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.”

2018 Hockomock League Girls Soccer All Stars

Below are the official 2018 Hockomock League Girls Soccer All Stars, selected by the coaches in the league.

Hockomock League MVP

Avery Snead, King Philip

Hockomock League All Stars

Isabella Salviati, Attleboro
Sarah Collins, Canton
Alex Stamatos, Foxboro
Jordyn Collins, Foxboro
Kenzi Fraser, Foxboro
Morgan Sylvestre, Foxboro
Sabrina Addi, Franklin
Breanna Atwood, Franklin
Anna Balkus, Franklin
Grace Gallo, Franklin
Avery Snead, King Philip
Chloe Layne, King Philip
Ally Stanton, King Philip
Melissa Reef, Mansfield
Emily Vigeant, Mansfield
Mikaela Maughn, Mansfield
Stephanie Kemp, Mansfield
Juliana France, Milford
Ashlyn Gaulin, North Attleboro
Emma Gaulin, North Attleboro
Sam Hawkins, North Attleboro
Kayla Pasquel, North Attleboro
Gabriella McLaughlin, Oliver Ames
Brianna Gibson, Oliver Ames
Abigail Hodges, Oliver Ames
Maxine Gordon, Sharon

Honorable Mentions:
Briley Harnois, Attleboro
Allie McCabe, Canton
Kailee McCabe, Foxboro
Hailey Toolin, Franklin
Makayla Griffin, King Philip
Bryn Anderson, Mansfield
Maddie Boyle, Milford
Emma Noreck, North Attleboro
Erin Holmberg, Oliver Ames
Isabella Berger, Sharon
MacKenzie Manning, Stoughton
Emily O’Gara, Taunton

Hornets Drop Heartbreaker In Double Overtime

Mansfield girls soccer
Mansfield’s Sydney Mulkern fights for a loose ball against Newton South in the first half. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
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PLYMOUTH, Mass. – Time after time, the Mansfield defense thwarted long throws and corners kicks from top-seeded Newton South.

In the first overtime period alone, the Hornets fended off five long throws from the Lions’ throw-in specialist Larissa Williams.

While the Hornets limited Newton South’s restarts in the offensive third in the second overtime, the Lions finally got a throw-in in the final minute and cashed in. Williams’ long throw-in was cleared back to her on the sideline, and she delivered a service into the area that Audrey Lavey headed into the net, giving Newton South a 3-2 win over Mansfield.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

“We kept bending, bending, never breaking but the last one they finally find the free header,” said Mansfield head coach Kevin Smith. “Hats off to [Newton South], they are a fantastic team. The corners, the long throws….they were very dangerous and put us under pressure. We just couldn’t find that release pass. We had opportunities, we had a couple open nets we just couldn’t put it away.”

Mansfield had a pair of leads in the game, but the Lions had an answer each time, the second strike coming just seconds after the Hornets had regained the lead.

In the first overtime, the Lions applied the majority of the pressure with five long throw-ins, but the back line of Emily Vigeant, Mikaela Maughn, Erin Daniel, and Kerina Geminiani did an admirable job of handling it in front of keeper Caty DeMassi.

Newton South also had a pair of corner kicks in the first 10-minute span of golden goal, which is how the Lions tied the game in the second half, but Mansfield’s defense did its job.

While playing compact in the back, Mansfield’s best chances came on the counter attack. In the 86th minute, Sydney Mulkern nearly played Steph Kemp in behind but a nice play by the Newton South keeper cleared it away.

In the second overtime, Kemp made a nice run to the outside, got a touch around her defender and delivered a tempting ball into the area but there weren’t any Hornets in the vicinity.

“That’s the only thing you can do,” Smith said of the counter attack. “We couldn’t find a way to release the pressure in the midfield. When we got the ball up front, we were trying to make the pass too quickly and we weren’t there because it’s a 60 yard run with tired legs.”

The Lions nearly had the game-winner in the 94th minute when Cassie Lee snuck in behind the defense but DeMassi was quick off her line to thwart the opportunity.

Mansfield had a bright start to the match, having the majority of possession and keeping the ball in its attacking half. In the 12th minute, Daniel nearly opened the scoring with a well-taken one-timer from 30 yards out but the ball smacked off the cross bar, and Katie Garvin’s header on the rebound was saved.

The pressure paid off in the 28th minute as the Hornets Tok the lead. Cassidy McMahon delivered a corner kick to the far post and Melissa Reef rose up and headed the ball back across the goal inside the post for a 1-0 lead.

But the lead only lasted four minutes, as the Lions took advantage of a Mansfield miscue. In the defensive third, a miscommunication allowed Lee to get in between the defender and the keeper, blocking the clearance. The loose ball popped back to Lee’s foot and she buried her chance, sending the teams into half tied 1-1.

Mansfield regained the lead just over 10 minutes into the second half. Bryn Anderson settled a throw from Geminiani and gained just enough space to launch a high cross to the far post. McMahon skied into air and headed the service under the bar and into the back of the net for a 2-1 lead.

