OA’s Holmberg Inspires in Return to the Pitch

Erin Holmberg
OA senior Erin Holmberg had surgery in December to remove a tumor from her spine. Nine months later, she has six goals in her first four games of the new season. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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The pain started more than a year ago. It came at night when she tried to lay down in bed, but then would disappear during the day, and through it all Oliver Ames senior Erin Holmberg kept playing club and high school soccer, outdoor track, and basketball. A new pillow seemed to help take some of the pressure off her neck and allowed her to get some sleep, but gradually the pain increased and then it started lingering through the day or starting in early evening.

In December 2018, the pain became unbearable. Erin couldn’t sleep. She continued coming to school everyday because she didn’t want to miss basketball practices or games, but there was growing numbness in her right arm, in her back, and partially in her legs. It was becoming difficult to do not only the intricate tasks of a basketball player, but even to function in the classroom.

Doctors assumed that it was just a muscular problem and recommended physical therapy and stretching. It was only when the Holmbergs visited Boston Children’s Hospital that a low-grade glioma (a brain tumor that can sometimes grow in the spinal cord) was discovered in Erin’s neck.

“Obviously I was shocked and I didn’t know how to react,” Erin said. “The first thing I said to the nurse was, ‘Is this thing growing inside me?’ The pain was unbearable, so it was relieving that they found it and that the pain would finally go away if they removed it.”

Erin’s father Bob added, “The ‘not knowing’ part of how Erin was going to come out of this surgery was the scariest. I’ve told people the only thing that kept us from totally losing it during those days prior to the surgery was: knowing we were in the best place in the world for this kind of stuff.”

Not only was the more than eight-hour surgery successful, but Dr. Edward Smith, the pediatric neurosurgeon who performed the procedure, told the Holmbergs that they removed 99 percent of the tumor. Now, just nine months after having surgery and far from being clear of all the effects that the tumor caused, Erin is back on the pitch with the Tigers and not just playing but excelling.

She has scored six goals in OA’s opening four games, including two goals apiece in the first two games of the season. OA coach Britt Sellmayer said, “It’s awesome to see how far she has come, especially with all the hard work she has put into her rehab. I think it is nothing short of a miracle.”

 

Erin, who returned to her club team, NEFC Breakers, just 10 weeks after the surgery, said, “Playing soccer almost made me forget that I went through the whole situation, and it’s still like that now where I’m not constantly thinking about my disability with my arm. It makes me forget that I went through it because I can still play soccer.”

Mystery pain leads to Children’s Hospital

The pain started in the spring of last year but became far more intense during the early part of the basketball season. OA coach Laney Clement-Holbrook recalled that when the Tigers played Taunton (on Dec. 14), Erin didn’t look right in warm-ups but she was able to battle through the game. Afterwards, it was clear something was wrong and it only got worse over the next few days.

After several sleepless nights, Erin and her mother Paula went to Brockton Hospital but were told it was likely muscular and no MRI was given. “I couldn’t even stand being with my friends because of the pain,” Erin said. “I was just pacing the room, I couldn’t sit down because the pain was so bad, and my arm that night started to get more numb, which was a different symptom.”

On the advice of a family friend, the Holmbergs tried Children’s Hospital. According to Erin, they arrived in the middle of the night and were given an MRI just a few hours later. The results were explained to the family in the early evening. Bob said, “The initial diagnosis was very scary. They had to cut into her spinal cord, and try to remove as much of the tumor as possible.”

Spinal surgery is delicate and comes with inherent risk, but it was necessary. “I just wanted the pain to be over,” Erin admitted. Following surgery on Dec. 21, Erin was told that it was a success (“It was like a miracle,” Bob said) and that they were able to remove 99 percent of the tumor. “My dad came in and told me and that was the first time that I broke down into tears because I was so happy. That was the first time I cried, but it was tears of joy.”

Bob noted, “She had been an absolute rock throughout all of the scary meetings and diagnoses. Never breaking down, asking questions. Kind of like she is on the soccer field or basketball court: calm, cool and collected.”

Throughout the process, her friends and teammates from basketball and soccer showed support. Clement-Holbrook said that the Tigers got a video of Erin walking in the hospital a couple of days after the surgery and that a couple of players were able to see Erin to deliver stuffed animals that she could use to support her neck during recovery.

“One of the things I always talk about with my players is the value of sports and how someday they will be faced with a life changing moment,” Clement-Holbrook said. “It’s never a question of if, but a question of when. I told them that for Erin this was her when and that we needed to do everything in our power to help her recover and come back with us.”

Long path to recovery continues

The recovery process is ongoing. There are a number of symptoms remain, although there has been improvement. Physical and occupational therapy have improved the strength in Erin’s right arm, even if there is no definite prognosis for how long it could take the nerves to fully recover (if at all).

“I did teach myself how to write lefty because I couldn’t even hold a pencil,” Erin explained. “It was also hard sitting at school for long periods of time, so me and the nurse got very close.”

Holmberg (4) during the 2018 basketball season.

There are still nerve issues, such as tingling, numbness, and pain in her arm, back, and legs, but she continues to manage it and continues to push through both at school and in athletics. In fact, sports were a blessing in the recovery even when she could only watch from the sidelines.

“The basketball and soccer teams kept me sane because they’re all my best friends,” Erin said. “Coach Holbrook was like my mom during the whole thing. She was always checking up on me.”




As soon as she could, Erin was on the bench for the basketball team’s games, cheering the Tigers on during their playoff run. “Right when I got home I wanted to go to my basketball game and cheer them on,” she said. “I made sure to not make it about me. I wanted to be able to cheer them on and not have them feel bad for me all the time.”

