Trumbull's Ana Carlos playing soccer at Quinnipiac

Ana Carlos signs her National Letter of Intent to play soccer at Quinnipiac University.

Ana Carlos signs her National Letter of Intent to play soccer at Quinnipiac University.

Trumbull Athletics / Contributed photo

TRUMBULL - Ana Carlos’ father instilled a love of soccer into the Trumbull High standout, who used that passion for the game and her athletic prowess to sign a National Letter of Intent to play for head coach Dave Clarke’s Quinnipiac University Division I team in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference.

“I’ll play anywhere I’m asked in the midfield. I’m not locked down to a specific position or role, its wherever they need me,” Carlos said. “My dad Fernando played at UConn. My mom Tina and dad have helped me every step I have taken.” Her father, a 1989 graduate, helped head coach Ray Reid’s team to three NCAA appearances and lettered all four seasons. He earned Big East All-Tournament team honors in 1988 and earned the Eric S. Lund Memorial Award presented to the player who exemplifies tremendous desire to excel, enthusiasm and courage.

Clarke likes Carlos’ versatility.

“Ana has a physical presence and I like that she can play a number of positions up the middle,” Clarke said. “She could end up playing center back, she could play in midfield, she could play a defensive midfield role. Ana has size (5-foot-8), strength and has comfortability on the ball as well.”

Carlos first met Clarke when she was invited to play for the Academy, which takes the top two of three players age groups U15-U18 from US Soccer Club’s Elite Clubs National League program.

“I was playing soccer with the Connecticut Football Club in the spring of my sophomore year and Coach Clarke saw me play and I was invited to play for the Academy program,” Carlos said. “I liked Coach Clarke’s coaching style. Being invited to play for the Academy meant extra training and an opportunity to play against other high-level programs at the end of season.”

Carlos played at the Academy with FCIAC stalwarts including Sophia Lowenberg (Trumbull), Andriana Cabral (St. Joseph), Autumn Smith (Staples), Gaby Gonzalez (Staples) and Mary Lundregan (St. Joseph).

Clarke said: “I had the opportunity to coach Ana through the Academy program. That is a good standard. Players that are going to the UConn’s and the Wake Forests of the world are in that program, so it was a good opportunity to see her play and train against that level of players. Ana had been on our radar before that, but when you get to see players play in that kind of environment its helpful.”

Quinnipiac’s academic standing played a part in Carlos’ decision.

“There is a wide variety of high-level courses and paths that they offer,” said Carlos, who will wait to declare a major. “With numerous career paths I feel good that there are many great programs to choose from once I make a decision.”

Carlos held interests outside soccer, but unlike many of her peers it was dance.

“Soccer and dance have been prominent in my life,” said Carlos, who would dance along with older sister Lucy, who now attends UConn. “It came to a point where I had to choose, and I chose soccer. It was the best decision I could have made. I enjoy every day playing soccer with my friends.”

Trumbull coach Rich Sutherland understands why Clarke is impressed with Carlos.

“Technically, Ana is a very gifted player who leads by example on the field with her work rate, ability on the ball and impact on every game,” Sutherland said of his two-year captain. “Ana scored many goals, some very important ones, through her four years and will be sorely missed by the program next year. She is a highly respected member of the team and has more than merited her inclusion in the All-FCIAC teams over the past few seasons. I believe Ana will do very well at Quinnipiac.”

Carlos and her teammates had to battle through the COVID-19 pandemic to earn a piece of the FCIAC East Division title.

“When we got the go ahead to start training again, we were all excited to get back out on the field after being in lockdown for so long,” Carlos said. “We went into summer with the mindset that our fall season was a definite, while nothing was guaranteed. From the coaches, the captains and all the way through the team our chemistry was amazing. We had fun but held each other accountable. We were ultimately FCIAC co-champs and we worked hard to achieve that.”

Carlos had no trouble remembering her top moment.

“Our first game this season we beat St. Joe’s,” Carlos said. “Trumbull hadn’t beaten them in eight years and the feeling after the game with everyone storming the field was so amazing. This was a game where all the hard work paid off even with all the curveballs (pandemic). We had been working for this (win) for many years and it felt good.”

QUINNIPIAC SOCCER

Recruiting through the pandemic for Clarke, who in 2019 guided Quinnipiac to the MAAC semifinal round of the playoffs with one of the youngest team in program history, has been interesting.

“It’s slowed it down, which isn’t a bad thing. Women’s soccer has an accelerated recruiting calendar which is why you see these early commitments from freshman and sophomores,” Clarke said. “I understand it, why players at that level make commitments to the Stamford’s and UCLA’s, Carolina’s.

“For most of the players, I think it is a year too soon, but that’s not my call. I think with the pandemic it has slowed it down,” he said. “The top players are still deciding to go early, but the majority of recruits, let’s say the mid-majors and the lower level Division I, those players are now starting to do more research, take their time because they can’t visit the campus, they can’t attend clinics, they can’t play in front of coaches live. They are the ones now doing the recruiting process. I’ve seen it in our numbers. We are getting calls and emails from players on the West Coast, from players in the upper Mid-West, down South, from places we’ve never heard from previously.”

Clarke has no answer to what the next few seasons will yield in terms of victories.

“I have a class of 2021 that hasn’t played yet, I have a class of 2020 that hasn’t played a game at Quinnipiac yet. So, by the time we start in the fall I’ll have two classes who’ve never kicked the ball and by what will be their junior year will have only one year of soccer behind them,” Clarke said.

“The 2021 players like Ana Carlos had already committed before the pandemic started, verbally anyway. Those players that were seen or attended a clinic with the schools they wanted to go to have obviously had an advantage,” he said. “For someone like Ana, who you know from high school, who you know through club and got to see play with the team. If she was 2022 It would be a little bit difficult. I wouldn’t be able to see her live, I wouldn’t be able to meet with her, I wouldn’t be able to do the follow up. Everything would be by Zoom and video and that’s not ideal.”

“For us recruiting for 2022 we are waiting until after the April 15, 2021 period to see is we can go talk to players, meet with players, watch players. It is about being patient. We will lose some good players here and there but in the long run it will be better to see what happens.”

william.bloxsom@hearstmediact.com Twitter: @blox354