It was one of those fall days that lets you know that winter is looming.
A brisk afternoon wind swept through Chelsea Memorial Stadium Tuesday afternoon as the rush-hour traffic on Revere Beach Parkway broke the serenity afforded by the yellow-flecked trees that bordered the soccer field.
The girls on the Shawsheen Regional Technical bench stuffed their bare forearms into their purple and black uniforms in a futile effort to get warm.
But it was nothing but smiles on that visitor’s bench, albeit through clattering teeth at times.
It's just how things go for the tight-knit Rams, who could be best described as upbeat, jovial, and full of laughter.
“I think that's the thing that keeps it together,” said coach Doug Michaud , now in his seventh season at the helm of the Shawsheen Tech program. “That's the best thing about it. It's a good group of girls.”
Winning also helps keep the mood light around Michaud's team, which shot out to a 13-0 record to start the season.
When the Rams hit the field, there are pregame rituals that seem instantly to wipe away any notion of butterflies or jitters.
They chug out to the center of the field, run through hand-shake routines, and they continue to smile, virtually lifting one another up with their attitude.
“It definitely helps that we all get along good together,” said Kristen Carroll , a senior captain from Tewksbury.
“It definitely shows on the field too because we all talk.”
And communication is the foundation for any successful endeavor.
“They have great foundation in the towns that they come from,” said Michaud. “Wilmington, Tewksbury, Billerica, Burlington, and Bedford all have great youth programs.”
Despite losing nine seniors from last year's 16-1 squad — many of whom were four-year starters — the Rams have regrouped without skipping a beat, working seven freshmen into the rotation including the team's only goalie, Janina Kennedy (Tewksbury), who has posted 10 shutouts in her first season.
“She's actually had to earn those,” said Michaud, following a six-save shutout against Chelsea. “She's done well with it, she has really played well.”
Senior leadership plays a big role in keeping everything running smooth and Carroll, along with fellow captain Arianna Medeiros (Tewksbury), have been at the forefront of the success, thanks to their many years of playing youth soccer together.
“We are a young team but we work hard,” said Medeiros, who leads the team with 23 goals. “We all play well together as a team, making good passes and not making mistakes.”
Another major part of the bond has been the return of senior center-back Taylor Bergstrom (Billerica), a take-no-prisoners defender who seems to lead the team in both yards covered on the field and high-five celebrations with teammates.
“A big part of my defense has been Taylor,” Michaud said of Bergstrom, who missed her junior season with a shoulder injury. “She's come back and has been a huge part of our defense. She doesn't stop out there.”
Shawsheen has only lost a combined seven regular-season games in the five seasons prior to this one and have been no less than a four seed in the Division 3 North sectional. Yet the Rams have been unable to get farther than the semifinal game.
Now they are heading down that same path, leaving decimated teams in their wake.
Outscoring foes 67-3, they are shooting for their sixth Commonwealth Conference title under Michaud.
“We need to keep trying hard,” said Medeiros. “I want to go far, so we just need to keep it up.”
For the Rams, getting there has never been the problem. Getting over the hump has been.
You can bet that this year's squad will be trying to do so with smiles on.
Felix De Bona wasted no time in reacquainting himself with the high school game.
After starring at Everett High School for three seasons, DeBona moved to Spain after signing an amateur contract to play for Málaga CF.
When he was released from his contract , DeBona returned to Massachusetts, but his family had uprooted to Somerville.
He enrolled at Somerville High to complete his education, and boys’ soccer coach George Scarpelli submitted a waiver with the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association that would allow him to play his senior year.
“I wasn't sure if he would get it or not,” said Scarpelli, “but it was worth a shot.”
DeBona was granted his waiver less than two weeks ago and netted a hat trick in his first game, a 6-3 win over Brockton.
“He looks great out there,” said Scarpelli. “It's also opened things up for Thayrone [Miranda] to go back to being the playmaker he is.”
Miranda, expected to shoulder most of the scoring load this season, will no longer be the major focus of opposing defenses, which has allowed him to create the action on the offensive end.
He assisted on all of DeBona's goals against Brockton and has raised his season totals to 11 goals and 12 assists. DeBona has scored eight goals in four games.
Peabody girls tops
The Peabody girls have a new moniker that they can add to their ever growing arsenal of accolades.
No. 1 in the nation.
Recently they ascended to the top spot of the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) poll after a 10-0 start.
“It is a great recognition for the program,” said Peabody coach Dennis Desroches , who is trying to keep it all in perspective.
“We appreciate it very much, but games aren't played on paper.”
The top-ranked Tanners have won 31 straight games and are the defending Division 1 state champions.