DEDHAM — Last spring, Delaney Turner was deep into her preparation for her third year of outdoor track. As a three-sport varsity athlete at Dedham High, Turner was hoping for another solid performance in the Tri-Valley League. But just as practices started up, everything came to a halt.
The coronavirus pandemic forced schools across Massachusetts and the country as a whole to shut down, leading to the cancellation of all spring sports. As a result, Turner hasn’t had the chance to compete for the Marauders since February.
After months of waiting, quarantining, and at-home training, she was finally ready to don the maroon uniform which she had anticipated wearing for so long. But in such an unpredictable year, her plans quickly went by the wayside once again.
With Dedham considered a “high-risk” community for the spread of COVID-19, the Marauders had to postpone the start of many of their fall athletic seasons. For Dedham girls' soccer — of which Turner is a captain — that delay meant moving its first two games of the season, both against Dover-Sherborn, to the middle of November, and starting the season a full week behind other teams in the Tri-Valley League.
Starting in early October is already an adjustment for girls' soccer teams across the state of Massachusetts, and tacking on another week-long delay just added to Turner’s excitement for the season.
“It’s definitely building up a few nerves,” the senior goaltender said. “The delay was a bit of an unexpected turn, but we’re glad to have the games that we do.”
Though there won’t be any postseason action for the Marauders this fall, head coach Don Savi and his squad are still on the hunt to finish at the top of the league. With no MIAA Tournament on the horizon, a top finish in the loaded Tri-Valley league is even more of a motivator. But with every team in the league jockeying for the same spot at the top of the podium, Dedham’s young squad has a tough road ahead of it.
“We really improved last year, and we thought we’re going to take the next step this year,” Savi said. “So in that regard, we are pretty disappointed about the season, but once we looked at the alternative of not playing at all, we said ‘Okay, we’ll make the best of what we’ve got.’”
But with so much uncertainty in the status of games week to week, Savi said his main goal is just to play all 10 games of the season. Many of the players — like Turner — are multi-sport athletes, he said, so they’re familiar with the heartbreak that comes with a season cut short.
Members of the Tri-Valley League are slated to play just five weekend “pods,” which include two games per weekend, one home and one away. With games on Saturday and Sunday, Dedham’s practices are completely shifted, so the Marauders now practice on Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday ahead of two consecutive days of competition.
And after much delay, the Marauders finally have a taste of what their game-week routine will look like. They open their season this weekend with two games against Westwood, a team which already has two games under its belt.
“They were a young team last year, so I’m sure they have a lot of returners back, and this year is a little different,” Savi said about the matchup with Westwood. “We’re not so much worried about the other team. We just want to go out there and play and have some fun.”
▪ Central Catholic (3-1) senior forward Allie Fischer, sidelined all season after having surgery July 24 to repair a torn labrum, got a surprise start Monday on Senior Day in the Raiders' 5-1 win over St. Mary’s.
A teammate passed Fischer the ball, then she passed it once herself before hugging her teammates and checking out of the game to an ovation.
“For her to be able to get out there one more time with her teammates was really nice to see,” CCHS head coach Casey Grange said. “All of her teammates were happy for her.”
Fischer, who provided a key goal a day after getting called up to varsity as a sophomore, turned in a strong junior season. She was poised to contribute this fall, but the wear and tear of the injury set her back and altered her plans. The status of her senior basketball season is up in the air as well.
Grange credits Fischer for contributing to the team despite her inability to contribute on the field. She shags balls, sets up grids, helps with equipment, and constantly lifts her teammates up.
“I can’t imagine missing my senior year,” Grange said. “She’s shown up every day since the start of preseason with a smile on her face. She takes initiative. She’s doing all the little things in the background.”
▪ Winchester (3-0) is off to a stellar start once again this fall. Winchester, which has won the Middlesex League four consecutive years and are 72-8-8 during that span, have outscored their opponents 19-0 to open this season.
United Soccer Coaches currently has coach Rick Emanuel’s program ranked No. 8 in the nation. The Sachems — who won the Division 2 state title in 2018 and were runners-up last fall — have 15 seniors this year, seven of whom are committed to play collegiately.
“What makes this group extra special is that we’ve all been together since sandlot days,” Emanuel said. “The bond runs deep. I’ve coached some of these girls since they were 8 years old, so this is as close to family as it gets.”
The team’s success extends beyond the field, as Winchester recently earned the 2020 National High School Team Academic Award from United Soccer Coaches. The players also fundraise to support cancer research, volunteer at a soup kitchen and road race, and mentor younger players every year.
At the moment, there’s no postseason plan in place in the Middlesex League, but Emanuel said he would be all for it if they can collectively figure something out. In the meantime, Winchester is focused on improving every day and winning the league.
“This is a special year for so many reasons that we just want to enjoy every moment we get to spend together,” Emanuel said.
▪ Revere head coach Megan O’Donnell on Tuesday met with her team via Zoom for the first time in months to check in and see how everyone was coping without one another and the sport they all love.
“They said the hardest part about waiting for a Fall II season is not knowing if it’s going to happen or not, because we cannot get out of the red as a city right now,” O’Donnell said. “After last year’s successful season, it hurts not playing right now.”
The Patriots finished the 2019 regular season 14-1-3 before losing in the Division 1 North quarterfinal to Acton-Boxborough. At the moment, they’re not allowed to practice, but their hope is that they can start working out while social distancing twice a week if and when the state of the city improves.
“I feel bad for my team, because they’ve worked so hard over the last few years to get Revere High School noticed in girls' soccer,” said O’Donnell, who’s longing for some live action. “Not knowing if my seniors will get a season is tearing me apart.”
Games to Watch
Thursday, Brookline at Wellesley, 3:45 p.m. — After a last-second win over Needham on Thursday, the Warriors have momentum on their side, but Wellesley, which opened the season with a narrow victory over Newton North, has a host of young talent. It should be a defensive battle to behold.
Friday, Whitman-Hanson at Plymouth North, 3:30 p.m. — Patriot League force Whitman-Hanson has started the season without a blemish on its record thanks in large part to the return of two All-State selections from last year in Olivia Borgen and Kelsee Wozniak. Plymouth North will look to bounce back from an early-season loss to Hingham.
Saturday, Hopkinton at Holliston, 8 a.m. — Holliston made an incredible playoff run last season and returns a significant core of its state championship squad from. After Holliston’s season-opening shutouts over Norton, Hopkinton will look to be the first team to score on the Panthers this year.
Monday, Milford at King Philip, 3:45 p.m. — King Philip is off to an undefeated start, and the 2019 Division 1 South runners-up will look to continue their momentum. Milford has already suffered two tough losses to Franklin, so the Eagles will look to rebound against King Philip.
Tuesday, Natick at Needham, 3:45 p.m. — Perennial powerhouse Needham split its first two games of the season with Brookline, so the Rockets will be on the hunt to build a case for themselves in the Bay State Conference.
Correspondent Trevor Hass also contributed to this story.