life,” Carr said of her years at Southington. “Everything was memorable. I feel the connection with the girls. It was a great four years and I wouldn’t have done any of this without my team.”

Carr said UConn was always her first choice because she always watched and followed UConn sports and she wanted stay close to home.

“I wanted to be a Husky,” Carr said.

Scalise is heading to the Patriot League with Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass.

In Southington, Scalise made her varsity debut as a sophomore and impressed quickly with her dynamic runs with the ball down the left side of the field. It became her trademark. 

“In addition to her ability to serve balls, she was also a great defender and someone that will be difficult to replace,” Linehan said. “The left side of the back line has been an important piece of our success. Players like Lauren Verrilli, R-J Female Athlete of the Year in 2020, were dominant in this position for several years and were shoes difficult to replace. Yet, Sofia filled them and exceeded all expectations, and made a name for herself both in the high school and premier levels.”

Scalise served as a team captain this fall and was the team’s R-J Scholar-Athlete. The defender finished her career with eight goals and seven assists.

Like Carr, Scalise was selected to play in the 2022 Senior Bowl and played premier ball with Elite Club’s National League FSA FC.

Scalise, who started playing soccer at age 4, signed Wednesday alongside her family, including parents Janet and Jonathan.

“I loved my time playing at Southington,” Scalise said. “Each year got progressively better and it’s so much fun being with the girls.”

Scalise will pursue Health Studies at Holy Cross and plans on entering the pre-med or pre-law program.

On the field, Scalise relies on her speed and isn’t afraid to be the last defender running down opposing attackers.

“I’m a dependable player,” Scalise said. “I like to be someone to be counted on. I’m also very excited to sign here today and having this experience with my teammates.”

The speedy Burns will be playing D-II soccer at Post University in Waterbury. She was a three-year varsity player for the Blue Knights and also played with the Oakwood Premier Club.

“A success story for many younger players to learn from, a varsity career that started with limited playing time to a player that started in her last game as a senior in the quarterfinals,” Linehan noted. “Her playing time on the varsity team increased from year to year and resulted in her playing significant minutes in making a serious contribution to the success of the team her senior year.”

Burns is versatile. She can play most positions on the field, according to Linehan, and play them well.

“If you needed her in the midfield, as a forward or outside back, Avia was an option,” the Southington coach said. “And most of all, she never, never complained. She made the most of every time and every situation she was on the field.

“These are the many reasons why Avia was recruited by Post. She is the diamond in the rough.”

Burns, who also competes in track at Southington, was joined Wednesday by her parents, Jason and Candace, and her brothers, Tyree and Charlie.

“It means a lot,” Burns said. “It was a really long process. I wasn’t sure if I was going to play in college, but after working in the offseason, I decided to go for it.”

Burns will study Biology at Post.

“I started looking around at different schools and was set on going away from home,” she added. “I went to a clinic at Post in the summer and I liked the coach and the overall environment.”

As for Pierce, the right-hander is coming off of a strong season in the bullpen during Southington’s march to the 2022 Class LL state final. He had 13 appearances, all in relief, and was 1-0 with a 2.47 ERA and two saves.

He was a strikeout machine, fanning 33 in 17 innings. He surrendered nine hits – all singles – and walked 11.

Pierce has a fastball in the low-to-mid 80s, a good curveball and a great work ethic, according to Southington baseball coach Stan Switala. 

“He was an outstanding guy to come out of the pen last year,” Switala said. “I put him in a lot of tough situations last year and he got us out of them.”

Pierce will be the No. 1 in the Southington rotation this spring and will serve as a team captain.

“He goes out there thinking he’s better than everyone else, and that’s the key,” Switala said. “He’s not afraid of any hitter and he wants to battle that hitter. He does a great job. He will excel at the next level.”

Pierce is a swing-and-miss pitcher who challenges with his fastball, which runs in on batters’ hands. He can also paint the corners.

“He’s a big reason why we went to the state championship game,” Switala said. “His work ethic is impeccable and he’s a bulldog on the mound.”

Pierce has been playing since he was 4-years old. His parents Molly and Chris were in attendance Wednesday along with his brother Max.

“I have a lot of junk pitches and I always try to overpower the hitter with my fastball,” Pierce said. “I like to work fast; I don’t like a lot of time between pitches.”

Pierce plays in the summer with the All Access Black Knights. He will study Accounting at Post.


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