Published April 16. 2013 4:00AM
Norwich - Her first sport was soccer, well, other than the "Little T" quarter-midget race cars Megan Gada drove at Thompson International Speedway beginning around the same time she started kindergarten.
Then you see her on a lacrosse field, at 5-foot-9½, lined up for the draw, in command. She wins the draw, giving the Norwich Free Academy girls the ball, finds herself directly in front of the goal and kind of places it in, rather than firing it.
"She does not make mistakes," NFA coach Eric Page said Monday, following the Wildcats' 14-14 overtime tie against Fitch in the Eastern Connecticut Conference Large Division.
"She's just one of those people. It never looks like she's running really hard; she's just loping along. And she's still faster than everyone."
Gada, of Bozrah, is a Class LL all-state pick in girls' soccer, leading NFA to an 11-5 record and a state tournament appearance in the fall in which the Wildcats lost to Trumbull on penalty kicks.
A midfielder and a player in the offseason for the Northeast United Premier Soccer Club, she will attend Division II Merrimack College in North Andover, Mass., to play soccer and major in sports medicine.
When she's on the soccer field, it's as if the game slows down for her. She tries to replicate that in lacrosse.
"I'm kind of calm. I try not to panic," Gada said.
Page, whose team has a number of underclassmen, including a freshman goalie in Christina Konstantinidis who has never played lacrosse before, said he could stand to learn something from Gada's patience.
"She does things on the field that, as a coach, you're a little bit more cynical," Page said. "But she knows everybody has to be a part of it; she trusts everyone on the field. She makes me feel like I could improve a little."
Gada scored three times against Fitch, her third with 2 minutes, 6 seconds left in regulation to tie the game at 12, following an interception by Kamryn Grace which gave the Wildcats the ball. That forced overtime.
NFA's Sam Trombley and Maya Bell scored in overtime, while Fitch got goals from Daria McKenna and Krystal Czapek. Bell's goal, with 34 seconds remaining in the second three-minute overtime period, tied things at 14 and NFA was still firing away as time ran out.
Gada grew up playing Munchkins in the Montville Youth Soccer Club.
It was then she also got to try driving a race car for the first time in the Little T Division at Thompson. She believes she won her division a few times. The cars would be pushed out on the track, then the participants would flip a switch, starting the car.
It's in the genes, after all. Gada's dad, David, and uncle Dennis Gada are a part of the auto racing landscape in New England, racing in the Modified Division at the Waterford Speedbowl. David won Modified titles in Waterford in 1990 and 1994, while Dennis won seven Modified points titles, the most of any driver in Speedbowl history.
Now, Gada's brother Adam and cousin Joe compete in the division.
"I haven't (driven a Modified) personally, but I want to," Gada said. "... Sometimes my teammates will say, 'What are you talking about?' My game bag is my bag from racing. Sometimes I wear a shirt with my name on the back and people say, 'Is that Gada racing?' Yup, that's us."
Gada is quiet. Page just learned about her former racing career this season. She is a recipient of highest honors all four years at NFA and a member of the National Honor Society. At NFA's Coronation Ball earlier this month, she was named queen.
"I have two kids," Page said. "That's the kind of girl you want them to look up to."
Gada has been a four-year letterwinner in soccer, playing on the freshman team for two weeks before she was called up, and in lacrosse.
She attended St. Joseph's School in Norwich, with a graduating class of 10, before heading to the sprawling NFA campus. She wasn't as aggressive and non-panicky as she is now.
"It was a little scary, but not too much," Gada said. "My brother had done it. If I felt nervous or something, he could give me advice on what to do. ... I've definitely learned a lot."
"It's a case of a person being their unique self on the field and everybody gravitates to her," Page said. "I've never heard her say anything negative about anything. Any time it's a 50-50 opportunity, we know we have a good chance to get it with her. I just know she knows what to do."