From the moment Rob Williams first saw Elizabeth Finn at the U-8 level nearly a decade ago, while coaching youth soccer in Scituate, he knew Finn was a player, one with lightning speed, skill, and maturity.
Finn has since developed into a standout with her club team, FC Stars, and made a name for herself as an eighth- and ninth-grader playing varsity at Worcester Academy. But WA, like many prep school programs in Massachusetts, is not scheduling games because of the pandemic.
After having lots of “tough conversations,” as Finn described the process, she and her family determined it would be best for a number of reasons — COVID-19 being one — for her to attend school in her hometown, Scituate, for her sophomore season.
“It really wasn’t something that I felt as though I could be successful in,” Finn said of a possible return to Worcester Academy this fall. “So, I decided, as much as I was disappointed, not to go back to Worcester. It was my decision in the end, and I’m very happy with where I am right now at Scituate and the way things are all going.”
Even with the move to Scituate, her outlook for a fall soccer season still had an air of mystery. A number of schools are fully remote and four leagues — Boston City, Greater Boston, Mayflower, and South Coast — are foregoing the Fall I season in favor of the “Fall II” window from Feb. 22 to April 25.
“To be honest, I thought that we weren’t going to have a season because I did not have a club season, and any recruiting events weren’t happening,” Finn said.
“And [with] the way that other schools were shutting down, I honestly didn’t think that there was going to be a soccer season at all. And I’m just so beyond grateful right now to have that security, even having a soccer season.”
At Scituate High, Finn is reunited with Williams, the Sailors' head coach who saw her potential years ago. She’s even playing on the same side as some of her old teammates from youth soccer.
Those connections have eased her transition.
“It’s been really great having Elizabeth this year,” senior captain Nora Dawley said. “From the second the season started, she has made a huge impact and has added a lot of depth to our offense. She makes herself known in every game, and she’s a great team player.”
Williams said anticipation rose when the players learned that Finn was coming back to Scituate. And when she first showed up for a summer training session, “Obviously, the girls knew who she was,” he said.
“Since then, it’s kind of like the morale has been so high,” he said. "I mean, you can see it in our results — it’s happening as a team, not just Elizabeth Finn. We do it as a team, and Elizabeth is obviously a huge part of that.”
At 7-0-1, the Sailors sit atop the Patriot League’s Fisher Division. Scituate is playing a high level of soccer, but it’s not the style that is familiar for Finn. First, COVID-19 modifications have dramatically altered the way MIAA teams defend, including no slide tackles or shoulder-to-shoulder contact.
At WA, Finn said she played mostly with players like herself: members of top club teams who hone their craft all year long. At Scituate, she’s surrounded by multi-sport varsity athletes who bring entirely different — but no less valuable — skill sets to the pitch.
“Scituate brings a lot of different strengths, whether it’s speed, physicality, whatever it is,” Finn said. “But I think it’s been even harder to really show that this year with some of the new rules and restrictions when it comes to soccer.”
Eight games into the season, Finn has tallied 10 goals and five assists.
“These kids adapt so well to new challenges and new things in life,” Williams said. “You know, there’s the whole thing about wearing masks: I’ve not had one player come to me and say, ‘Coach I’m struggling with my mask.’ They just get on with it.”
In such an unusual year, Finn’s challenges go beyond wearing a mask while playing, but she quickly found her place on her new team, and she’s poised to make a lasting legacy, whether she knows it or not.
“She is the same person now as what she was then,” Williams said, reflecting on Finn’s days of youth soccer. “She’s just so enthusiastic and loves the game. I don’t think she really realizes how good of a soccer player she is even, because she’s so humble.”
▪ Before every game, a member of the Ursuline girls' soccer team pulls two quotes from a jar and reads them aloud for inspirational purposes.
“It was created to lift each other up and challenge each player,” coach John Forte said. “As individuals we face challenges and battles every day, and soccer allows us to not feel isolated and play as a team and support each other since our season can stop at any moment.”
