By Jean DePlacido
---- — After Sam Charette made a few visits to UMass Lowell for soccer camps, she knew she wanted to be a River Hawk.
When the university recruited her, it didn’t take long to decide it was the right fit and she made a verbal commitment. Charette, who is one of the Hamilton-Wenham’s five captains for the coming season, still has one more year left to excel for the Generals before moving on to college.
“Sam’s ability to win the ball and keep it is her biggest asset,” said H-W coach Alvi Ibanez, who turned the program around last season in his first at the helm, going from 5-9-2 to a playoff contender with a 15-2-2 record. “Sam has both size and quickness. I’ve been watching her play at the club level since she was 10-years old, and she’s got it all.”
Ibanez, who was an NCAA All-American at Salem State and former professional soccer player for the Boston Storm, took over the Hamilton-Wenham program a year ago and made some key changes. He uses a system that employs two central defenders (and allowed just 0.3 goals per game last year), and Charette plays a key role in the defense as of the central defenders.
“She’s like a point guard in basketball back there,” said Ibanez. “Sam does a great job bringing the ball up the field. They say a good offense starts with the best defense. Sam wins the ball, gets possession in the back and brings it up so the offense can go to work. Once she has the ball it is very tough to take it away from her.”
Charette combines both brains and athleticism on the pitch.
“She’s six-foot-one and uses that great height advantage to win a lot of air balls. She handles a lot of the high stuff in front of the goal and has Division 1 speed and quickness,” said Ibanez. “The best thing is her game IQ. Sam really understands the game, and I’m so glad I have her one more year before she goes on to a great college career. I’m glad she will be playing for a D1 program around here so I can see her play.”
The River Hawks are moving up to Division 1 this season and will play in the America East Conference. It is a big change, and they have a very difficult schedule with only a few home games.
Charette started out as a goalie when she was first playing the game, and then moved to defense. She was five-years old when she started, and has been playing club soccer for the SF Vikings for the past seven years.
“I didn’t like being the goalie very much, but I love defense,” said Charette, who also plays basketball for HW. “It varies, and sometimes I move up to midfield but mainly I’m a central defender. Soccer is my main sport, and I play year round. I’m glad to know where I’m going for college, and U-Lowell is the perfect fit for me. I’m interested in math and science with engineering as a possible major. They’ve got a very good program there, and it’s an up and coming school.
“I like the fact that the school isn’t too far away, and my family can see me play. I did a few clinics there and met coach (Elie) Monteiro and the team. The whole environment was very welcoming, and I knew I would like to play for coach Monteiro.”
Charette is excited about her senior year at Hamilton-Wenham, and thinks the soccer team is going to have a good year.
“We were really strong last season, and we have a good set of captains,” she said. “We’re all working hard to get ready, and I think we’re going to be a strong team again.”