Aztec U17 was one of the best soccer teams at the regional tournament held at the University of Rhode Island. Aztec girls are the Massachusetts State Cup champs and went all the way to the finals before losing to Pennsylvania, 3-1.
Caitlin Harty of Beverly was the leading scorer with eight goals and Peabody’s Madison Doherty had four. Aztec beat New Hampshire, 6-3 in the first game and tied West Virginia, 1-1 before defeating Maine, 6-2 to win its pool. In the semifinals Aztec posted a 5-3 win over Delaware.
Other local players were Stephanie Kawalski (Danvers), Katharine Barrand (Beverly/Governor’s Academy), Kaleigh White (Middleton/Masconomet), Kristen O’Connor (Beverly), Kristina Caradonna (Lynnfield/Pingree School), Mia Bongiorno (Marblehead), Caitlin Lodi (Peabody), Hannah Becker (Hamilton/Pingree), Katherine Kreider (Boxford/Phillips Andover), Alix Bryant (Salem), Kasey Provost (Peabody/Pingree), Casey Cook (Beverly).
In addition, standout Kerri Zerfoss of Peabody, who plays for Pingree and Aztec U15, was invited to play up for regionals.
“We played extremely well, scoring lots of goals during the tournament,” said coach Dushawne ‘Doc’ Simpson, who is assisted by Javi Mejia-Blau. “Our attacking four of Harty, White, Doherty and Kreider were awesome and accounted for 17 of the 19 goals we scored.
“Bryant was phenomenal in midfield, and I thought Stephanie May (of Central Catholic) and Caradonna had strong performances. Kreider and Harty were injured in the semifinal, and I think that cost us in the final. Harty played and scored but was only at 50 percent, and Kreider couldn’t go.
“It was a real pleasure coaching such a talented group of players,” added Simpson, “and I think we represented Massachusetts well.”
Frank Benea and Eddie Aiello have coached some pretty talented Peabody West Little League Williamsport all-star teams over the past 24 years. They are together again this year — having won the District 16 crown on Thursday night — with an impressive looking squad comprised of 12 boys and one girl.
“This group reminds me of our 2006 team,” said Aiello, referring to the District 15 and state champion team that came ever-so-close to going all the way to Williamsport. “They’re a confident bunch.”
Peabody West dominated District 15 for years before being moved to District 16 last year for the first time. This summer, they mowed down the competition led by the superb pitching of Nick Iannuzzi, power hitting, and solid defense to win the district championship with a perfect 5-0 record.
Back in ‘06, Sean Glabicky was the staff ace with Bobby Batchelor giving Peabody West a great 1-2 pitching punch. So many players from that club went on to have outstanding high school careers; for instance, when Peabody High played Bishop Fenwick last year, the Tanners were led by former West stars Genaro Ciulla, Bobby Losanno, Stephen Girolamo and Robby Pelletier, while Kevin Church and Cam Borrelli starred for Fenwick. Other key members were David Bornstein (a first baseman for St. John’s Prep this past season), Nick Turco, Matt Tehan, Jordan Lewis, Jared Lewis and Brady Doyle.
Peabody West beat Barnstable, 6-5, in the title game to win the program’s first-ever state title in ‘06. It was on to Bristol, Conn. for New England Regionals, where West had the best record in pool play with wins over Yarmouth, Maine (15-0), Colchester, Vermont (2-0), and Glastonbury, Connecticut (11-0). The lone loss was 3-1 to Lincoln, R.I. A heartbreaking 3-2 loss to Glastonbury in the semifinals ended their dreams of advancing to the Little League World Series, but it was an amazing run.
“Back in 2006 we had one of those teams where you step on the gas pedal and always have something left,” said Aiello. “This group is the same. They refuse to lose and fight every inch of the way. They want to excel, and there are interchangeable parts. Frank does a great job making substitutions, and they all have great confidence.”
Jean DePlacido is a part-time writer and columnist for The Salem News. Contact her at email@example.com.