Since his hire in 2014, Austin Prep girls’ soccer coach Tim Phelan has incorporated a “we, not me’' mentality into his coaching philosophy. That mentality begins on the field, but it extends well past the final whistle.
Community service has become a staple for the Cougars, who at 10-1-1 are ranked sixth in this week’s Globe Top 20.
“Over the years we have volunteered … for a wide range of different things, which really helps with team bonding and understanding what is important in life,” Phelan said.
Those causes have included volunteering at senior centers, the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and Habitat for Humanity. Recently, the entire team ran in the Progeria Research Foundation’s 5K for research on Progeria, a genetic disorder that causes children to age rapidly.
The Cougars will host Mystic Valley Charter in their annual Kicks for a Cure game on Saturday afternoon.
“The service is something that my school preaches in general,” Austin Prep senior captain Catherine Gallagher said. “I think it’s super important that my coach brings that into the sport.”
There are bonding events such as sleepovers and trips to get ice cream postgame. But the most fulfilling is the annual preseason service trip to the Cape, in which the Cougars train but also volunteer at an organization, such as Habitat for Humanity.
“The soccer team is more than what happens on the field,” Gallagher said. “Being able to give back to my community and take part in service, that’s really important to me … Especially because we go to a private school, [it shows] how important it is to give back to our communities.”
Added fellow captain Samantha MacCormack, “We are all aware of how fortunate we are to go to a school like Austin Prep, so we definitely love giving back to other communities.”
Phelan said he also promotes a “family” among his players, removing the seniority hierarchy and supporting a positive team culture.
“Whether you are the best player on the team or the player that doesn’t get as much playing time as others, everybody has a valuable role on the team, and everybody understands that,” Phelan said. “And I think that really starts with our senior leadership.”
Gallagher and MacCormack earned spots on the varsity as eighth graders, and connected immediately. Now, as senior captains, they are the program’s only five-year players.
Before each game, the team chants “Family on three! One, two, three, family!” That attitude doesn’t appear just in words, however, but in actions.
“The second I stepped on the field in eighth grade, every single person on the field is equal,” MacCormack said.
MacCormack is a five-year starter in goal.Gallagher has evolved into a speedy player with a “nose for the goal,” according to Phelan.
The two also share the field on their club team, NEFC North Shore.
“We got to grow up together and just go through the process of high school soccer and recruiting and everything like that together,” MacCormack said. “I think that’s been really beneficial to have someone like that with me on the team.”
Gallagher is committed to play at Wesleyan; MacCormack hopes to finalize her decision in the next couple of weeks.
Gallagher said that Phelan has played an integral role in the recruiting process for all of the players, which starts with keeping track of the team’s grades during the offseason and staying connected with all of his players year round.
“He checks in with all of our players, but also the captains, to see how everyone’s doing mentally, and that’s something that I’ve never had before,” Gallagher said.
▪ Lucia Antonucci, an eighth-grader from Malden, has excelled for Mystic Valley, netting 10 goals and eight assists in the team’s 8-0-1 start.
“Her individual quality is incredibly noticeable,” said Mystic Valley coach Matt Offner. “She stands out every time she’s on the pitch. She makes an impact everywhere and can be put anywhere on the field and succeed.”
Playing against, and with, older players has not been daunting. She uses her keen awareness, vision, and ability to attack the net to remain a step ahead.
“What stands out to me is that she is always looking to get teammates involved,” said Offner. “She’s incredibly selfless as a forward and wants to find the best play available.”
Antonucci and sophomore forward Reilly Hickey (16 goals, 5 assists) form a dynamic duo that has helped Mystic outscore foes, 41-6.
▪ Mansfield, No. 18 in this week’s poll, has six seniors on the roster. So coach Kevin Smith felt there might be growing pains early on. But after a 5-2 Hockomock defeat against Foxborough and a close 1-0 loss to King Philip, the Hornets (8-2) have rattled off six straight wins.
“Those two games really helped us in our process,” said Smith. “We learned a lot in those games and I think that we have grown a lot since that time.”
In the six-game span, the Hornets have conceded one goal and outscored the opposition, 26-1. A balanced attack, led by senior Tarynn Smith (8 goals, 4 assists) and strong team defense have fueled the run. Off the field, the team remains inseparable and enjoys pasta dinners together the night before a game, which occur outside with social distancing due to COVID-19.
“This team has really come together,” said Smith. “They are a really good group. They really care about each other, they play for each other on the field, and it’s starting to show.”
Games to Watch
Wednesday, Concord-Carlisle at No. 3 Newton South, 4:30 p.m. – Two of the top teams in the Dual County League Large Division battle for positioning in the standings. The Patriots (7-2-2) own a 4-1-1 record in conference play, while the Lions (9-0-3) boast a record of 6-0-1 in home games.
Wednesday, No. 16 Oliver Ames at No. 18 Mansfield, 5 p.m. – OA (8-1-1) has scored 47 goals while only conceding eight; the Hornets (8-2) are riding high on a six-game winning streak.
Thursday, No. 13 Whitman-Hanson at No. 1 Hingham, 6 p.m. – Perennial powers in the Patriot League Keenan Division collide again after drawing 2-2 in their previous match on Sept. 20. The Harborwomen (10-0-1) are coming off a defeat of top-ranked Plymouth North. W-H (5-2-1-) has won five straight.
Friday, No. 14 North Andover at No. 5 Danvers, 6:30 p.m. – NA (8-2-1) has only allowed five goals this season. The Falcons (8-1-2) look for a bounce back after having their 36-game regular season unbeaten streak halted by Masconomet.
Saturday, No. 11 Natick at No. 8 Winchester, 6:30 p.m. – The Redhawks (6-0-2) have allowed four goals in eight games. Winchester (9-1-1) has outscored foes, 38-7.
Correspondent Cam Kerry contributed to this story.
Emma Healy can be reached at email@example.com.