Three days into her initial workouts with the Medway girls’ soccer program last September, Mikayla Perez was putting her ball skills, talent, and compete level on display. Her excitement to don the Mustang blue for her hometown team was beaming through.
As a freshman and sophomore, Perez did not play for Medway because of her commitment to her club program, New England Football Club. So this was her opportunity. But on a play for the ball, in a collision with a teammate, Perez hit the turf and broke her right collarbone, ending her junior season before it started.
After spending the night in the emergency room, Perez was at practice the following day, her arm in a sling. She was met with a flurry of gift baskets and warm wishes from her teammates, all overjoyed at her presence.
Her commitment to the Mustangs never wavered; she was present at each practice and game despite being unable to play one minute in an abbreviated 6-2-0 season. Each day, Medway coach Jason Rojee had to peel the enthusiastic junior off the field as she attempted to power through drills with her teammates while wearing the sling.
“I love the environment, the people, and the competitiveness of the game,” said Perez. “My goal is to make everyone around me as excited as I am about playing soccer.”
Perez, a physical player at 5-foot-5 who never takes a play off, is one of four elected captains even though she has not played a varsity game at Medway, joining fellow seniors Ella Cence and Liv Killman, and junior Callahan Cottone.
In the preseason, she made it a point to help mentor the freshmen and form relationships with every player.
“She’s a full on personality that plays like a missile,” said Rojee. “She goes full speed at all times and everybody feeds off of her enthusiasm. To have her lead the way she did after her injury, it was a no brainer to make her a captain.”
Perez, who played outside back for her club team, will be tasked with distributing the ball quickly and controlling the tempo of the game playing center mid for Medway.
“She’s a great role model,” said Rojee, who in his 19th season, calls Perez one of the top athletes he has coached.
“She’s constantly pushing herself to get better and asking me what she needs to work on in her game so that she can fix it. When you have a leader that practices and plays that way, it rubs off on everybody.”
There have been a number of challenges along the way, but Perez plays on.
In 2015, Perez was diagnosed with Lyme disease. In 2018, she contracted Lupus, a disease in which the immune system attacks its own tissues. She sat her eighth grade season, missing key time developmentally to take care of her own health.
During the spring season for NEFC, Perez was checked after spraying a cross into the opposition’s 18-yard box and tried to halt her fall by sticking her arms out. She shattered her radius, requiring three pins and a rod to stabilize the compound fracture.
“She’s been dealt some heavy cards for a kid,” said her mother, Leah Perez. “She can’t catch a break, unless it’s with her bones.”
After an arduous year, Mikayla wore the Mustang blue with pride in Saturday’s EMass. girls’ soccer jamboree in Medway.
“It was a dream come true putting on that jersey,” said Perez.
▪ Since 2014, with the completion of construction of Hanlon Field, Medway High has been a perfect fit for the annual EMass girls’ soccer jamboree. On Saturday, 32 teams from Eastern Massachusetts made a triumphant return to the preseason showcase for the first time in two years after the 2020 event was not held during the pandemic.
“It’s a great way to expose your team to high quality soccer and kind of get a gauge to open the season of where you are today,” said Medway coach Jason Rojee, the event organizer.
With top teams such as Bishop Feehan, Foxborough, Winchester, Hingham, and Brookline, among many others, in attendance, Rojee said it was the perfect opportunity to compete at a high level but with low stakes.
“As a coach, you never really want to take a look in preseason and say, ‘Well, we’re great,’” Rojee said. “You always want to find and nitpick little things here and there.”
▪ After an 10-0-0 campaign last fall, Winchester graduated 15 seniors, eight of whom are playing collegiately. The Red & Black were led by two-time All-American and three-time Middlesex League MVP Hannah Curtin, who scored 82 goals during her career before heading to Dartmouth.
Coach Rick Emanuel, however, remains optimistic about the future.
“I have a lot of faith in these players and this group,” he said. “We have talent and a solid pipeline of players. I think now more than ever, we will play as a team.”
▪ After sharing the field throughout high school, Weymouth alumnae Grace McDermott and Sarah Fuller both made their first career appearances for the Westfield State University’s women’s soccer team Saturday. Fuller, a freshman goalie, played 45 shutout minutes and recorded a save for the Owls en route to a scoreless draw against Stockton, and McDermott, a freshman defender, saw 16 minutes of action.
Games to watch
Wednesday, Dover-Sherborn at Medway, 5:30 p.m. — After going 6-2-2 a season ago, Medway is on the hunt for more, and Dover-Sherborn looks to repeat its success from racking up an impressive 8-1-1 record in the abbreviated 2020 season.
Thursday, Foxborough at King Philip, 3:45 p.m. — The first Top 20 matchup of the year features No. 3 King Philip and No. 15 Foxborough in a Hockomock clash. KP took the lone 2020 matchup, 3-2.
Friday, Medfield at Holliston, 3:30 p.m. — No. 18 Medfield and No. 20 Holliston both begin the year on the edge of the Top 20. Both teams went undefeated a season ago, posting 7-0-3 records but did not meet.
Saturday, Lexington at Concord-Carlisle, 5 p.m. — The unranked Minutemen will look to shake things up in the rankings as they take on No. 8 Concord-Carlisle.
Monday, Bishop Fenwick at Arlington Catholic, 3:45 p.m. —The Catholic Central League is stacked with heavy hitters year after year and AC will be highly-motivated after Fenwick swept the series last fall.
Correspondent Emma Healy also contributed to this story.