Clement-Holbrook said, “The example that she set for all of us was powerful and inspirational to say the least. I credit her with our late run especially in the tournament because she would have done anything to be out there.”

Ten weeks after surgery, Erin was cleared to resume physical activities and she immediately jumped into club soccer. In her first game back, she scored a late goal to earn her team a draw. “My coach even said he was crying,” Erin said with a chuckle.

That form has continued for Oliver Ames this fall. Erin scored a brace in each of the first two games and in OA’s last game at North Attleboro she scored the opening goal of the afternoon (her sixth of the young season) and assisted on the other three OA goals. She has hit the ground running and has shown no signs of the struggles she has endured over the last year, even if symptoms still remain.

“I think my legs are still affected by it but I just don’t notice it as much,” she said. “The feeling is still vaguely off in my legs but it’s not noticeable so it doesn’t affect my running at all.”

Sellmayer said, “We knew the goals were going to come once we saw her in the preseason. All her fitness results were in the top three on the team. We were all just very happy for her and her family.” When asked if he thinks that Erin inspires her teammates, Sellmayer replied, “I feel Erin has been an inspiration to our whole community.”

Her family certainly appreciates being able to see her back on the pitch with her OA teammates and friends. Bob said, “Knowing what she has gone through and knowing that eight months ago, we didn’t know if she would ever play sports again, it kind of puts things into perspective. We are just happy that she is out there…Watching her be a teammate, co-captain and a leader, that’s what high school sports is all about, and we are just happy that she is still a part of it all.”

The recovery process will continue for a long time. Erin is still doing therapy to try and rebuild the strength in her right arm. There is still nerve pain, there is still numbness, and there are going to be numerous follow-up MRIs to keep an eye on the remaining tumor and make sure it isn’t growing.

This experience has given her a new appreciation for the games that she loves and cherishing each moment on the pitch or on the court.

“After I went through this and being told I could never play sports again I always say you never know how many more chances you get,” Erin reflected. “Even if you’re a junior, you never know what could happen, so you need to give everything, 100 percent.

“I’m very grateful that I am able to play and I’m going to give everything I have every day because you never know what can happen.”

Layne Lifts King Philip Over Franklin With Early Goal

King Philip girls soccer Chloe Layne
King Philip’s Chloe Layne and Franklin’s Carissa Alers battle for possession in the first half. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
ByRyanLanigan_2016FollowRyanLanigan_2016
 
 
FRANKLIN, Mass. – The Franklin girls soccer team put on a nearly flawless defensive performance against visiting King Philip on Tuesday afternoon.

But the potent Warriors’ offense only needs one chance to punish teams.

Such was the case at Pisini Field as senior Chloe Layne scored inside the opening 10 minutes, the 100th point of her career, and the Warriors walked away with a hard-earned 1-0 decision over the Panthers.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

While King Philip’s lone goal came early, the Warriors had chances throughout the game that were either thwarted by the Panthers’ defense or denied by senior goalie Bre Atwood.

“Defensively, [Franklin head coach Tom Geysen] always comes up with a good scheme, you just have to try and work and work and work until you break through,” said King Philip head coach Gary Pichel.

The Warriors started on the front foot, keeping possession as they built towards their goal. In the eighth minute, senior Avery Snead controlled a service and linked up with Layne. Layne first carried towards the end line but cut back inside and fired a left-footed blast that powered through defenders and into the back of the net. The assist was also the 100th point for Snead in her KP career.

 

“You can’t let Chloe get in that deep, and all she needs is a little space,” Pichel said. “She just knocks it in with a lot of firepower. I thought Franklin did a good job [defensively] on Chloe and Avery, they were all over them, made it very difficult to get decent shots off. But that’s what you expect, a close game against Franklin.”

Minutes later, Snead nearly doubled the lead. She took a pass from classmate Jenna Hitchen and rifled a one-timer from just inside the 18 but her low shot was wide as Franklin senior Sam Powderly applied pressure.

The Warriors best chance to add onto their advantage in the first half came in the 22nd minute. Junior Paige Varvarigos lofted a corner kick that Snead rose up to meet but her header flashed just wide at the near post.

Although Franklin defended for the majority of the half, it did have some breaks that turned into looks offensively. In the 20th minute, Carly Alston served a corner kick to the near post. Anna Balkus was the first to the bar, getting a touch that eluded the keeper but the ball was cleared in front of goal by the KP defense.

King Philip had two great chances to add onto the lead in the opening 10 minutes of the second half but Atwood came up big for the Panthers on both occasions. In the 45th minute, Snead blocked a clearance attempt but Atwood quickly closed down and turned away her shot.

Four minutes later, Makayla Griffin found Ally Stanton with a corner kick, and Stanton’s header looked destined for the back of the net before Atwood made a terrific diving save to prevent the ball from crossing the line.

“I thought their goalie made some really good stops, especially on that corner it looked like Ally Stanton had taken care of it, it was going right in, and she got there right in the nick of time,” Pichel said. “We knew coming in that, the trouble they had with Milford, you forget about it. It’s KP against Franklin and it’s always a dogfight.”

Franklin got strong defensive performances from Powderly, senior Sabrina Addi, junior Carissa Alers, junior Erin Quaile, and freshman Norah Anderson.

“You have Snead, Layne, and Stanton…that’s a lot of firepower,” Geysen said of the KP attack. “When you look at their scoring, goals and assists, it all goes through the three of them. So we just tried to make it a little bit harder, tried to be in their face, and when you have the opportunity, double team them.

“Just one chance, that’s all it takes. And that’s what happens when you don’t score.”