Similar to the first lead, it didn’t last long. Newton South quickly marched up field and earned a corner kick, and Lucy Jenks nodded in a cross from Maia Madison to make it 2-2 in the 52nd minute.

In the 67th minute, DeMassi made a terrific play off her line to deny the Lions of a partial breakaway.

In the 70th minute, Mansfield nearly went ahead again. Kemp played McMahon wide, and she centered her pass but Anderson couldn’t get her foot on the cross in front and Mulkern saw her chance for over the bar at the far post.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

And in the 75th minute, the Hornets had a free kick from straight away from 20 yards out but couldn’t get the shot on frame.

“After their first goal, you could tell we were deflated and they had some momentum going for them,” Smith said. “We just couldn’t find our energy. We got it back at halftime and scored the goal to go up. I didn’t think we dropped after their second goal, I thought we still had opportunities, we just couldn’t find it. Their keeper made some nice plays, their defense was smothering. Our defense played great too. But they found that last one.”

Mansfield girls soccer (15-3-4) graduates 19 seniors from this year’s team, a group that made its mark on the program. The Hornets won three straight Kelley-Rex division titles, the first three in program history. In their four years, the varsity team went 54-12-12.

“It’s a special group, I’ve known most since they were 5 or 6 years old, since they were little kids,” Smith said. “They are like my daughters.”

Collins Volleys Foxboro Past Medfield in Playoff Opener

Foxboro girls soccer
Foxboro sophomore Jordyn Collins hits a volley off a corner with nine minutes left in the D2 South opener to lift the Warriors past Medfield and into the second round. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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SOUTH EASTON, Mass. – Two years ago, Foxboro was on the verge of beating Medfield before a late goal forced overtime and eventually Medfield won on penalties. It was the third straight year that Foxboro’s season ended at the hands of Medfield. On Saturday afternoon at Southeastern Regional, the two teams squared off again, with Foxboro seeking a measure of revenge.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

In the 71st minute, sophomore forward Jordyn Collins made a near post run and met Katelyn Mollica’s corner kick with a textbook volley. The ball arrowed into the top corner and Foxboro held on for the final nine minutes to secure a 1-0 victory and a spot in the Div. 2 South quarterfinal.

“I told them at one of the timeouts, if we get another chance at a corner kick, put it in the net,” said Foxboro coach Katie Stalcup. “I don’t do too many set plays on corners. Jordyn just happened to be there and a perfect finish.”

Following Collins’ goal, Medfield came storming back upfield, as was expected from a physical game that featured end-to-end action. Foxboro survived a dangerous free kick in the attacking third and a number of attempts to play the ball in behind the defense.

At the final whistle, the players swarmed to goalie Morgan Sylvestre (four saves) to celebrate the latest in a long line of battles between two perennially strong programs.

“It was scary,” senior defender Alex Stamatos said of the minutes after taking the lead. “It was actually very nerve-wracking, but we were able to pull through and get the win.”

The first half featured a number of scoring chances for both teams. It started just two minutes into the game when Lizzy Davis turned a corner on goal only for Medfield keeper Izzy Brown to make the save. Two minutes later and it was Medfield’s turn, with Marissa Gorog forcing a save out of Sylvestre.

Mackenzi Fraser was next to test the keeper after a nice touch took her past the defender but forced her into a tight angle. Kendra Wentling had a shot from inside the box charged down and the rebound fell to Collins, but she sent it over the crossbar.

Medfield looked dangerous on the counter and from set pieces. In one sequence, Stamatos was forced to head a corner over from the shadow of her own goal and then the following corner was nodded on frame, but Sylvestre was quickly down to her right to parry it. The rebound was prodded just wide of the post.

“At first we just weren’t playing our game,” Stamatos explained. “The ball was in the air a lot and we just needed to keep it on the ground and we just needed to stay with their speed.”

Fraser had another chance running onto a through ball from Davis in the left channel but her shot was saved. Medfield nearly got on the board when Stamatos, under pressure, slipped while trying to clear but Emma Keating couldn’t keep her shot down.

Grace Ferguson forced a save with a shot from 20 yards and then Alyssa VandenBoom nearly fashioned an opening with a cross from the left that flashed across goal but couldn’t be turned home at the back post by Jackie Dizney.

“Especially the beginning of the first half, their intensity was so high and they were winning almost every ball,” Stalcup said of Medfield. “We started to pick up our intensity towards the end of the half.”

When asked if this was a learning experience for a young roster, Stalcup replied, “I think it was a slap in the face because last year a lot of them were freshmen and sophomores and it was the preliminary round and we got beat pretty bad. This was a hard-fought battle. I think they saw that they had to bring just as much intensity to get any momentum.”

In the second half, the field tilted as Foxboro took control of the midfield. Wentling and freshman Kailee McCabe were starting to dictate play and get the ball out to Mollica and Davis on the wings. Collins, Fraser, and freshman Kaitryn Franchino all made strong runs at the Medfield defense.

Despite the pressure that the hosts were exerting, the only real scoring chance that they fashioned came in the first 10 minutes of the half. Collins was close to breaking the deadlock when she got free on the right side but Brown made a diving, one-handed stop to keep the game scoreless.

