Prior to Wednesday’s Northeastern Conference home match against Marblehead in Boxford, the senior captains on the Masconomet Regional girls’ soccer team jogged over to greet the ball girls. The girls then volleyed the ball back and forth with the players they one day hope to emulate.
The girls, ranging from fifth to seventh graders, are part of the team joining the squad at halftime and in the handshake line.
Senior captains Taylor Bovardi, Marcy Clapp, Kylie DuMont, and Kendall Skulley remember when they were ball girls, aspiring to play on the same pitch as their role models one day.
“We felt in the program, as we were coming up, they were all role models to us,” said Bovardi.
‘The family feel, the culture of inclusion and togetherness has been really important to us.’
Masconoment girls' soccer coach Alison Lecesse on her team's outreach to the community's youth
The majority of players on the undefeated Masconomet team served as ball girls growing up, immersing themselves in the team-oriented culture of the program. Alison Lecesse, a seventh grade history teacher in the middle school, has cultivated the concept of having youth players be close to the team.
“Fostering the next generation starts in middle school,” said Lecesse. “The family feel, the culture of inclusion and togetherness has been really important to us. This senior class has really bought into that.”
The inclusion of the next generation begins with a strong leadership core. Loaded with talent, Masconomet relies on its leaders to carry on the tradition of a proud program. Bovardi was added to a watch list for the 2022 High School All-American game, one of four Massachusetts public school players to achieve the feat.
Masconomet has amassed a 656-141-80 record since a varsity team was incorporated in 1978, including 21 Cape Ann League championships, five Eastern Massachusetts championships, and a state title in 1989. In Lecesse’s six seasons at the helm, the Masconoment girls’ soccer team has recorded a 77-11-8 mark.
“The coaches have built this program,” said DuMont. “The group of girls, it’s a great group. We always get along. It’s easy to be a team, we’ve always been so close which obviously helps on the field if you’re able to connect off it.”
The entire Under-12 team showed up to Masconomet’s Senior Day game, a 7-0 win over Salem, to show their support. In return, the entire varsity squad watched the U-12′s game on Saturday, an act of solidarity that displayed the team’s energy and commitment to its culture.
“They ran over to us, they gave us hugs before they even went to their parents,” said Skulley. “It was cool. We realized how much we mean to them and to show that we care about them.”
Team pasta dinners prior to every game, theme days at school where everyone dresses up, and banners of past successes donning the hallway walls serve as team-building experiences and encourage the team to strive for further success. Returning members of the team practice in the spring and gather to work out 4-5 days a week during the summer, culminating with a preseason tournament in Maine.
“It’s a high standard,” said Clapp. “We have high expectations for ourselves.”
Senior forward Ally Mitchell joined her hometown team after spending her first three years at Bishop Fenwick. After scoring a fantastic tip-in goal in a 2-0 Northeastern Conference win against Marblehead, Mitchell found herself at the epicenter of a euphoric celebration staged by her teammates.
“I just transferred here and I feel like I’ve been on the team for a while,” said Mitchell. “Everyone is so welcoming.”
With a sterling 27-to-2 goal differential, and an unbeatean (8-0-0) record, Masconomet projects to have a promising season and a deep run in the state tournament. Already, Nov. 19 — the date of the state championship — has been circled on the team’s calendar.
“It’s hard not to look at the squad, look at the talent, and think about the possibilities,” said Lecesse. “We have the potential to play until Thanksgiving. What we do between now and then will determine that.”
▪ Cohasset coach Deb Beal usually knows what to expect from new players on her team before they even arrive, as she works with them as a middle school physical education teacher. But in the case of senior Riley Nussbaum, Beal was caught off guard.
Nussbaum joined Cohasset’s team this year as a senior after exclusively playing club soccer for her first three years of high school.
“She came in and said, ‘Hey, I want to represent my school as a senior,’ and she’s come in and taken our center back role and been amazing,” Beal said. “Having her back there has made a big difference.”
Cohasset lost Mia Froio, a defensive stalwart, to graduation after last season, and Nussbaum has taken over that role. But center back is one of the few positions with turnover for the Skippers, as their midfield retained Tess Barrett, Cat Herman and Georgia Barrett, a trio that accounted for most of Cohasset’s offensive production last season.
“They’re involved in every play,” Beal said. “Sometimes we get caught up watching Tess, Cat and Georgia do all the work because that’s what they do.”
▪ Nauset, on the hunt for its third straight Cape & Islands League championship, is off to a 6-1-1 start. Olivia Avellar, an All-State selection in 2021, has emerged as a standout for the Warriors once again, tallying five goals in Nauset’s most recent game against Barnstable.
“We have asked her to be more competitive and a leader on and off the field,” said coach Tom Pollert. “She has accepted those challenges and strives for improvement both individually and collectively every day.”
Pollert sought a tougher strength of schedule this season to push his team and make headway in the power rankings. Nauset’s ranking was no doubt bolstered by its defense which held perennial powerhouse Newton South to a pair of goals in a 2-0 setback on Sept. 17.
Despite the loss, Pollert saw the game as a step in the right direction.
“We were able to make corrections and adjustments after the loss, and we are playing with a stronger level of confidence,” Pollert said. “We empower the girls to have a voice and fix things at training and during our matches.”
Games to watch
No. 1 Newton South at No. 9 Brookline, Friday, 4:30 p.m. — Two top-10 teams will meet for a nonconference clash with Division 1 tournament implications.
Wellesley at No. 3 Natick, Sunday, 11 a.m. — The undefeated Redhawks (7-0-0) will host the Raiders, a bubble team, in a Bay State Conference clash at Gillette Stadium.
No. 4 Hingham at Silver Lake, Saturday, 2 p.m. — Silver Lake, looking to break back into the top 20, will welcome the unbeaten Harborwomen (6-0-2) for a Patriot League clash.
No. 10 Needham at No. 14 Notre Dame (Hingham), Monday, 5:30 p.m. — Riding the momentum of a three-game win streak, the Cougars (5-1-1) host the unbeaten Rockets (4-0-2) for a nonleague matchup.
Correspondent Emma Healey contributed to this story.
Cam Kerry can be reached at email@example.com.