Anderson applied pressure so Snead couldn’t get off a clean one-timer in the 63rd minute. Less than a minute later, Jenny Montville blasted a shot from 25 yards out but Atwood handled it on the bounce. And in the 69th minute, Stanton’s cross found Montville but good defending from Addi prevented a serious chance.

Franklin had its best chance of the second half come in the 73rd minute on a near post corner kick but KP keeper Taylor Butler came off the line and disrupted the service.

“I told Taylor she did a fantastic job of coming out when she needed to and taking care of business,” Pichel said. “I thought Grace Lawler did a fantastic job on defense, picking up some of their runs. Jenny Montville and Ava Tormey, things changed drastically when I put those two in the middle. They really picked it up for us and gave us a lot of energy.

We’re a work in progress. Who’s going to step up, who’s going to be consistent…and you just do the best you can. We don’t think we’re fantastic but we’re more of a meat and potatoes type team, just keeping fighting.

Hitchen intercepted a clearance in the 76th minute to give the Warriors one final chance, but the near post service was knocked away by Atwood before Layne could get a touch.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

“Bre played extremely well in the second half after being a little passive in the first half,” Geysen said. “Same thing with Sabrina [Addi], she had a great second half. They were both better today and it worked well.

“We beat Milford but we didn’t play very well, they physically knocked us all over the place and took advantage of our lack of aggressiveness. We needed to be more physical and aggressive today, that was the goal for today. I don’t care what the score was, we needed to play better. And I was very proud that they did that today.”

King Philip girls soccer (3-0 overall, 2-0 Hockomock) is back in action on Friday with a trip to Milford. Franklin (1-1, 1-1) is on the road at Canton on Thursday afternoon.

Hockomock Girls Soccer: Players to Watch in 2019

2019 Hockomock Girls Soccer Players to Watch
Ashleigh Starks (23) of Milford and Olivia Rodman (10) of Canton are two of the girls soccer players to watch as the new season kicks off. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)

By HockomockSports.com Staff

Player are listed alphabetically

Breanna Atwood, Senior – Franklin

Franklin has had a good run with goalkeepers and that is continuing with Breanna Atwood. The senior netminder played all 18 games for the Panthers last season and has emerged as the top shot stopper in the league. A HockomockSports.com Best XI performer last season, Atwood recorded nine clean sheets and helped Franklin finish the season with a league-low 10 goals allowed. Tall and athletic, Atwood dominates the penalty area, which will be important this year as the Panthers have an almost completely new back line, and she is capable of getting to shots that other goalies in the league don’t. With the inexperienced defense in front of her, Atwood could be busier this year, but the Panthers will be confident that if opponents do get scoring chances that they have a goalie to make the necessary stops.

Jordyn Collins, Junior – Foxboro

The Warriors were the top scoring team in the league last season and junior forward Jordyn Collins was one of the main reasons why. She had a breakout year, putting together her speed and athleticism with clever footwork and clinical finishing to score a team-high 17 goals and five assists. A physical forward with a deft touch, Collins was able to hold the ball up and bring in the Foxboro midfield and if the defenders got close she would roll them and break free into space. Her volleyed goal off a corner in the playoffs against Medfield was the perfect example of her growth as one of the premier strikers in the Hock. Foxboro is still a relatively young team, but coming off the program’s first league crown since 1993 and with Collins continuing to lead the line expectations are high for a second straight title and an even deeper tournament run.

Abigail Hodges, Senior – Oliver Ames

 

Defense has long been a strength for the Tigers and this season will be no different with an experienced back line coming back and senior Abigail Hodges will be the leader of that group. A versatile player, who can play in the back line or move forward to play in the center of the pitch, Hodges is strong and confident on the ball and can match up physically with the league’s top attackers. Her experience in different positions has developed her ability to read opposition’s attacks and cut things out before they get dangerous. OA has a young roster overall and Hodges will be one of the experienced players that the Tigers will count on to guide the team up the Kelley-Rex standings and to another state tournament appearance.

Chloe Layne, Senior – King Philip

King Philip senior Chloe Layne has been one of the league’s most dynamic attackers for the past three seasons and is one part of the Hock’s top attacking unit. The University of Hartford-commit and 2017 HockomockSports.com Underclassman of the Year has unmatched skills on the ball, dancing through defenders whether she is lined up as a forward or dropped back into the midfield. Defenses are forced to back off when she has the ball because if they get too close then she can pull off a move to leave them in her wake. Layne scored 20 goals last season and assisted on 13 others, despite being moved from the front line back into the center of the pitch to act as a playmaker. She was third in the league in scoring, just one point behind teammate Avery Snead. This year, KP comes into the season with sky-high expectations and trying to stop Layne in the final third, whether creating chances for herself or her teammates, will be a difficult task even for the experienced defenses in the Hockomock.

Kailee McCabe, Sophomore – Foxboro

Lily Sykes was the first player (in any sport) to be on the first team of this site’s end of season awards for all four years. When she graduated, Foxboro was left with a big hole in the midfield, but sophomore Kailee McCabe stepped in last fall and the Warriors didn’t miss a beat. The reigning HockomockSports.com Underclassman of the Year was a box-to-box threat, breaking up an opposing attack on one end and then driving forward to create an attack on the other. McCabe scored 12 goals and had five assists for the Davenport champions, showing off the physicality and the skill to control games in the Hockomock. Even though she was just a freshman, McCabe became the engine that spurred the Warriors to a first league title in 25 years. Her dominance in the center of the pitch opens up the field for her teammates and helped the Warriors have one of the top attacks in the league and enter the season as the favorites to make it two straight league titles.




