Glory Days photo/Sully

By DAVE O’SULLIVAN
Staff Writer
When trying to build a contending soccer program it’s critical to have a player such as Sydney Sorrentino to help lay the foundation for success. Ashley Koester just finished up her second year leading the Hammonton girls program and after a shortened 5-5 covid season in 2020, the Blue Devils went 5-8-2 this year and earned a berth in the state playoffs.
The record may not have been glamorous, but this is a young team that scored quality wins over Egg Harbor Township and Middle Township and only lost 2-0 in the playoffs to Lacey Township, the eventual South Jersey Group 3 champion. Much of the Blue Devils’ success, especially on defense, can be attributed to Sorrentino, a high-level club player who set the tone in the back as the team’s sweeper. She could easily have led the team in scoring had she been up top as a forward, but Koester said she needed her in the back as the last line of defense in front of junior goalie Emma Peretti.
“This year I played primarily sweeper, which limited my opportunities to get up the field with the offense, but I also really enjoyed the challenge of being the last one back,” Sorrentino said. “I really enjoyed the bond this team created. This year, our team was really close. We had so many pasta parties and team bonding events that really brought us together.
“I just loved that I had a big role on the team,” added Sorrentino, who has been playing soccer since she was 4 years old. “We were a very young team this year, so my biggest role was to help develop the younger players and help them for the future. It was also important to me to carry myself the right way because everyone was always looking up at me to see how to react. I tried to always be there to motivate the team and bring them up.”
“I’ve only been coaching for two years here but she’s been excellent in the two years I’ve had her, and from what I’ve heard she had really good freshman and sophomore seasons as well. I tried to put her in a position where I can get the most out of her,” Koester explained. “I’d love to have her on the outside just to get her into the attack more often than we already have her there now because she’s that dangerous of a player, but we need her on our back line to help defensively. But even as a defensive player I’ll throw her up top often. Unfortunately, with our lack of experience on the back line, I needed her in the center of things to make sure she took care of anything that got through our defense. My first impression of her was, how can I get the most out of this kid? Obviously, she is a special player.”
With Sorrentino manning the back, only three teams all season were able to score more than two goals against Hammonton, a testament to how strong that combination of Sorrentino and Peretti was all year. Sorrentino said she took her captain’s role seriously, and tried to lead the way for the next generation of Blue Devils with an example of hard work, determination and hustle.
“The amount of people I’ve played with — and I’ve played with some really good kids — I think they’ve helped me develop my character as a person as well as my soccer skills. That’s what I wanted to do this year with our younger girls. I wanted to help them develop, and I think playing soccer with really good people from the time I was 4 years old really helped build up my character and soccer skills,” said Sorrentino, who is also involved in activities such as student council and peer mediation at Hammonton High. “I definitely wanted to do what captains did for me, they helped me develop when I was younger, so I wanted to help the younger kids. I created a lot of really good bonds with the freshmen and sophomores, but also the juniors and seniors. I think bonding together helped us connect out there on the soccer field.”
“As a captain, she’s a great leader. Having that kid who you don’t really have to worry about coaching them up — I have six or seven other kids who I really have to focus on and help develop, so to not have to worry about her, and, to have her as an example, like, hey, watch Sydney do this. She’s done a lot for us where we’ll say, ‘hey, Sydney’s doing it this way instead of this way, try that.’ She’s great to have in that respect,” Koester said. “All her teammates love her. She does a great job of being serious when we need to be serious, and getting the kids moving when we need to be moving, but she also understands that soccer is fun and they all chose to play this game because they love it. She does a really good job of having fun with it and getting the other kids involved and having fun with soccer. She knows when we need to be serious, but she also knows when it’s time to have some fun and laugh and goof around with her teammates.
“She’s a great kid who we’re really going to miss next year.”
Sorrentino said she’d like to play soccer at the college level while potentially studying education or nursing. She looks back fondly on her high school soccer career, which included 20 wins and a lot of memories.
“I think my career at Hammonton is always going to be a big part of my life. I’ve made a lot of really good friendships, and I’ll always remember playing with all the different grade level and just all these good players I played with,” she said. “I’ll also never forget the amount of fun I’ve had during my four years here — the playoff games, the bus rides — I think all that made high school soccer so much fun. Having the experience of playing sports in high school can help develop anybody’s character and skill. The past four years, I’ve become such a better person and a better player. I’ve learned so much from our coaching staff and the players I’ve played with.”

Contact Dave O’Sullivan: sullyglorydays@gmail.com; on Twitter @GDsullysays