In the 71st, Collins had another chance and this time gave Brown no chance to make the stop, sealing the win and Foxboro’s place in the next round.

“I was really excited. It was great. I knew that she could do it,” Stamatos said. “We just all worked together throughout the whole game and worked hard to do our thing.”

Stalcup added, “It’s huge. It gives us even more confidence going into the next round and I feel like we have nothing to lose at this point. We have this huge momentum and I’m nothing but excited about it.”

Foxboro (15-1-3) will host Notre Dame Academy on Tuesday at a time and location to be determined.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

Taunton’s Wentworth Finds a Home In the Endicott Goal

Kayla Wentworth
Taunton grad Kayla Wentworth has found a home at Endicott College and that translated into a strong season in goal, earning second-team all-conference honors. (David Le/Endicott College Athletics)

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It has been a winding road for Kayla Wentworth since she graduated from Taunton High. After helping the Tigers make not only their first-ever playoff appearance but also earn their first-ever state tournament victory, the talented goalkeeper had the opportunity to play Div. I college soccer.

Playing for a Div. I program is the dream of just about every high school player that laces up their boots each fall, but the reality of playing at that level and the singular focus that many, if not most, Div. I programs require of their student-athletes isn’t for everyone.

Sometimes, you just need to find the place where you feel comfortable and happy.

After a year at Iona College (New Rochelle, N.Y.), where she admitted struggling with the coach, Wentworth gave Div. I a second chance with a transfer closer to home to play at UMass Lowell. She stayed for one semester in Lowell before making a second switch, heading to Beverly in the spring of 2018 to attend Endicott College.

It is a move that has worked out on and off the pitch.

“It’s good to find a home,” said Wentworth in a phone call ahead of Endicott’s Commonwealth Coast Conference (CCC) tournament opener against Western New England. “Here I have a great group of friends, soccer is just the right amount, our coaches are really good, really supportive, academics are great, everything is here is more like home than my other schools.”

Wentworth has certainly made the most of her time with the Gulls, earning a second team all-conference nod after leading the league with a 0.72 goals against average. She recorded six clean sheets in her first season with the Gulls and led Endicott to the top seed in the CCC tournament.

“I think it’s really important to just be yourself in order to play better,” she explained. “If you’re not comfortable where you are, then you’re not going to play well.”

When asked about the demands of playing at the Div. I level, Wentworth, who is a psychology major and wants to attend med school, noted that everything took a backseat to soccer. As much as she loves the game, she also had to be realistic about where her career was headed and the important of academics.

“I love soccer, so that wasn’t really part of it, but when you play Div. I you find that’s your life,” she said. “Realistically, after college I’m not going to go play professionally, so there was no reason for that to be the only thing in my life.”

Unlike when she transferred to UMass Lowell, Wentworth joined Endicott in the spring. It afforded her the time to get acclimated with the campus, her classes, and with her new teammate. She took advantage of the extra time to become comfortable with her situation.

She also benefited from being the lone goalie in the spring, with the Gulls adding two freshman to the roster this fall. For the first time since leaving Taunton, Wentworth had control of the No. 1 jersey and was between the posts for every game. All soccer players, but particularly goalkeepers, rely on confidence to perform at their best and Wentworth felt the confidence growing with each appearance.

“The other two goalies with me are freshmen, so I knew that I had a shot at the job, but I still had to work for it,” she said. “The goalie position is more mental and knowing that they have the confidence to put me on the field every game definitely boosted my confidence. It makes me play better.”

At the time of the interview, Wentworth was preparing for the tournament opener and she was counting on her high school experiences to help her handle playoff pressure. Wentworth was the goalie for the only Taunton girls’ team to make the postseason and she helped the Tigers go on the road to beat Wellesley for the program’s first playoff win.

It is an experience that still resonates for the players that were part of it.

“We’re all still really good friends and looking back on it I even cry sometimes,” she said. “I don’t think Taunton will ever see another team that was that much of a family and that determined to get to the playoffs and get the job done. We made history and that’s something I’m never going to forget.”

Unfortunately, Endicott didn’t experience the same success in the tournament. The Gulls were beaten on penalties after 110 scoreless minutes, despite putting eight shots on goal and holding WNE to just one. It was the fourth straight year that the Gulls had the season end at the semifinal stage.

It wasn’t the ending that Endicott was looking for, but Wentworth knows that the team is in a good place and, more importantly that she is too. After two years of searching for the right place to play, the best fit for her, Wentworth has found a home in Beverly and she is brimming with confidence after a successful fall.

“Coming in I did have a lot of goals for myself because I had played at two other schools,” she reflected, “and I obviously didn’t have the chance to earn those honors there. Looking back, I’m kind of surprised with myself because I actually did it and my confidence shot up.”

She added, “Coming into a team that was already successful was very nerve-wracking, but I’ve definitely succeeded here and I think it’s gratifying to see that and know that those changes were the right decision. It’s nice to be able to step back and reflect and see that it all worked out.”