Katie Miller, Sophomore – Mansfield

Mansfield comes into the season with 18 of the 24 players on its roster new to varsity and only one player with more than a single season of experience. The Hornets are going to rely on youth if they are going to win a fourth straight league title, but some of those younger players have already proven capable of playing at this level. Katie Miller had an impressive freshman campaign, trusted with marking some of the league’s top midfielders and proving to be a standout in an already loaded lineup. While she has the defensive skills to help cover the defense, Miller also has the skill on the ball to push the Hornets forward quickly and the ability to pick out the right pass to free a teammate. After a solid freshman season, Miller’s all-around development will be crucial to the Hornets continuing their run as one of the top programs in the league.

Olivia Rodman, Junior – Canton

Canton prides itself on a quick passing game and the ability to breakdown the opposition. Junior forward Olivia Rodman has been one of the keys to the Bulldogs’ success in the attack for the past two seasons. A forward who likes to drift out to the left wing, Rodman has impressive skill on the ball and close control when running at speed, which makes her a terror for fullbacks to have to try and mark. Able to cut inside on her right foot for a shot or take the ball down the wing to get off a cross to a teammate, particularly classmate Elisa Diletizia, Rodman has a number of ways of causing the defense problems. As a freshman, Rodman scored 14 goals assisted on seven others. While those numbers dipped a little last year, it shows the potential that she has to create scoring chances and she is poised for a bounce-back season to help the Bulldogs make a run at the Davenport title. Canton remains a relatively young roster, but Rodman now has the experience of two years facing the league’s top defenses and that could translate to a big season for the Providence College-commit.

Isabella Salviati, Junior – Attleboro

The Bombardiers have taken a big jump forward offensively in the past two years, going from single digits in goals scored to more than 20 in each of the last two seasons. The arrival of forward Isabella Salviati has certainly been part of that big leap in the attack. The junior scored 12 goals, half of the team’s overall total, and assisted on seven others, proving to be a vital component of everything that Attleboro did in the final third. Quick and unafraid of the physical play of league defenders, Salviati is capable of creating space for a shot or to pick out the cutting pass that will open up scoring chances for her teammates. Despite drawing most of the attention from opposing defenses, Salviati consistently put herself in position to score. As Attleboro continues to search for its first playoff appearance since making the move to the Hock, Salviati has developed into the top attacking option and the kind of offensive threat that will make the Bombardiers competitive with the league’s top teams and clear that state tournament hurdle.

Avery Snead, Senior – King Philip

A three-year standout, King Philip senior Avery Snead has been one of the league’s top players since the first moment she walked onto the pitch in Wrentham. The 2016 HockomockSports.com Underclassman of the Year and 2017 Player of the Year and reigning two-time MVP was dominant last season, scoring 20 goals and recording 14 assists (putting her one point in front of teammate Chloe Layne). She received All-New England honors for her season and the Providence College-commit looks ready for even more this fall. A towering figure on the pitch, Snead has one of the league’s most powerful and accurate shots and is just as much of a weapon in the air as with the ball at her feet. Snead has the quick feet to dribble around or through defenses and only needs a sliver of space to create a chance. She is also versatile, playing through the midfield or back in defense depending on the circumstances of the game and the opponent. The Warriors won the South title two seasons ago and this year’s group has the potential to match that accomplishment, thanks in part to having one of the league’s most dynamic talents leading the line.

Ashleigh Starks, Senior – Milford

Milford senior Ashleigh Starks is a player with all of the tools to succeed in the Hockomock and the versatility to succeed in multiple positions, which will be critical for the Hawks to push past being a team with potential and to challenge the top teams in the Davenport. Starks can play up top or drop back into the midfield and her combination with classmate Juliana France in the center of the pitch gives Milford back line protection and sparks counterattacks. She cuts an imposing figure in the midfield and is not afraid of mixing it up physically, making tackles and winning the ball back. Starks also showed a keen eye for a pass and the ability to find the little spaces to get the ball forward into the final third. Milford has been a team with promise and Starks is one of the players that second-year coach Lou Colabello will be hoping can take the Hawks to the next step and get them back in the playoff hunt.

Girls Soccer: 2019 Davenport Division Preview

Foxboro won the Davenport title last season and the Warriors brought all bur four players back to make a run at a second straight division crown. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

By HockomockSports.com Staff

2019 Davenport Girls Soccer Preview

Canton

2018 Record: 8-9-2
2018 Finish: Reached Div. 2 South Preliminary Round
Coach: Kate Howarth
The Bulldogs finished third in the Davenport division last season and made it back to the state tournament, despite carrying a relatively young roster. Now, a year later, Canton brings back a strong corps, especially in the attack, and will look to take steps forward to try and challenge for the league title.

The best form of defense may be the attack for the Bulldogs, who will pair juniors Olivia Rodman and Elisa Diletizia again in the forward line. The classmates are a dynamic pairing and critical to Canton scoring 52 goals last season, which was the fifth-best total in the league. Senior Morgan McCabe and sophomore Gabriella Herivaux add depth to the forward line.

In the midfield, sophomore Allie McCabe is coming off an impressive rookie season as a playmaker and will be the engine in the heart of the pitch. Sarah Collins will be tough to replace in the defense, but seniors Alexa Maffeo, Caroline Tourgee, and Kerstin Hansen are back. Sophomore Elyse Broderick is back to take over between the posts and will be the anchor of the defensive unit.

“I think the key for us this year will be consistency,” said Canton coach Kate Howarth. “Our girls are bought in and want to find ways to win! I think we will find ways to win some tough games and get better every single day! That’s always our goal. Every time we step out onto that field, improve and get better. If we do that, we will put together a great year.”

