BRISTOL - Before the offseason began for the Bristol Eastern girls soccer team, the Lancers were already aware of the name Ciara Collins.
The freshman midfielder had been a standout player at the middle school level and her ability to score goals was one of the reasons her name was floating around as a potential varsity player.
“I knew she was coming in and all of us knew she was coming in. We knew she was going to be really good, so we were looking forward to that,” Lancers senior captain Myah Croze said. “She’s really good, especially being a freshman and playing the whole game.”
But being a star player at the middle school level of play is different than doing so at the varsity level in high school.
Day one in the offseason Collins showed she was more than ready, though.
“She came into this season in incredible shape and she was in the best shape of anyone on our team and that’s where she first stood out to us, even in the offseason conditioning before I could see any of her soccer specific skills.,” Bristol Eastern head coach Scott Redman said. “But then you get her on the field and you can see her touch is top notch and her understanding of where to be positioning and shape wise is really above her years and she makes a huge difference on our team specifically but I could see how she could make a difference on any team.”
Monday night against Bristol Central was a different experience and something Collins had yet to be exposed to as a player.
While she hadn’t played in the rivalry game yet, it’s no secret the hype the game brings and the bragging rights it offers.
“I knew going in it was going to be a really competitive game,” Collins said. “Everybody was talking about it and I know it was a big deal. I’ve gone to some of the games before, too, and I’ve seen how competitive it is. But actually playing in it and seeing how physical everyone is and how intense it is even before the game it was nothing I’ve ever been a part of.”
The rivalry game was a chance for the freshman to truly arrive at the varsity level and make her presence felt on a big stage.
She took full advantage of that opportunity.
With Bristol Eastern trailing 1-0 and time running out in the second half, Collins delivered the game-tying goal in the 1-1 draw against the Rams.
“One of my teammates said to set a goal for myself before the game and that was my goal, I wanted to score,” Collins said. “I watched a video of [the goal] after and I don’t know how it went in. In the moment it felt so good.”
It was Collins’ second goal of the season, the first coming against Plainville in the Lancers’ first game of the year. She’s currently second on the team in goals scored behind Croze, and since that game Collins has continued her adjustment to the varsity level of play.
She’s done so in a spot where that isn’t easy.
“She stepped into a pretty critical role for us playing in the middle of the field,” Redman said. “As a freshman I thought she played a little timid earlier in the year, especially in that Plainville game. But I think she learned quickly that she could handle herself and when she plays the right she’s not overwhelmed by that position or that spot but when she played timid in the first game I think she learned that she has to play stronger and more physical and she’s done that since and played really, really well.”
The start to Collins’ career couldn’t have been scripted any better, scoring in both her first varsity game and the Bristol Central game.
Collins has already established herself as a standout player, now at the high school level as a freshman, even though she may not play like one.
“Freshman year you’re usually nervous, but she’s not showing that she’s nervous,” Croze said. “She just goes out there and plays her hardest. Whether she’s a freshman or senior, you wouldn’t be able to tell by the way she plays.”
Bristol Eastern knew her name before she got to the school, but with her ability now on film for opposing teams to see, it’s a safe bet most teams now know the name, too.