North

HIGH SCHOOL SOCCER

Central Catholic, Masconomet hope to keep rolling

Matthew J. Lee/Globe Staff
Olivia Bonacorso, front, battling Lynnfield High’s Sydney Santosuosso for control of the ball in an Oct. 20 game, heads up Masconomet High’s midfield.

Their last defeat came Nov. 11, 2015, in the Division 1 North semifinals, a 2-1 loss to Lincoln-Sudbury.

The Central Catholic girls’ soccer team is 38-0-1 since, punctuated by last year’s 23-0 finish on the way to the state title.

The Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association releases its Division 1, 2, and 3 tournament pairings Wednesday. And the road for Central Catholic, as well as Division 2 power Masconomet, will start with getting through the North bracket.

Advertisement

For Central, that road will likely include getting through a program from the Dual County League.

Get Today's Headlines in your inbox:
The day's top stories delivered every morning
Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here

“Anyone in the DCL is dangerous,” said Central coach Casey Grange, pointing to Westford Academy as well as Acton-Boxborough.

Westford (10-1-2), ranked 14th in this week’s Globe Top 20, tied Concord-Carlisle on Tuesday. Ally Giovino, Rebecca D’Anna, and Katherine Pawlak lead the attack for the Grey Ghosts,and Emma O’Sullivan has been a brick wall in goal.

Grange also expects tough competition from her Merrimack Valley Conference rivals.

“If we play an MVC opponent, it’s trying to beat them for a third time,” said Grange, “which is never easy to do.”

Advertisement

In the regular season, however, Lawrence-based Central bullied its MVC foes and cemented its status as the top team in the state. The team went 15-0-1, the only tie coming against a team from Strongsville, Ohio.

Central beat North Andover (12-2-0), 6-2, Sept. 28, and that was one of its closer games. Every opponent circled the matchup on the schedule and gave the defending undefeated state champs their best effort, but none succeeded. Nine games were decided by a margin of five goals or more.

Central’s prolific trio of senior forwards has combined to score 80 goals, more than all but a handful of teams in the state.

Last year’s Division 1 player of the year, Elayna Grillakis, leads all players in the MIAA with 61 points. Ashley Raphael is right behind her in second with 47, and Caitlin Regan has added 28.

“Each one of us contributes in each game,” said Grillakis. “We all just connect really well together.”

Advertisement

With a talented front three that puts up numbers this gaudy, it would be easy to overlook a key player like senior midfielder Brooke Hernon. Often Hernon is the one who puts the girls up front in a position to succeed with an excellent through ball. She only recorded three goals and 10 assists, but many of Central’s scoring chances start with a well-timed pass off Hernon’s foot.

Meanwhile in D2, the Masconomet girls have also ridden strong midfield play to an undefeated record. Nikki Arrington is the team’s leading scorer, but different players step up on different days in different ways.

Olivia Bonacorso heads up a midfield that has helped Masco control the ball, and by extension its games, all season. She and junior Sophia Woodland have specialized in stopping opposing runs before they start, and countering with quick attacking moves of their own.

When the Chieftains clinched the Cape Ann League title with a 3-0 win over Lynnfield Oct. 20, Bonacorso took control of the game. The senior ripped two goals in the second half, and put the game on ice with a perfectly placed corner kick that Woodland headed home in the closing minutes.

Lynnfield spoiled Masco’s perfect start to the season by scraping out a 2-2 tie Oct. 2, so the decisive win was a little extra sweet. Masco lost its senior captain and best defender, Allysha Proulx-Walter, to a broken leg early in the season, but that has not stopped the Chieftains from earning a 15-0-2 record.

Carly Favazza has stepped up to fill Proulx-Walter’s place on a stingy back line. The Chieftains split time evenly between goalies Maria Lantzakis and Carolyn Hanson, unusual for a team that has been so stout defensively.

It’s hard to find a weak point on this team that has yet to lose a game, but Masco isn’t the runaway favorite to win the D2 North tournament. Belmont is another top 10 team in the Globe poll, also undefeated at 14-0. Winchester has put together an impressive season at 12-1-2, and 12-2-1 Danvers should be another tough out.

Even so, Masco is clicking at the right time and feeling confident.

“We’ve always made it to semifinals and quarterfinals of states,” said Bonacorso. “My goal this year is probably to win the whole thing.”

Before Central’s final regular season game against Andover, the girls had not talked about the tournament much. “We still have one more regular season game, so we’re really just focusing on the next game we have,” said Grillakis, who wound up scoring a hat trick and assisting on the other two goals in a 5-1 win.

That one-game-at-a-time approach is a big part of why Central hasn’t suffered a regular season loss since these stellar seniors were freshmen.

As soon as the undefeated regular season was in the books, Grange started to tell her team how important it is to get every edge possible going into the tournament.

“From now on it’s do or die, you’ve got to get up for every game,” said Grange. “No one wants us to repeat, except for us.”

Matthew J. Lee/Globe Staff
Nicole Arrington, advancing the ball under pressure from Lynnfield High’s Liz Sykes, is Masconomet’s top scorer.

Tom Petrini can be reached at tom.petrini@globe.com.