Foxboro

2018 Record: 15-2-3
2018 Finish: Reached Div. 2 South Quarterfinal
Coach: Katie Stalcup
Last season, a young Warriors roster brought home the program’s first league title since 1993 and it could start a run of success for Foxboro, which graduated only four players from last year’s team that led the league in scoring and allowed less than a goal per game. Adding a year of experience could make this year’s team even more of a threat not only for a division crown but for a deep tourney run.

Youth was on display all over the pitch last season, particularly up front. Junior Jordyn Collins had a breakout season putting her speed together with clinical finishing to become one of the league’s most dangerous forwards. There is plenty of help for the forwards from the midfield, senior Lizzy Davis and junior Kailtyn Mollica are both dangerous on the wings, creating chances and the odd goals as well.

 

The lynchpin last year was a freshman. Sophomore Kailee McCabe, the reigning HockomockSports.com Underclassman of the Year, had a remarkable rookie season. She controlled the midfield and drove forward to add scoring punch. Senior midfielder Kendra Wentling also adds a layer of protection for the defense, which will miss the graduated Alex Stamatos but has experience in senior Yara Fawaz and junior goalie Morgan Sylvestre.

“I am so excited about this team and what we are capable of this season,” said Foxboro coach Katie Stalcup. “I know if we stay focused and work together we will do great things.”

Milford

2018 Record: 5-12-0
2018 Finish: Missed Playoffs
Coach: Lou Colabello
This is the second season in charge for Milford coach Lou Colabello and he is hopeful that his team will build a comfort level with his expectations and systems to try and get the Hawks into the state tournament picture and push up the Davenport division standings. With a strong core of returning players, many with two or three years of experience on varsity, Milford has the opportunity to make a leap this fall.

The midfield will be a strength for the Hawks with seniors Juliana France and Ashleigh Starks are capable of breaking up opposition attacks and turning those quickly into attacks. Freshman Daniella Atheron will jump right into the attack and is expected to contribute goals this season. Defensively, the Hawks have experience in the form of seniors Maddie Boyle and Annie Flanagan and can count on solid play from both goalies, senior Olivia Marshall, and junior Carly Ferreira.

“We are really excited about our opportunities this year,” Colabello said. “With a heavy nucleus returning on defense and in the midfield, we hope to improve offensively. With a good mixture of experience and youth, I feel that we will make a vast improvement from last year.”




North Attleboro

2018 Record: 12-3-4
2018 Finish: Reached Div. 1 South First Round
Coach: Bill Wallace
North Attleboro is entering a transition season after graduating 14 seniors, including nine starters, from last year’s Davenport division runners-up. The Rocketeers will especially have to cope with the loss of leading scorer, and 2018 HockomockSports.com Player of the Year Ashlyn Gaulin, but there is hope that the new faces will be able to step in and rise to the challenge this fall.

The attack looks very different this season with junior Tess Collins, who is battling a preseason injury, taking on the responsibility of leading the line along with Steph McKenna. There have been promising signs from that duo during the preseason. Midfield is more experienced for North this year, with seniors Alex Moulson, Abi Slaney, and Lily Cameron back from last year, while Olivia Wills and Abby Noreck are making the jump from JV. The defense is mostly new, but senior Lydia Hershey is back and will offer much-needed leadership, while senior Regan Fein has the starting job in net.

“Right now we have six players who have been unable to practice preseason with injuries,” said North Attleboro coach Bill Wallace. “Once we get everyone healthy we should iron out some assignments and figure out our rotations.”

Sharon

2018 Record: 2-15-1
2018 Finish: Missed Playoffs
Coach: Catherine Sullivan
Second-year head coach Catherine Sullivan will have a lot of new faces to work with this season after graduating 11 seniors from last year’s roster and she is hoping that the Eagles can use an experienced midfield to create more scoring opportunities and continue to improve over the course of the season.

The midfield combines technically-sound players with energy and speed. Seniors Marika Fillion sets the tone with her work rate and senior Bella Berger is one of the team’s top playmakers. Junior Amelia Scappaticci adds skill to the team’s passing game, while freshman Olivia Soby is expected to provide an attacking spark in the middle of the pitch. Up front, junior Emily Griffin will try to use her speed to create chances. In the back, junior goalie Cass Barbera got a lot of experience between the pipes last season and she will count on classmate Molly McAlevey to hold things down in front of her.

Sullivan said, “I’m excited about the mix of strong returning players and new talent stepping in this season. It’s a great group of kids who are dedicated to improving our style and speed of play, and I’m looking forward to seeing what we can achieve together.”

Stoughton

2018 Record: 0-17-1
2018 Finish: Missed Playoffs
Coach: Tara Daniels
It has been a decent preseason for the Black Knights and head coach Tara Daniels hopes that they carry that over once things kick off for real. Stoughton has been building cohesion for the last several seasons and Daniels believes that there is the right mix of upperclassmen and newcomers to make the Black Knights a competitive team this fall.

Senior Nicole Weir has found a spot in the back line and will provide the vocal leadership that the defense needs. Senior Brianna Buckley has won the starting job in goal this year after earning time between the posts last season. Junior Mackenzie Manning is the key to the Stoughton midfield, having led the team in points in each of her first two seasons on varsity and continuing to be the team’s primary playmaker. Freshman Shayla Ford will step into the attack this season and there is hope that she can make an instant impact with her speed and finishing ability. One of the most important developments of the preseason is the growing understanding between Manning and Ford going forward.

