Nicole Belfonti got plenty of recognition this fall.
The Absegami High School senior became one of the most well-known forwards around southern New Jersey soccer fields.
Belfonti's skilled footwork, physicality and patience to execute allowed her to lead Absegami's build-up, possession style of play that was a staple of the Braves' most successful season to date.
When it came time to gun for the net, Belfonti often ended up with a goal or an assist. She finished with a team-high 19 goals and carried the team to the South Jersey Coaches Tournament and South Jersey Group IV finals.
Belfonti is the 2010 Press Girls Soccer Player of the Year.
Belfonti's goals often made the difference in tight games. She scored in 13 of the Braves' 18 wins, and scored eight game-winners.
"She's an amazing finisher and such a weapon," Absegami coach Elizabeth Lee said following the Braves' Coaches Tournament semifinal win over Bishop Eustace on Oct. 24.
Belfonti's quickness and athleticism frequently made her a target for other teams' defenders. Opposing coaches, players and spectators often knew to watch for No. 15 before the contests even began.
Belfonti, who will play Division I soccer for George Washington University next year, was quick to point out that she was not the only threat on the field in an Absegami uniform.
"Most of the credit just goes to my team. I'm not the only one who worked so hard," Belfonti said.
Belfonti was a team leader in a season in which the Braves put the Cape-Atlantic League on the map for girls soccer in the area.
While she is glad to end her high school soccer career having been a part of such a fantastic year, Belfonti hopes the Absegami seniors set a base for the soccer team in seasons to come.
"I'm happy to leave successfully, but I still have high expectations for the girls that will be there next season," Belfonti said.
With an impressive career at Absegami now behind her, Belfonti can look forward to playing at George Washington University, where fellow Absegami grads Tara Booker and Sara Mostafa play basketball. The Colonials' women's soccer team was 9-9 in 2010.
The transition to college-level soccer will be a little easier thanks to some of Belfonti's current teammates.
"It's exciting because I know all my teammates are scheduling to come watch me play in the fall. It's nice to know I still have their support," Belfonti said.
Team of the Year
It was a special season for Absegami, to say the very least.
The Braves (18-3-1) had one of the most successful seasons in Cape-Atlantic League girls soccer history.
Absegami was the first local girls team to ever reach the final round of the prestigious South Jersey Coaches Tournament. The Braves also reached the South Jersey Group IV final. Both championships were lost to Lenape, a perennial girls soccer power that is often nationally ranked among high school teams.
Absegami finishes at No. 3 in The Press Elite 11, the highest ranking for a local team. The Braves win the Elite 11 trophy for girls soccer.
The CAL is annually overlooked among girls soccer teams in southern New Jersey. Absegami proved on multiple occasions that it is one of the state's elite programs.
"The whole season was just very surreal," Lee said. "We had some pretty lofty goals going in and I think we surprised a lot of people, especially in the Olympic Conference."
The Braves were loaded with talent this fall. Belfonti, midfielder Erica Skroski, fullback Kelsey Tierney and goalie Hannah Paugh were all first-team Press All-Stars and only begin to highlight Absegami's depth.
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