The Rose twins, Elizabeth and Suzanne , have been playing alongside each other on a soccer pitch since they were 5.
Thus, there are hardly any communication breakdowns in the midfield for the Hamilton-Wenham Regional girls.
This fall, the two 18-year-old seniors are returning starters for a squad that has high goals despite the graduation of eight important seniors, including the Cape Ann League’s Division 1 Player of the Year, Alana Vecchiarello.
“I think just playing with anyone for that length of time, you kind of get to know them as a player,” said Suzanne, one of three returning Cape Ann League All-Stars for the Generals.
“It’s easy to communicate and you don’t even always have to communicate to know where each other are.”
Added Elizabeth: “I feel like I always know where she’ll be and she’ll always know where I’ll be on the field, so it’s good to have that.”
Suzanne, according to H-W coach Alvi Ibanez, plays a most critical role, comparing the on-field responsibility of his 5-foot-3 center midfielder with those of a quarterback or a point guard.
“She really runs the show on the field,” said Ibanez, a 49-year-old native of Colombia. “She has tremendous touch on the ball, she has excellent game IQ, and she sees the game two or three steps ahead of anybody.”
The twins are also members of the varsity girls’ basketball team — which last year featured four sets of sisters — as well as the SF Vikings club soccer team for the past seven years.
Suzanne is the starting point guard, while the 5-2 Elizabeth, who played on the court with her fraternal twin from age 8 to her sophomore year, is a team manager who keeps stats, films games, and supports her teammates.
Ibanez said that while Suzanne is part of the nucleus of the soccer team, Elizabeth plays a supporting role.
“It’s challenging at times,” said Elizabeth, who willingly acknowledges that her sister is a better athlete.
“But I mean we’re completely different players. And when she’s playing well then it makes me more ambitious to play well, too.”
In describing his daughters, Bill Rose said, “Suz tends to be more extroverted and Liz is kind of one of those players that plays her position and is a little bit more quiet. You’ve got to kind of watch what she’s doing to appreciate the way she is playing.” He coached them the past five summers on a district team that has captured back-to-back state titles.
The leadership put on display by the twins is a source of admiration for another set of sisters on the team, Madeleine and Isabelle Berthoud of Rowley.
“They’re the best and they get along so well,” said Madeleine, a sophomore, who said she hopes to play more minutes with her younger sister in the future.
The sisters provide depth on a relatively even-keeled roster that takes on a whole new look from last year’s squad, which advanced to the Division 2 North semifinals before losing to Wilmington.
Vecchiarello, who led Cape Ann in goals (19) last season, scored twice in her collegiate debut for Merrimack College on Sept. 7 and currently paces the Warriors in points.
“Last year Alana solved a lot of problems for us,” said Ibanez. “Every time the other team would put us in trouble, we would play the ball to Alana and she would pick it up from there; it was just a one-player show. This year we don’t have that.”
So the Generals have had to make critical adjustments.
After allowing just three goals the entire regular season last year, H-W surrendered an equal number in just one game, losing to Newburyport in its second game of the season, 3-0.
It was an eye-opener for Ibanez, who realized he had to increase the tempo and shift more of an attack up front.
He moved outside defenders Caroline Gribbell and Jillian Kefalas up top, as strikers, for H-W’s next game against North Reading. The adjustment paid off as Kefalas scored both goals in a 2-0 win, with Gribbell providing an assist.
“The forwards are going to have to work together, find each other and make runs together instead of just finding one person like last year,” said Kefalas. “We’ve just had to step up our forward game and try to fill the void.”
The Generals also have a void in net with the graduation of goalie Taylor Morong, now playing at Franklin Pierce College.
Morong, whose sister, Haley, is a sophomore midfielder, gave up just two goals in last fall’s regular season, leading the league with a 0.13 goals against average. Senior Cassie Vitale has stepped in, registering shutouts in two of her first three games.
“She didn’t get many minutes last year because of Taylor and the high level of competition we had, but so far she’s stepping up,” said Ibanez.
In the back, senior captains Samantha Charette , a University of Massachusetts Lowell recruit, and Carolyn Cook are returning league all-stars.
Repeating last year’s success will be a challenge for Ibanez, who in his first season at the helm transformed the Generals from a 5-9-2 bottom-of-the-pack squad to a 13-1-2 league champion. But he is up for the challenge.
“If you choose to look back to the way things were and try to make it the same, it’s not going to happen,” said Ibanez, who played professionally for the Boston Storm of the United States Interregional Soccer League in its only two years of existence. “We should win enough games to put this team in the tournament again, and I think that there’s enough talent that should get us there.”
St. John’s starts with surprising strength
Following last fall’s tournament run to the Division 1 North boys’ soccer final, St. John’s Prep graduated 13 seniors — including all five of its Catholic Conference All-Stars — but the Eagles have come out as strong with a 5-0-1 mark through Friday.
In its last four games, Prep has outscored opponents 22-4.
Senior captain Matt Chilton has scored in four consecutive contests, while junior striker Paul Magazzu has notched four goals and an assist in the Eagles’ last two.
“We knew we’d be good and that we had some talent, but I’ve got to be honest, I wasn’t expecting that we’d be scoring goals like this,” said coach Dave Crowell. “We didn’t score goals like this last year.”
But with the loss of conference Player of the Year Carter Ocko, a central defender who now plays at the University of Tampa, Prep has faced challenges on defense, with just one shutout thus far.
The Eagles also lost all-star keeper Ben Alpern (12 shutouts in last year’s 17-2-2 run) to Tampa. Junior goalie Zach Rowell (one shutout) and seniors Bobby Holmes and Jared Cofga have been splitting time in net so far, providing respectable depth behind the defensive line.