Libby Masalsky had not played the center midfield in a year, but as she stepped in for the injured Emily Pike , her composure in a 1-1 draw against Milton Tuesday night suggested otherwise.
The team’s second-leading scorer (5 goals, 3 assists) showcased her strong two-way play throughout the contest, most notably in a second-half sequence that saw her athletically corral a high clear off her chest.
She outmuscled her opponent on the left sideline with a sweeping kick near the 30-yard line to take control and set up a rush.
“Usually I’m always forward,” Masalsky said. “It took a little while to get used to [center mid], but in the middle of the game, you get into the flow of things and it gets easier.”
The Marauders (7-0-3) remained unbeaten with the deadlock, an impressive start that Masalsky attributes in part to the promising play of the freshman class, which helped fill the void left by the graduation of her sister, Ellen , along with Emily Hill.
Coach Don Savi , in his 17th season, has traditionally received strong play from freshmen, which he credits to the town’s successful youth program. His program is highly regarded at the school and in the community,
That culture has created a trickle-down effect in which young players come to the games and are inspired to go on the high school field one day.
Masalsky, now a captain, was once one of those young fans, watching her older sister compete.
Savi’s own daughters, Jenna , a former high school All-American now a sophomore forward at Merrimack College, and Nicole , a recent graduate of Assumption College, followed similar paths. He said it’s rewarding to see players progress from the youth level through high school and beyond.
Freshman center midfielder Cassidy Sullivan recalls seeing Savi at a few of her games last year, and admits that she was a little intimidated because of his high profile and successful track record.
“I noticed he was there and I tried to play my best and not get nervous,” said Sullivan. “I know he knows what he’s doing. I try to listen and use what he says in the games.”
The 14-year-old, the team’s third-leading scorer, is one of five freshmen on the varsity. They started playing on the same youth team when they were 8. She said the chemistry with her peers came easily, but the younger girls had to adjust to the speed at the varsity level.
Samantha Hickey , a central defender, is an 80-minute-per-game player and takes a lot of the restarts. Melissa Bradbury , an occasional starter at forward, is very athletic. Sabrina Ciampa , a midfielder, is very quick. And Kelsi Brennan , a defender/midfielder, understands the game well. Savi calls Sullivan “very skilled, and a very good distributor.”
Savi actively attends meetings and helps the youth program run clinics designed at making that transition easier. His high school players assist him as instructors.
A few players, such as senior forward Sabrina Ferhani, choose club teams as an alternative to the town’s youth program. She played on the town team originally, but switched to Mass Premier Soccer when she was 8 and never left.
Ferhani said that her experience playing for Savi and learning from him is invaluable, because his program has produced a number of players now competing at the college level. She singled out alum Patrice Vettori , now a captain at Boston College.
“She’s probably picked up the same stuff I’m learning here,” said Ferhani, the Marauders’ leading scorer.
“So to think she started out in the same position I am — and now look where she is. That’s definitely a confidence boost.”
Ferhani said this Dedham team is different from Marauder squads in recent past because of the depth of its offensive attack. Each incoming freshman class shows more promise than the last.
She said that playing on a team with so many scoring options has allowed her passing ability to develop.
Masalsky, who also captains the girls’ basketball and tennis teams, said she has always wanted to be a part of a team like the current group. Her goal, like that of her coach, is to make the playoffs.
Savi said he doesn’t want to think too far ahead and overload his team with goals and expectations, but one objective is constant. “Every year, really the one goal we set at the beginning of the year is to make the tournament. Once we get in, we’ll talk.”
With Cohasset leading Norwell, 1-0, and 20 minutes remaining on Sept. 16, junior keeper Pat Federle moved right to left to make a save on a corner kick. But there was a cost.
The three-year starter hit his forehead on the left goal post and left the game with a wound above his eye that required stitches.
Junior Jack Chamberlain, who had joined the team two weeks prior, replaced Federle and closed out the shutout. Chamberlain then registered two more shutouts. When Federle returned, he blanked three foes, the most recent an 8-0 win over Mashpee.
“That game was the season saver,” said coach Jim Willis of the Norwell game. “We haven’t won in Norwell in at least six years. We’ve had a lot of ties with them, a lot of 1-0 losses, but we hadn’t won a game in Norwell in a while.”
After the graduation of 13 seniors, including five starters on offense, Cohasset struggled to score goals. The result was a 1-4 start.
After seniors Joe Buckley and Ryan McKeon were shifted up front from defense, the attack started to connect and took some of the pressure off the back half of the field, including the net.
Figuring it out
The Silver Lake boys’ soccer team pushed its overall record to 8-0-1 with a 3-0 shutout in Quincy on Tuesday.
Through nine games last month, they racked up four shutouts in front of goalie Stephen McSwain, outscoring foes 47-5. Senior forward Paul Beatty has 14 goals and 4 assists.
“I think we definitely figured it out,” said coach Dan Correia. “The first few games we were scraping for goals, and it’s coming easier now. We’re building chemistry. Guys know where they need to go and other guys know where to find them.”Peter Cappiello can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @petecapps