“This year we have a strong core of returning upperclassmen that have worked the past few years to help shape and strengthen this overall program, with the level of play I am seeing from this group of upperclassmen and the freshman class, it is going to be an extremely competitive season for the Knights,” said Daniels.

Girls Soccer: 2019 Kelley-Rex Division Preview

2019 Kelley-Rex Girls Soccer Preview
Last fall, Mansfield won the league title for a third straight season but the rest of the loaded Kelley-Rex division will be aiming to take down the Hornets this year. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

By HockomockSports.com Staff

2019 Kelley-Rex Girls Soccer Preview

Attleboro

2018 Record: 6-11-1
2018 Finish: Missed Playoffs
Coach: Steve Santos
The Bombardiers have made great improvements over the last couple of seasons, jumping from eight goals scored as a team to 26 and then 24 in 2017 and 2018, and now head coach Steve Santos is looking for Attleboro to take the next step and make its first state tournament appearance since joining the Hockomock League. With an experienced corps and several talented newcomers, Santos hopes this will be the year to get a taste of the postseason.

The attack has been led by junior forward Isabella Salviati, who had half of the team’s goals last year and assisted on seven other goals. The forward play flows through her, but the Bombardiers will be hoping to get more contributions from junior Briley Harnois, who had a breakout sophomore campaign, and from midfielder Jessica Gates, who has the vision to find the key pass that will spring one of the forwards. Also helping out through midfield and into the attack with be seniors Ashley Dame and Julia Reyes.

There is also experience in the heart of the Attleboro defense with senior Sophia Salviati paired with classmate Emily Antonik. Junior Vanessa Laguerre makes the move up from JV this season and will be slotted into the back line as well. Goalie has been a position of strength for the Bombardiers for several seasons but this year it is in flux as senior Ashley Macia is slated to be the starter, but she is also capable in defense and saw a lot of time as an outfield player last year. Freshman Alexis Campbell could eventually step in between the posts. Junior Riley Sullivan could contribute right away and is capable of playing multiple positions and sophomore Emily Khang adds another player with ball skills.

“We have a lot of returning players,” said Santos, “and I think we have more depth so we won’t have to rely on the starters for as many minutes. We have a lot of players who can contribute and fill in the pieces. The key this season will be being consistent for 80 minutes and keeping our pace for the whole game.”

Franklin

2018 Record: 10-3-5
2018 Finish: Reached D1 South First Round
Coach: Tom Geysen
Franklin lost only three games all of last season and had one of the league’s best defensive records, allowing only 10 goals in 18 games. That solidity in the defensive third will be hard to replicate, as the Panthers graduated three of last year’s back four, but there is also hope that the promising young attackers can take some of the pressure off by improving on the team’s 40 goals scored, which was seventh best in the Hock.

Senior Sabrina Addi is the lone returning defender for the Panthers, but she will get help from senior goalie Breanna Atwood to try and organize an inexperienced defense. Freshman Norah Anderson will jump into the center of the defense and looks ready for the physical challenge of Hock play. Senior Sam Powderly will drop back from midfield to help out as well.

 

Once the Panthers get the ball back, there are plenty of familiar faces to try and get goals. Senior Anna Balkus can play a number of different positions, including in the heart of midfield, the wing, or in the attack. Sophomore Stella Regan is coming off a breakout rookie season and adds even more pace to the center of the pitch, while senior Carly Alston is a solid performer on both sides of the ball. In the attack, juniors Erin Quaile and Sydney St. Marie are looking to make the leap to add more consistent scoring.

“I know the kids with experience won’t back down,” said Franklin coach Tom Geysen, “but I need to see how the younger kids will react to this level. I need to see if they can physically cope with playing where I need them to play.”

King Philip

2018 Record: 12-5-2
2018 Finish: Reached D1 South First Round
Coach: Gary Pichel
When you bring back players the caliber of seniors Avery Snead and Chloe Layne, the expectations will be very high for the upcoming season. King Philip enters 2019 as the favorite to bring home a league title but also with the goal of matching the run that the Warriors made in 2017, when they won the South title in double overtime and reached the state semifinal.

Layne, the 2017 HockomockSports.com Underclassman of the Year, and Snead, the 2017 HockomockSports.com Player of the Year and two-time league MVP, have been among the league’s leading scorers each of the last three years and will make one more run at a league title. They are joined up top by senior Ally Stanton. The trio was one of the league’s most dynamic attacking groups, combining for 50 goals and 33 assists last season

Senior Jenna Hitchen and juniors Emma Glaser and Jenny Montville will also contribute to pushing the Warriors forward, while freshman Ella Pisani is a newcomer to watch in the attack. A lot of attention will (rightfully) be paid to KP’s attack, but its defense is also experienced. Seniors Makayla Griffin and Olivia Berry and junior Paige Varvarigos return to the back line with a combined eight years on varsity. Junior Taryn Greenberg and freshman Grace Lawler will also contribute in defense in front of junior goalie Taylor Butler.

“I am very excited about the prospects for our team this year,” said KP coach Gary Pichel. “That being said, we will remain laser-focused on not overlooking any team that we play. We will not look ahead but instead, will prepare for each team we have on our schedule with great intensity, one game at a time.




Mansfield

2018 Record: 15-3-4
2018 Finish: Reached D1 South Semifinal
Coach: Kevin Smith
The Hornets have had an unprecedented level of success over the past three seasons, winning three straight Kelley-Rex division titles, and reaching last year’s Div. 1 South semifinal, but Mansfield enters the fall with an almost entirely new roster and having only one player on the team with more than one year of varsity experience.

