This is the kind of week fall sports teams thrive upon. With weather conditions ideal for high school games, there’s little room for error during the final stretch of the season.
The Masconomet girls soccer team has had this week highlighted on the calendar since the beginning of the 2012 campaign. The prospect of playing four games in six days has the girls ready for battle and on their toes.
With one contest already checked off the list — from Monday’s 3-0 shutout victory over Cape Ann League rival Pentucket — the Chieftains are right back at today as they host once-beaten Hamilton-Wenham.
”First time around we could’ve played better and had trouble finishing,” said Masco coach Paula Yanakakis whose team is currently 9-2-2 overall. “I think we had the potential to beat them, but we were trying to find a way to stop Alana (Vecchiarello). Most teams just stick one girl on her to try and slow her down. I know against us, she could’ve had at least three or four more goals, but some just went wide.”
The last time these two teams saw each other, the Generals handed Masco its first loss of the season (1-0), but since then the Chieftains have gone 8-1-2 in their last eleven.
“This is a big week for us,” Yanakakis explained. “We’ve kind of been inconsistent throughout the season. We’ll play well one game and then not so well the next. This week’s schedule doesn’t allow for any inconsistency.”
Having already qualified for the state tournament in a game against Rockport last Thursday, the Masco girls are focused one goal — winning the CAL. The title has been in the Chieftains’ repertoire for the past four years — nine total, since Yanakakis took over the program 19 years ago.
The Chieftains are currently third in the CAL Large, behind front-runners Newburyport (21 points) and Hamilton-Wenham (21). With four games left in CAL play, Masconomet needs every win it can get, especially today against the Generals and the final game of the season against the Clippers.
The Masco club can’t help but focus in on Saturday’s dual against long-time rival North Andover. Though the Scarlet Knights are no longer in the same conference as Masco, both teams make it a point to play each other during the regular season.
”The athletic directors keep it the schedule for both schools,” added Yanakakis. “We have two non-league per year, one against Bishop Fenwick and Saturday’s game at North Andover. We want to keep our schedule interesting. We don’t necessarily want to play teams we know we’re going to beat. We want to challenge ourselves and prepare for the tournament.”
And prepared they’ve been as the Chieftains have qualified for postseason play 11 times since 1997. Each year Masco seems to bring in its next set of players ready to carry on the tradition.
”Masco soccer always has a strong program and we reload every season with a new solid group of players,” said tri-captain Claudia Marsh. “Our strength is our depth. If a player gets injured we always have an experienced player ready to fill in.”
With nearly 80 girls in the program between the three levels, the Chieftains always have a healthy choice of options. With girls from around the tri-town area, Masco represents the best of the best.
”I don’t think we do anything special,” said Yanakakis. “We just always have great group of athletes from a good pool. Our numbers are actually down. In years past we’ve had over 100 girls try out, but always have a solid group to choose from.”
With five games left in the regular season, the Chieftains are focused on putting their best foot forward in preparation for tournament time.
In case you missed it last week, Peabody boys tied Danvers 1-1 on Wednesday. Ben Manoogian scored the tying goal on a cross from Vlasi Duni with five minutes to play in the game after coach Stan McKeen pushed up a third forward when Danvers first scored. Though it wasn’t a win, McKeen couldn’t talk more highly of his team’s accomplishment.
“The game was huge lift for us and so was the tying goal,” said McKeen. “We had a lot of chances to score and we finally found the back of the net. Any coach wants a win, but I’ll take that tie.”
Danvers keeper Drew Larsen was injured in the contest and is done for the year. He did have a MRI on his leg this week, but no word yet on the severity of the damage.
Last Friday, four Northeastern Conference teams shutout their opponents with a combined 16-0 score.
With a hat trick from Caitlin Harty, Beverly toppled Saugus 6-0. Victoria Digiacomo propelled Peabody past Swampscott 4-0. Senior captain Chrissy Gikas scored a pair of goals as Danvers defeated Lynn English 3-0. And a two-goal performance from Mia Bongiorno sent Marblehead past Salem 2-0.
It’s certainly been a season of the goalkeepers for the girls on the North Shore. Danvers keeper Leah Ciampa has recorded seven shutouts and Hamilton-Wenham netminder Taylor Morong has posted 10 shutouts. Peabody keeper Caitlin Lodi had a hand in nine shutouts for the top-ranked Tanners.
“Caitlin has been terrific since her freshman year,” said Peabody coach Dennis Desroches. “Every year she comes back prepared. She has an incredible reaction instinct and we’re very fortunate to have such a great goalie.”
Just For Kicks, a column on North Shore high school soccer, appears every Wednesday in The Salem News. Contact staff writer Gianna Addario at 978-338-2615, GAddario@salemnews.com and follow her on Twitter @GiannaAddarioSN.
GIRLS SOCCER STANDINGS NEC LARGE RECORD PTS. OVERALL RECORD PTS. Peabody 12-0 24 13-0 26 Beverly 10-2 20 11-2 22 Salem 4-7-1 9 4-7-2 10 Revere 2-9 4 3-9 6 Lynn Class 1-7-2 4 2-7-2 6 Lynn Eng. 0-11-1 1 0-13-1 1 Leading Scorers: Caitlin Harty (Bev) 33 goals, 8 assists, 41 points Hayley Dowd (Peab) 19 goals, 10 assists, 29 points Victoria Digiacomo (Peab) 17 goals, 8 assists, 25 points Eva Gourdeau (Bev) 9 goals, 13 assists, 22 points Madison Doherty (Peab) 11 goals, 5 assists, 16 points NEC SMALL RECORD PTS. OVERALL RECORD PTS Danvers 10-1-1 21 10-2-2 22 Swampscott 7-3-2 16 7-3-3 17 Marblehead 6-4-2 14 7-4-2 16 Gloucester 4-5-1 9 4-5-2 10 Saugus 3-6-2 8 5-6-2 12 Winthrop 2-7 4 2-7 4 Leading Scorers: Delaney Zecha (Danv) 6 goals, 8 assists, 14 points Shannon Pohle (Danv) 10 goals, 2 assists, 12 points