The Medford High School girls’ soccer team has begun the season at 1-5. It has already beaten Everett, but lost to Quincy, North Quincy, Malden, Framingham and Somerville. There’s still plenty of time to reverse the trend in order to get back on the winning track under the direction of first-year coach Rocco Cieri, who has been along the pitch’s sidelines since 2002, as a Medford and Stoneham youth soccer mentor.
Cieri admitted that the high school program has been in decline the last few fall seasons. This was likely because Medford switched leagues, and was trying to define the proper competitive level given the diversity of competition that’s available in the Northeastern Conference communities. But now, the Mustangs are back in the rejuvenated Greater Boston League [GBL], along with Everett, Somerville, Revere and Malden, and he hopes things will now begin to stabilize. But he also knows that the games will be very exciting.
"I think the [GBL] teams will make concerted efforts to improve the level of competition, develop a cooperative spirit and value the all-stars that will make our league standout across the area," said Cieri. "We're especially proud of the communities that have come together to reconstruct this league, and I hope that everyone comes out to support all of these young athletes."
The Mustangs have played more difficult teams so far this season, such as Quincy and Framingham, and the coach likes what he sees to date.
"I think we have performed well when the competition is the same or even slightly higher," he added.
"I have seen this as a youth league coach, and it translates into differences in high school results. I think that once we better understand the competitive level and develop our playing scheme, we will see better results.
"For example, in the North Quincy game, it was a 4-3 loss, but we were in that game until the end. We've been able to get scoring from a variety of players. One highlight thus far was turned in by freshman Emma Casey, who recorded a hat trick against Everett to help us beat them, 4-0."
This year’s Medford squad is young, so there's going to be a learning curve in terms of the level of competition. But Cieri is still hopeful to see improvement through the rest of this season, with the returning players leading the way.
"We have five veterans, whom I think have done a lot to keep team morale high. They are stepping up to the challenge, not giving up, while playing through injury and the physicality of a close game," he said.
Cieri specifically mentioned his three seniors, who have been playing consistently on the field, and they are Jackie Madigan, Audrey Soule and Rachel Klein. Soule and Klein are solid center backs, who have worked together in the past. Madigan has been igniting the offense, along with junior Amy Orcutt. "Together, these two midfield players have good possession skills, which have helped us move the ball forward in key situations," said Cieri.
Cieri understands his team is not currently a possession team. They play a counter-attacking style. This does require some defensive discipline and fast transitions in order to surprise teams, according to the coach. "I think in time we will be able to win games with what we bring to the [table]," the coach said.
There are 19 players on the varsity club this year, and 16 more on the JV team that also has a good bench. There are a total of seven seniors, three juniors, six sophomores and three freshmen on varsity. The JV’s consist of 16 more players that include five juniors, two sophomores and nine freshmen.
Senior Jackie Madigan is one of three captains on this year’s team, along with junior Amy Orcutt and senior Taheisha Joseph.
Madigan has excellent playmaking skills and a very strong competitive spirit, not to mention a passion for the sport. Orcutt is a great competitor, who leads by both effort and skill, while working hard in every game. Her speed can be overwhelming for opponents. "The upside with Amy is that we have her for this season, as well as next to see how she defines the game for the younger players," Cieri said.
Joseph has been playing through injury this year, and is currently coming off the bench as a midfielder. She is a solid presence there, while also providing a reassuring presence at all practices, according to Cieri.
"She brings her positive attitude to every team event," he added. "Often, as in all sports, injuries are a part of the game, but she demonstrates how to continue to make contributions even while reconditioning through injury.
As a team of leaders, I could not have asked for a better group to create and establish a new culture for our team."
The program now has tremendous upside, because of its youth. "Our strikers are sophomores and freshmen. Also, our central midfielders and outside defensive fullbacks are made up of freshmen and sophomores. Therefore, while we lack experience and our results are not great, these players will begin to put together consistent play and learn how to narrow the defensive gaps, while also transitioning on offense," the coach said.
But the varsity team still has to learn not to allow opponents run through the defense, which have resulted in goals. "As we work to identify these plays and work on defensive strategies to counter them, we will go through some growing pains," Cieri said. "Several [juniors and seniors] on the team have limited varsity experience. As the team continues to adapt to that level of play, I am hoping we will see the results improve."
The Mustangs have two goalies each on both the varsity and JV clubs. Seniors Morgan Adamos and Rachel Silva are manning the varsity net. Silva took over as the starting goalie in game four against Framingham, when Adamos went down with an injury.
On the JV level, junior Beverly Boyd and freshman Haylee Duarte are sharing the goaltending chores. "Both have demonstrated good skill and great chemistry with the team of defenders in front of them to date," said Cieri.