In his first season as coach of the Lynn Classical girls’ soccer program, Mike Schena and the Rams experienced a two-win season. They scored eight total goals.
Fast forward two years, and Classical is 14-0-2, has outscored foes 62-3 and ranked 20th in this week’s Globe Top 20.
At the heart of the Rams’ drastic rebuild lies an ardent commitment to the team and to each other, which has translated into swift success.
Schena preaches spreading the ball around and keeping everyone involved in the attack. The result: 14 different girls have scored a goal.
Senior center back Ava Correnti notched her first goal of the season on a penalty kick against Salem Academy, overjoyed at the chance to put one in the back of the net.
“It’s like adopting 24 girls,” said Schena. “Treat them equally and they will run through a brick wall for you and for each other.”
This season’s group came together and knew that they could accomplish something special. Fresh off of a 7-1-1 campaign in the COVID-19 shortened Fall II season in which the Rams won their first Greater Boston League title, Classical immediately got back to work. In an effort coordinated by Schena and the 12 seniors on the roster, players sent videos in a group chat of themselves going through footwork drills and dribbling through cones in the backyard.
In a team meeting prior to the first game, senior captain Molly Mannion spoke up and delivered a message to the team: this group is as strong as ever and can go undefeated.
“Right then and there, it clicked,” said Schena. “You felt it — that sparked it. It wasn’t about individuals anymore. We could come together and create something greater.”
“We have some really good players,” said Mannion. “I’ve always been really confident in our team. Everyone stepped into their roles. It’s nerve wracking having the target on us, but we are up to the challenge.”
The Rams rely heavily on its defensive unit, which Schena refers to as “the brick wall.”
Starting every game, senior goalkeeper Anna Flaherty has racked up 12 shutouts. Mannion and senior Amanda Tucker possess a great deal of speed at outside back and can dribble up the pitch on the counter attack. Correnti and her sister, Eliza, a junior, win 50/50 battles frequently at center back and excel at distributing the ball from the back line.
An initial test for the Rams came against Revere when the Patriots scored in the first half, the first league goal that the Rams had surrendered. Rather than hanging their heads, the Rams turned adversity into a comeback victory.
“They scored on us and from that moment on, we all played ten times harder and knew that we wouldn’t let another one in,” said Mannion. “We’re so competitive and we can’t stand losing, period.”
Senior Jayda Mateo has a team-leading 13 goals and 7 assists. Sophomore Lauren Wilson (9 goals, 3 assists), junior Delaney Dana (6 goals, 8 assists), junior Ava Thurman (5 goals, 10 assists), and senior Olivia Waterman (3 goals, 8 assists) have been contributors. The unit undergoes a friendly competition for who can get the most points, but all that matters is that the Rams can come away with a win.
“We’re not just a team here,” said Flaherty. “We’re a family.”
The Rams have adopted an underdog mentality, fueled by the lack of success from two years ago and the prospect of making history for the program. As the Rams close in on a second straight Greater Boston League title and an undefeated season, the team hasn’t strayed from the team-first mentality.
“We’ve always been ‘little Lynn Classical,’” said Schena. “Just give us a chance; we’re always the underdogs. I’d take these girls to war with me. It’s truly an honor to coach them.”
▪ With a 6-0 win over St. Mary’s on Monday, Bishop Fenwick senior goaltender Claudia Keith earned her 10th shutout of the season. A captain and four-year starter out of Danvers, Keith has propelled the Crusaders (7-0-5) to an undefeated start, including making the crucial save in a 1-0 win over then-No. 1 Bishop Feehan.
“She’s a student of the game,” Bishop Fenwick coach Steve Flaherty said. “She’s always trying to find ways to improve as a goalkeeper, and she does a lot of extra work. At the end of the day you’re going to get out what you put into it, and she’s a perfect example of that.”
Keith plays year-round for Aztec Soccer and is committed to Southern New Hampshire.
“She’s, in a good way, a rare breed in that position, no doubt about it,” Flaherty said.
▪ Undefeated Natick has been a staple of the Top 20, and though coach Dave Wainwright emphasized the importance of his team’s senior leadership, a promising crop of underclassmen has been the catalyst in the Redhawks’ success.
Still, most of those underclassmen — second-year varsity players included — don’t yet have a full, “regular” season of high school soccer under their belts. Wainwright has leaned on the leadership of his captains Briar Grady, Kyra Hacker, and Allison Jeter, , as well as senior Mikayla Henderson.
“[Mikayla] has been a very good leader on and off the field with a lot of girls, just galvanizing them in terms of expectations and the culture or the norms of the team,” Wainwright said.
The outside midfielder, committed to play at Montclair State next year, doesn’t hold the official title of “captain,” but in her third varsity season, has become a vocal leader on the field.
“She’s really setting the standards and expectations along with our captains,” Wainwright said.
Games to watch
Wednesday, No. 3 Austin Prep at Bishop Fenwick, 4:15 p.m. — At 6-0-3 in conference play, Fenwick currently tops the Catholic Central Large division, but the No. 3 Cougars aren’t far behind at 7-1-1.
Wednesday, No. 14 Franklin at Mansfield, 7 p.m. — The teams have both played their entire schedule within the Hockomock so far this season, and with the No. 16 Panthers dominating the Kelly-Rex division, Mansfield — currently second in the division — will look to shake up the rankings.
Thursday, No. 10 Brookline at No. 18 Wellesley, 3:45 p.m. — The Warriors have recorded shutouts in 11 of their 12 games, including a 1-0 decision over Wellesley at the beginning of the season.
Friday, No. 1 Hingham at No. 16 Plymouth North, 4 p.m. — The top-ranked Harborwomen take on a North squad which dominated the ranking early in the season.
Monday, No. 4 Foxborough at No. 13 Oliver Ames, 6 p.m. — The two teams are separated by just one game at the top of the Hockomock Davenport, as OA tries to defend its top spot at the top of the division for another week.
Correspondent Emma Healy contributed to this story.
Cam Kerry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.