29 Sep Set Pieces girls soccer column: Team spirit has Marblehead off to its best start in years | Sports
Just like the fall weather in New England, it’s hard to predict who might score on any given night for the Marblehead girls soccer team.
That’s not because the Magicians don’t have a go-to shooter, but because they’re so good at sharing the ball. It’s that unselfish style and great mix of team chemistry that have Marblehead off to its best start in five years at 5-1-1.
Six different players have a goal for Marblehead in seven games and in terms of points, the number nearly reaches double digits.
“It comes from our team environment. This team might be the most fun one I’ve ever been on. I’ve never felt so close with a team,” said Annika Haley, one of three senior captains. “We’re such a passing team, people don’t want to shoot. People want to give up the ball and that leads to our success.”
Passing and creativity are nurtured by trust and team cohesion. That’s something the captains, Haley, keeper Catherine Comstock and defender Ella Kramer, have made a priority this year. The results speak for themselves.
“It started in the preseason. We did a lot of weight training with the football team and bonded over that. Plus, that meant we didn’t have to spend a lot of time in practice getting fit,” said Comstock. “We also have a smaller roster so everyone, whether it’s on the field or on the sidelines, feels connected. It’s program wide, when we practice with the JV team or take the bus with them, we’ll all play music together or hang out.”
This past weekend, Marblehead gave back to the community by holding practice with the North Shore Rovers. The Rovers lets kids with intellectual or physical disabilities experience the fun of soccer along with volunteers in an encouraging, uplifting atmosphere.
“I’ve been volunteering with them since eighth grade and as you get older, they put you in leadership positions,” Kramer said. “We thought doing a practice with the Rovers would be another great way for (Marblehead) to bond as a team and also give back to the community. It was a really fun day.”
Many of Marblehead’s players joined the Rover group chat and will be looking to continue to volunteer. Few things are as rewarding as smiles on the faces of the Rover players as they enjoyed soccer.
“When you can make someone’s day like that,” Haley said, “It feels really good.”
The Magicians have also held team dinners and spirit days as they’ve built their team chemistry. It’s been essential for a team with seven seniors and a large number of sophomores and juniors playing huge roles on the pitch.
“We’re such a younger team, it’s been so important how all the sophomores and juniors are stepping up,” Kramer said, “They’re not afraid to take leadership roles on the field.”
Sophomore Samantha Dormer is one of the team’s biggest midfield and scoring threats and freshman Ava Machado has seen a lot of playing time. Sophomore Talia Selby has been immense defensively alongside Kramer (the anchoring left side back) and the Magicians have allowed one goal or fewer in five of seven games.
“We have such great communication, on and off the field. I feel like I can direct the defense and they’re always supportive,” said Comstock, who relishes the cheers from the crowd after a big save and has three shutouts so far this season.
“Our goalie coaches are great and we get to spend time working together in practice. We’ll watch film looking for mistakes and things to improve on. Being able to be a mentor to the younger goalies means a lot to me.”
Senior Annie Sheridan is Marblehead’s leading scorer so far with five goals. Haley, an excellent softball player who will be playing that sport at Trinity College next year, has three and juniors Cait Mullins and Lydia Bailey are also contributing up top.
“The stuff we’re doing well in the games is stuff that we practice a lot,” Kramer said. “It all goes back to being able to connect with each other on the field because we’re so close off of it.”
Fellow seniors Lauren Stamnitz (an ace on 50/50 balls), Grace Miller and Zoe Solberg are also playing big roles for the resurgent Magicians. The team has already won more games than it did in the abbreviated 2020 fall season and seems like a lock for its first state tournament berth since 2016.
It’d be remiss not to credit coach John Dormer for a big part of the turnaround. Before he took over, the program cycled through three coaches in three seasons; Dormer’s stability, unselfish philosophy and strong practice habits have the Magicians atop the NEC South division.
“He puts in so much effort to put us in the best position out there,” Haley said. “He makes sure we’re focused in practice and overall has done a really good job coaching us. When we look back, two years ago was his first season and then COVID made last year really hard … he made sure we’d come back and make the most of our last year.”
