Everyone knew the youth movement was coming.
The alert came like a ringing police siren with flashing lights at last year’s Eastern Massachusetts All-Star selection meeting, when coaches were jumping and hollering to get their voices heard.
With one of the greatest senior classes the area has seen in girls’ soccer, there were far more worthy candidates than positions.
“I’ve never seen more heated arguments on one player to the next,” said Dave Wainwright , the varsity girls’ soccer coach at Dover-Sherborn High School. “And they were all seniors.”
Local players in last spring’s stellar graduating class include Andrea O’Brien at Concord-Carlisle, Lincoln-Sudbury Regional’s Cassidy Boegel , Kristi Kirshe at Franklin High, and Medfield’s Mimi Borkan, who moved on to play soccer at Boston College, Fairfield University, Williams College, and the University of New Hampshire, respectively.
Left in their wake this fall is a thin senior class across the region that had coaches stumped over roster openings and uncertain futures.
Then tryouts began.
And it became clear that this was not going to be a down year in talent. Instead, it could be the beginning of one of the most impressive waves of girls’ soccer in the area.
“I’ve been coaching for 18 years at the high school level,” said Medfield skipper Mike
La Francesca . “And I can tell you in 18 years the talent pool is getting stronger and stronger, which is really nice. The competition level, the number of kids that are playing club soccer has increased, which brings the high-school-level soccer to a higher level.
“We have 11 starters. This is the first time 10 out of 11 are club players.”
And six of the 11 starters for Medfield are freshmen or sophomores, including four ninth-graders.
With just three seniors in his starting 11, La Francesca might have to execute his best coaching performance to lead the Warriors toward something that has been a rarity in Massachusetts high school soccer during the past five years: a repeat as state champion.
“It’s getting harder and harder to do that,” he said. “The talent is everywhere out there.”
The Division 2 champs in 2010, the Warriors captured another title last fall, when Borkan’s superhuman efforts in net helped Medfield hold opponents to just four goals in six tournament games.
Across Division 1 and Division 2, in both boys’ and girls’ soccer, Medfield is one of just four programs to win multiple state championships in the last five years (the boys’ teams at Ludlow, Groton-Dunstable Regional, and Concord-Carlisle are the other three).
If Medfield can pull off another one this fall, it would be the first school to win three titles in a four-year span. Cue the dynasty talk.
“I’ve got to believe they’ll compete and make a run,” said Needham High’s head coach, Carl Tarabelli .
To do it, La Francesca will rely on his three seniors, all captains: Cami McCurdy , a dynamic forward; Lauren Petit , who can control the midfield; and Colleen Beggan , the sweeper and leader of an impressive back line.
Coaching those three should not be an issue. Getting a team full of underclassmen with limited varsity experience to jell with them might be more difficult. But La Francesca would not have kept the youngsters on his roster if he did not think they had talent.
“They’re young,” said Franklin coach Tom Geyson , “but he has kids that can play. And they’ll get better, as they always do with Michael.”
Freshman Sarah Graham took over for Borkan in net and allowed just one goal in her first varsity game, a 1-1 tie with Norton on Wednesday. Classmate Grace Terry is just 5-foot-1 but has the speed and skills to pair with McCurdy, who scored 11 goals last year, and give defenses nightmares.
Terry scored the team’s only goal on Wednesday.
“The younger girls are so much more eager,” McCurdy said. “They’ve never experienced this before. They’re so excited for everything because it’s so new for them.”
On past Medfield teams, there might not have been room for players like Terry. But what she lacks in size she makes up for in touch. La Francesca has been eager to coach a team like this.
“He’s awesome,” Terry said. “He pushes me to do better and works us really hard. He tries to put me with bigger girls in practice to help me on the field. I feel like my physicality has really gotten better.”
With 14 seniors lost to graduation, La Francesca has a chance to rebuild and compete for a state title simultaneously.
As with many other teams this fall, it is all in the hands of the underclassmen.
“They’ve really impressed me,” said Petit. “Going into tryouts, I know Coach was talking about how he was really impressed with the freshmen, and I didn’t really see it at first. But they’ve really stepped up.
“They’re tiny. But they put up a fight and they want it.”
►Franklin (22-0-1 in 2012); captured Division 1 state title. The first-time state champs return everyone except Kirshe, but those are big shoes to fill. The Globe’s D1 Player of the Year notched 40 goals last season. If the Panthers can find a way to score, their ball-possession game will be tough to beat.
►Needham (15-2-3); lost to Oliver Ames in Division 1 South semifinals. The Rockets were a year ahead of the youth movement, having started four freshmen and four sophomores last fall. They are returning 15 players and 10 starters, including junior goalie Emily Bowers , a two-time Bay State Conference All-Star, and junior midfielder Kayla Steeves , sister of state champion Mac Steeves .
►Newton North (12-3-5); lost to Lincoln-Sudbury in the D1 North quarterfinals. One of the few senior-laden teams, the Tigers might be the one to beat in the Bay State Conference.
►Concord-Carlisle (15-4-0); lost to Beverly in D1 North quarterfinals. O’Brien is at Boston College and longtime coach Nancy Slocum stepped aside to spend time with her family.
►Lexington (9-8-3); lost to Central Catholic in Division 1 North first round. Eric Driscoll takes over as the team’s third coach in three years.