Senior Erin Dooling is by far the most experienced player on the roster, but defender Maria Sevastos and midfielder Katie Miller both saw a lot of playing time as freshmen and impressed during their rookie campaigns. Senior midfielder Kerrin Sears and senior defender Megan Krone join Dooling as captains this season and will both need to provide leadership for a team with four freshmen on the roster.

Mansfield coach Kevin Smith said, “We are young and learning each day with an entire new starting lineup, four freshmen on the roster and 18 of 24 players new to the team. Erin is the lone player with more than one year of varsity experience while Maria and Katie earned a lot of minutes last year. All three will be leaned on to share their experience with the team.”

Oliver Ames

2018 Record: 11-5-3
2018 Finish: Reached D1 South First Round
Coach: Britt Sellmayer
Oliver Ames continues to turn out competitive teams ready to challenge the best teams in the league and put themselves in the state tournament picture. This fall will be no different, as the Tigers have six returning starters and 14 players who saw varsity action last year. While there is still a relative lack of experience, the Tigers remain a team with high expectations.

Defense has also been a strength of the program and this year is no different with seniors Olivia Carroll, Abigail Hodges, and Leah Johnson providing a strong backbone for the team and will be a unit that is hard to break down. Junior goalie Emma O’Donnell is dealing with a preseason injury, so sophomore Emily Meyers will get the start for the season opener. Seniors Erin Holmberg and Abby Evin will lead the forward line, but there were strong rookie seasons from Camryn O’Connor and Allison Evin that give confidence for additional help in the final third.

“For OA to return to the tournament we will need some of our less experienced players to step up,” said Oliver Ames coach Britt Sellmayer.

Taunton

2018 Record: 3-16
2018 Finish: Missed Playoffs
Coach: Joe Rocha
Former Taunton boys soccer coach Joe Rocha takes over the girls program this fall and will continue a rebuilding effort to try and get the Tigers off the foot of the division standings, which is a difficult task in the loaded Kelley-Rex division. Rocha knows it will be a process with a relatively young roster and is looking for improvements over the course of the season.

Senior Grace Pimenta will be back in goal for the Tigers this season, after missing part of last year with an injury. Pimenta will add leadership to the defensive unit that features senior Emma Silvia and sophomore Isabella Anslow in the middle. Keeping things solid in the center will be the key and Taunton will hope that the forwards can stay active and put pressure on the opposing defenses. Seniors Paige Tolan, Allison Calderon, and Kerla Sylvestre, and juniors Emily O’Gara and Morgan Zakrewski will be counted on to step up and improve Taunton’s goal-scoring numbers (after scoring 16 goals as a team last season).

“We are a very young team and will have some growing pains,” Rocha said. “As a first-year coach, my players are learning a new system and once we all get on the same page, I feel that our play will improve.”

Taunton Names New Girls Basketball, Soccer Coaches

Taunton girls basketball
Taunton sophomore Sonya Fernandez and the Tigers will have a new coach next season, as former King Philip coach Amy Siggens was announced as the replacement for the retired Walter Harrigan. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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Taunton athletic director Mark Ottavianelli confirmed this week that the Tigers have filled two coaching positions for the upcoming school year. Joe Rocha has been hired as the new girls soccer coach and Amy Siggens will be the new head coach of the girls basketball program.

Rocha replaces Edith Dixon, who had been coach since 2014 and led the program to its first playoff victory in 2015. Siggens, who is moving across the Hockomock League from King Philip, will take over from Walter Harrigan, who stepped down after 12 years as the head coach.

Siggens spent two years as the head coach at KP, her first high school head coaching position, where she compiled a record of 18-24. She was formerly an assistant at Wellesley High. After an injury-plagued first season, Siggens led the Warriors to a record of 14-8 this past winter, including 10-6 in the league, and KP reached the Div. 1 South quarterfinal before a loss on the road at top seed Bridgewater-Raynham.

“I’m patient enough and understanding enough to know it’s going to be a process,” said Siggens about the new opportunity in Taunton, “and I probably have way more than can get done immediately but I’m excited for the challenge. I think the longevity of this position is going to help me get to do what I want to do.”

Taunton finished last season at 7-15 (2-14 in the Hockomock League), but brings back a young lineup. The Tigers graduated four seniors but there is only one player from this year’s roster that will be a senior next season. In addition, Taunton had four freshmen and five sophomores on the varsity roster and Siggens is excited to develop that young core.

“You see that they work hard and they want to play,” she said. “I hope they’re ready for the challenge that I’m going to face with them. I want to have a lot of fun but I really want to develop these young women and these athletes and give them the confidence and show them something different that they haven’t seen for a long time.”

Siggens is excited about the new challenge and is already working on plans to get involved from the youth leagues on up. She said, “We’re jumping feet-first in ready to get dirty. Talking about any way to get involved – summer league, camps, clinics – I’m throwing everything at them to see what we can start.”

 

Rocha is a familiar face in Taunton. He coached the boys soccer team from 2002-2010, helping to revitalize the program, including the addition of a freshman team, which is a goal that he has set for the girls as well, according to an interview this week by the Taunton Gazette.

The Tigers have struggled since winning their only playoff game, having only won 11 games in the three years since that afternoon in Wellesley. This past fall, Taunton was 3-16-0, including 1-15-0 in the ultra-competitive Hockomock League, and scored only 16 goals over the course of the season.

Franklin’s Kirshe Finds a Different Path to Team USA

Kristi Kirshe
Former Franklin soccer, lacrosse and basketball standout Kristi Kirshe races for a U.S. try against China at the HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series in Sydney, Australia. (Mike Lee/KLC Fotos)

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Every little kid who plays sports dreams of playing professionally and dreams of someday representing his or her country, whether it be the Olympics or the World Cup or maybe the World Lacrosse Championships (see Foxboro’s Sophia Dicenso, who was featured last week). Former Franklin star Kristi Kirshe, a former soccer state champion with the Panthers and Div. III national champion at Williams College, recently fulfilled that dream, although not in a sport she would have ever imagined.