Marblehead’s a battle tested and resilient group just a third of the way into this season. Their lone loss was a narrow, back-and-forth road loss to Beverly and they showed great resolve in coming from behind twice to get a non-league tie against Weston on Monday. A win over archrival Swampscott might be the highlight of the season thus far and a matchup against unbeaten Danvers under the lights next Tuesday looms.
“I think we’ve learned no matter what happens we need to treat every game with the same effort,” Haley said. “It’s important to never treat anything differently so we can be consistent.”
Ipswich is finding its groove and has now put together back-to-back wins to move to 2-4-2 on the season. The Tigers are getting great production up top from senior captains Carter King (six goals) and Colby Filosa (four) and fellow captain Jennie Tarr has been doing an immense job winning 50/50 balls and dictating possession, new coach Greg Chmura said.
In the team’s most recent win, a 3-1 triumph over Rockport, Dana Farladeau and Amelia Mooradd had strong outings on defense and keeper Maddie Farris turned in a solid effort.
Pingree has been dealing with some tough luck in the injury department, but you’d never know it by looking at their goals against totals. The Highlanders allowed only one goal in their first three games and the only team to score more than one against them was BB&N, the No. 1 ranked squad in New England in the prep school ranks.
A big reason for Pingree’s success defensively has been Avery DePiero, a junior who excels in the back end and also has a great ability to start the attack with crisp passing.
“She’s been our most consistent player,” Pingree coach Doc Simpson said. “She’s got a fantastic attitude and she’s been huge playing alongside three freshmen. She can start the attack and will sacrifice her body on the defensive end.
DePiero’s older sister, Dana, was a Pingree captain and now plays out on the West Coast at California-Santa Cruz. A Swampscott native, Avery is following her footsteps quite well.
“Her development has been fun to watch and she is going to make a college coach very happy,” Simpson added.
Senior Arianna Bezanson joined Danvers High’s 100-point club in last week’s win over Winthrop, becoming the fourth Falcon in recent memory to hit the century mark (along with Brittany Russo, 2009, Corey Persson, 2010, and Hannah LeJenue, 2017).
Now with 103 career points and 73 career goals, Bezanson has an astounding 43 points in her last 17 games played — more than two per game.
You have to hand it to the Swampscott defense for holding Danvers to one goal on Monday. Hats off to keeper Lily Goesslin as well as all the defenders, including Grace and Maddie Hudson and Lily Raymond.
Masconomet has quietly asserted itself as one of the top 20 teams in Eastern Mass. Since an opening day loss to Danvers, the Chieftains have rattled off six straight wins against some stiff competition, including NEC powers Peabody and Beverly and Division 1 contender Central Catholic. Dangerous forward Taylor Bovardi and ace midfielder Elena Lindonen are among the many standouts for Masco.
Speaking of Masco, great to see Allie Vaillancourt back on the pitch at Salem State after shaking off an early season injury. The first start of the season for the freshman midfielder produced a goal, an assist and Salem State’s first win. No coincidence there and no surprise to those that watched Vaillancourt for the Chieftains; she’s a difference maker.
Unbeaten Bishop Fenwick (3-0-3) faces a huge test on Friday against Bishop Feehan, the only team to beat the Crusaders last fall and a new member of the Catholic Central League. The Shamrocks are currently ranked No. 1 in New England and No. 4 nationally by the United Soccer Coaches Association.
Tremendous goal scored by Peabody native Hayley Dowd in Sweden over the weekend. Playing for the Djurgarden women’s team against rival Hammarby, Dowd got off a diving shot while falling backwards that rocketed into the high corner of the net. Her squad won the game 2-1 at Stockholm’s Olympic Stadium and she said it was one of the most satisfying goals of her international career so far.
Check out a video of the goal with this story on our Web page.
Set Pieces, a column on North Shore girls soccer, appears in the Salem News during the fall season. You cant contact Matt Williams at MWilliams@salemnews.com and follow along on Twitter @MattWilliams_SN
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