Forte said the Bears (5-1) — whose only loss came against defending Division 1 state champion Bishop Feehan — started the quote jar last year during a 14-4-2 campaign. Each player was asked to create an inspiring message to bring to each contest.
This year, they’ve had to make some COVID-19-related adjustments to limit spreading germs. Senior Laila Altanbour volunteered to take over running the jar by herself, generating memorable quotes to encourage her teammates.
One pithy message is as follows: “Discipline is the key to unlocking your true potential.”
Forte also credited his senior captains — Hannah Daly, Kelly Cheevers, and Nikki Olson — for keeping their teammates' spirits up during an unusual season.
“It’s a strange year for all teams this fall,” Forte said. “The girls are so happy to be able to play.”
▪ The Central Catholic League will wrap up its fall sports season with a single-elimination tournament, the CCL Cup. Playoff action will run from Saturday, Nov. 14, to Saturday, Nov. 21.
There will be nine total games: four on Nov. 14, two on Nov. 16, two on Nov. 18, and a championship on Nov. 21.
Schools that are eliminated have the option to play additional games against other teams that lost, or nonleague opponents, up until Nov. 21.
▪ Through four games this season, Tewksbury has had a knack for delivering when the score is tight.
The Redmen, 4-0 as of Wednesday afternoon, have won those games by a combined six goals. Their latest win — a 3-2 triumph over Haverhill last Saturday — was a microcosm of what the team is all about in the eyes of coach Samantha Tavantzis.
Midfielder Jordan Sheehan connected with Victoria Catanzaro for a goal with less than two minutes left, helping to preserve Tewksbury’s undefeated record. The Redmen, who finished the regular season 6-6-6 last year and snuck into the tournament, believe they were poised for a deep run this fall had they gotten the chance.
“We have skill, heart, and determination to win,” Tavantzis said. “All in all, I think our success this year comes from the positive energy of every athlete on the team.”
The Redmen were scheduled to face Haverhill on Wednesday.
▪ Hamilton-Wenham (6-0-2) stayed undefeated after pulling out a 1-0 victory over Pentucket on Saturday and earning a 2-0 triumph against Georgetown on Tuesday.
The Generals, who won a tournament game a season ago, pieced together a strong squad once again after losing lots of talent from last year. In addition to their key returners, they added Seacoast United club product Jane Maguire, a junior who scored the lone goal against Pentucket and another vs. Georgetown.
Coach Nancy Waddell credits her players for trusting that there would be a season even when they didn’t know for sure.
“They never gave up hope this summer and kept working just in case,” Waddell said. “They got their season and have seized the opportunity.”
Games to watch
Thursday, Barnstable at Nauset, 4 p.m. — The 6-0-1 Warriors look to continue their unbeaten streak as they host a surging Barnstable squad.
Friday, Plymouth North at Whitman-Hanson, 4 p.m. — It will be a battle of Patriot League contenders as the Eagles travel to take on undefeated Whitman-Hanson.
Saturday, Winchester at Arlington, 9 a.m. — A Halloween matchup between undefeated Winchester and one-loss Arlington will make for some interesting competition. The Ivy League-bound trio of Hannah Curtin (Dartmouth), Ally Murphy (Princeton), and Ellie Rappole (Yale) headline Winchester’s starting lineup.
Sunday, Millis at Dedham, noon — Millis and Dedham haven’t had many opportunities to compete this year, as the Tri-Valley League is exclusively playing weekend pods. The two teams meet first on Saturday, and they’ll both look to come away from the weekend series with wins.
Monday, St. Mary’s at Bishop Fenwick, 6:30 p.m. — After a 7-0 Senior Day win over St. Joseph Prep last Saturday, St. Mary’s will look to continue its momentum in the Catholic Central Conference. Bishop Fenwick is on a six-game unbeaten streak after a season-opening loss to reigning Division 1 state champion Bishop Feehan.
Trevor Hass also contributed to this story.