By Jean DePlacido
---- — What a spring season the Aztec Girls U17 Premier soccer team has enjoyed.
They won their league title with a 5-1 record, went on to capture the State Cup and also cruised through the prestigious PDA Invitational Girls College Showcase at Zarephath, N.J. with a perfect 3-0 record. The team, made up of top talent from Massachusetts and southern New Hampshire, also grabbed the championship at the Massachusetts Youth Soccer State Cup in Lancaster.
That came just a week after Aztec won the Memorial White Division of the PDA Invitational, one of the top tournaments in the country. Coach Dushawne ‘Doc’ Simpson’s team won all three matches against New York East’s Albertson Soccer Cub, New Jersey’s PDA Warriors and Pennsylvania’s West Country United. They scored 11 goals in the three matches and allowed only three.
“I can’t offer enough praise for the effort the team put in at the State Cup and PDA,” said Simpson. “We have a team of great players like Madison Doherty (of Peabody), Katie Kreider (of Boxford via Phillips Andover Academy), Kaleigh White (of Masconomet) and Caitlin Harty (of Beverly), who are responsible for 95 percent of our goals.
“In the process of winning the State Cup and going 3-0 at the top showcase in the country, we’ve succeeded in terms of results and helped our players continue to improve by playing against nationally ranked competition.”
Other local girls that contributed to Aztec’s amazing success are Stephanie Kowalski (Danvers), Katharine Barrand (Beverly via Governor’s Academy), Kristen O’Connor (Beverly), Kristina Caradonna (Lynnfield via Pingree School), Mia Bongiorno (Marblehead), Caitlin Lodi (Peabody), Hannah Becker (Hamilton via Pingree), Alix Bryant (Salem), Kasey Provost (Peabody via Pingree), and Casey Cook (Beverly).
“We’ve had an incredible run,” said Simpson. who is assisted by Javi Mejia-Blau. “The strength of our team starts with an incredible group of forwards in Doherty, Harty, White and Kreider; each player possesses a combination of skill and speed unmatched by our opponents. All four have been recruited by Division 1 programs, with Madison already signed to Providence.
“Our midfield has a combination of skill and power with Bryant (signed by the University of Hartford), and our lefties Bongiorno and Kowalski. Becker completes our midfield. In the back, we have some of the most talented players around included O’Connor (who has signed with Bryant University) and Maeve Holland of Londonderry, N.H., who signed to play at the University of Richmond. Lodi and Barrand are top college prospects.”
During the regular season, the potent Aztec lineup scored 14 goals and gave up just five. In the State Cup finals, Harty scored two goals while O’Connor and Barrand had one each in a 4-1 win over MPS Renegades. Aztec had advanced by blanking NEFC, 1-0 in the semifinal round.
The team will travel to the US Youth Soccer Region 1 Championships, which will be held at the University of Rhode Island June 27-July 2.