A former standout in soccer, lacrosse, and basketball at Franklin (being named MVP in soccer and lax as a senior), and a two-time All-American at Williams, Kirshe has achieved her dream of being a professional athlete as a rising star in rugby.

Kirshe recently played with the bronze-medal-winning U.S. Women’s Eagles Sevens at the HSBC Sydney (Australia) Sevens tournament and scored five tries in three matches and is a full-time resident at the U.S. rugby base in Chula Vista, Calif., despite having not even picked up a rugby ball until one year ago this week.

“I’d say this one tops it all,” Kirshe said this week about how playing for the U.S. stacks up to all that she has achieved in sports. “I think I said when we won the state title in soccer that it was a dream come true but I’m pretty sure putting on the USA rugby jersey topped that.

“Getting to play professionally, getting to play internationally, it’s something you dream about as a little kid. I thought soccer was going to be the sport to get me there and when it didn’t happen I kind of gave up on it and it’s amazing that this opportunity is back in my life and I’m chasing the dream again.”

When Kirshe graduated from Williams, there was an immediate void. She had played competitive team sports her whole life, from youth leagues, including Pop Warner football, through high school and to one of the top DIII college programs in the country. Now, she was left working out by herself and trying to sate her competitive juices playing rec soccer once a week.

Kirshe said, “I was trying to figure out what my life was post-competitive sports and I didn’t like it too much, so I was trying to find another sport to play. I think I really missed the team environment the most, being around people that are working towards a common goal.

 

“Graduating college was the first time that I didn’t have a sport going on and honestly I felt pretty lost. I didn’t really know what to do with myself. It’s always been something that I did, it’s always been part of me as a person, so not having that was really hard.”

It was her former Franklin teammate Grace Conley, who played rugby at Boston University, who introduced her to the potential of a new sport. Kirshe took her friend’s advice and went to an open tryout for Boston Rugby, which was getting ready to start its spring 15s season. She made an immediate impact and her new teammates convinced her to tryout for the Northeast Academy, which is a national development program for rugby.

She made the academy team and went to play a sevens tournament in California, where she impressed enough to be named to the tournament’s Dream Team. That led to her selection as one of 12 players on the Women’s Falcons team that played in the Hokkaido Governor’s Cup in Japan. In less than seven months, Kirshe went from having never played rugby before to joining a U.S. team in an international tournament.

Franklin basketball coach John Leighton said of Kirshe, who was the point guard on teams that made back-to-back Div. 1 South finals, “Her motor is just set different. Just the most competitive kid I’ve ever met. I had to change my rule on drills because she was so competitive she would do anything to win the drill.”

He showed no surprise that Kirshe was an instant success in her new sport. “If we started a ping pong team,” Leighton joked, “she’d be my first pick because she’d push herself to be the best.”

Having the eye-hand coordination of basketball and lacrosse and the tactical awareness of soccer and the physicality of all the sport she has played going all way back to Pop Warner, rugby has turned out to be a natural fit. From the culture of the sport to the rapid learning curve to being back on the field as part of a team, Kirshe is enjoying every part of this experience.

“I just think it’s one of the ultimate team sports,” she explained. “You’re going into contact so you have to always be willing to put yourself on the line for everyone around you. Whether it’s be the first person there in support when someone gets tackled or just knowing when you get tackled that someone else is going to be there to support you, you just have to each other’s back at all times, which I think is really cool.”

That experience was taken to a new level this month when she joined the official U.S. team (the Falcons are part of the U.S. developmental program) in Australia for one leg of the HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series, which builds up to the 2020 Olympics.

“It definitely felt different wearing [a U.S. jersey] on the world series stage,” Kirshe said. It’s pretty surreal honestly. I was thinking about it a lot when I was there that I couldn’t have imagined I’d be here a year ago…I definitely took a few minutes with it before I put it on, just kind of stared at for a bit.”

On her debut against China, Kirshe, who came on as a substitute, found a seam and outran the opposition for her first of five tries in the tournament. “Everyone around me did everything perfectly and I saw a little gap and instinct just kind of kicked in,” she said. “It was definitely nerve-wracking but the second that I got the ball in my hand it felt like every other game that I’ve played. Instinct kicked in and I thought, okay avoid getting tackled and keep running.”

After experiencing the world stage, Kirshe returns to Chula Vista and the residency program to prepare with the Women’s Falcons for a tournament in Las Vegas in March. The next world series stop is in Japan in April and Kirshe hopes to be part of that team as well. It is hard to believe that this time last year, she was being pushed to give rugby a try for the first time.

“Thinking about where I was in my first practice last year,” she reflected, “I knew nothing, not a single thing. It’s just been a rapid learning curve and I feel like in every single game I play in I’m learning something new and every day at practice I’m figuring something out or something is starting to click.”

It obviously clicked enough for Kirshe to score five times against international competition and get pegged as a rising newcomer on the U.S. team. She admits that being on the U.S. team is a different level of nerves, but also that having played on the biggest stages since high school has prepared her for taking this opportunity when it presented itself.

“Playing in a national championship,” she said, “playing in high school championships, helped me be ready for big games, but still just focus on the little things and getting the little things right and being able to stay calm despite the nerves and the excitement.

“In all sports and no matter what stage you’re on, the second the whistle blows you’re just playing and I think that is kind of where I thrive.”