SOCCER: Cheshire celebrates dual All-Americans
CHESHIRE — As Cheshire’s senior football captains, Gabby Tirado and Samir Dishnica have been following each other’s seasons closely this year.
It was a journey that eventually led to the state championship games at Trinity Health Stadium on the afternoon of November 20th.
It turned out that the road still had a curve. Tirado and Dishnica were both named High School All-Americans by the United Soccer Coaches Association.
“It was definitely incredible,” said Tirado. “Samir has become one of my best friends. He is one of the hardest workers I know.”
Tirado is the first CHS girls soccer player to receive this award. Dishnica is the first Cheshire boy to be an All-American since DJ Pereira 15 years ago.
“It was definitely an amazing feeling,” said Dishnica. “It felt great to be honored and to be the first (honored) since 2007.”
Dishnica notched a career-high 28 goals and 19 assists to help the Rams win their first state title since 1988.
“You don’t always get a player like that,” said coach Artur Branco. “He can change the direction of the game at any time. He’s been able to capitalize on the opportunities we created and he’s created a few for himself this year.”
Tirado also scored 28 goals this season. She added 13 assists as the Rams won 15-0-1 in the regular season, won the SCC Tournament Championship and advanced to the LL Class Finals where they lost to Staples.
“This is something that will be here forever. It’s so cool,” Tirado said. “I will forever be known as Cheshire’s first all-American girls soccer player.”
Dishnica was notified of his All-American status on December 3. Tirado had to wait two more days for the big news. She initially thought she didn’t make the list.
“I was in Nashville with my club team for a tournament. After I got off the plane to go home, I checked my messages and saw the email,” Tirado recalled. “I started to cry.”
Like Dishnica, Tirado was invited to an all-American banquet on January 14 in Philadelphia.
“It’s incredible whether she’s the first player or the 20th to make it here,” said Cheshire Girls head coach Kylee McIntosh. “I knew she wanted All-American, but it’s not easy to come by.”
After her freshman season, Tirado made it her goal to be an All-American by the time she graduated.
In her sophomore season, she earned an All-New England. Then came a junior season of star crossings when she broke her shin early in the campaign.
“That’s what I wanted to achieve,” Tirado recalls. “To receive this honor is very special as I only played three games last year.”
That year, Tirado and Dishnica were in lockstep on their way to All-American recognition. Both were named SCC Player of the Year, All-SCC First Team, All-State and All-New England. Both played in the Senior Bowl.
“We both played for our high school and for FSA (Farmington Sports Arena Football Club),” Dishnica added. “We will share these (honours) for the rest of our lives.”
Dishnica was also named the 2022 Greater New Haven Soccer Officials Association Player of the Year.
Tirado, on the other hand, had a tremendous recovery season after losing 2021.
“It was insanely heartbreaking,” recalled Tirado, who had led the Rams as top scorer in 2019 and 2020. “The team was there for me all season.”
Tirado started physical therapy two or three months after her injury, but didn’t feel at 100 percent until June or July of this year.
“I ran and lifted weights before I started playing again,” Tirado said.
Their healthy return played a key role for the Rams, who had the program’s best overall record this year (21-1-1).
“We got better game by game,” said Tirado, a tri-captain with classmates Anna Hurlbut and Helene Lopez.
Cheshire’s bid for a perfect regular season was thwarted by a 6-6 draw with Sacred Heart Academy in the Finals, but the Rams still went into the playoffs with an undefeated record.
In the SCC title game, Cheshire trailed Mercy 1-0 at halftime before Hurlbut and Tirado scored to land Cheshire’s first Conference crown in six years. Tirado’s game winner came with 3:15 to go.
“We’ve always talked about leaving a legacy for Cheshire,” Tirado said. “I said I’m not leaving here without winning something. Everyone on the team really wanted it.”
Tirado also hit the clutch in LL-Action class. She scored both of Cheshire’s goals, including her first with a header, in the 2-1 semi-final win over Ridgefield.
Cheshire Staples lost 4-1 in the program’s first state final in 14 years.
“Losing this game sucks but no matter what, it means a lot to reach the championship,” said Tirado, who describes the last four years as the best of her life.
“Some of my fondest memories were made here,” she said. “I will miss being part of the Cheshire High School community.”
Dishnica’s journey to the state championship began in last year’s LL final. Cheshire reached a boys’ state title game for the first time in 33 years, but fell 3-2 to Farmington.
“It was heartbreaking,” Dishnica recalled. “The loss has given us the motivation and the strength to achieve what we have achieved this year.”
In his senior year, Dishnica helped CHS to a 16-3-1. In the SCC semifinals, CHS lost 1-1 (4-3 penalties) to Fairfield Prep but recovered 4-0 in the L-class playoffs.
Cheshire trailed 1-0, 2-1 against Guilford in the semi-finals but Dishnica provided two goals and an assist in a 3-2 win.
A 3-1 championship win over SCC rivals Xavier followed, with Dishnica scoring one goal and assisting on another. He was named Finals MVP.
“I’m only as good as the teammates around me; I’m in this position because of them,” explained Dishnica, a quad captain with fellow riders Colin Brown, Muluken Marchand and Kevi Sulollari.
“After coming close last year, it was great to come back and win with the seniors,” Dishnica also said. “Getting a state title for (coach Branco) was amazing. He’s an experienced coach and it was great to play for him.”
Dishnica grew up in a football family. His older brother Eric, a 2016 graduate, also shone for the Rams.
“I remember watching him play under Coach Branco and the other coaches like it was yesterday,” Dishnica said. “It felt like yesterday when I came in first year.”
Another year of study is ahead. Dishnica plans to compete at the next level but hasn’t made up her mind about college just yet.
Tirado wants to play Division I football but is initially looking at a year after graduating from a prep school. She will be participating in showcases over the next two months.
“I’m in the middle of the process. I’ll find out where I’m going in January,” Tirado said. “I think I’ll have time to work on college-bound stuff.”
She received college advice from her brother Anthony, a Cheshire Academy student who signed to play baseball with UMass.
“My family’s support meant everything to me,” said Tirado.