It’s a drill designed for possession and aggression.
But on what was the coldest afternoon of the season, all of the Norwell varsity girls’ soccer players were gathered in a big circle at a practice session last week.
One player started with the ball in the middle of the circle before coach Kara Connerty called out a name. That second player ran directly at the first, trying to take the ball away. All of the surrounding players shouted words of encouragement at both players. One voice, however, was louder than all — Kristi Vierra ’s.
A returning Globe All-Scholastic who helped key the Clippers’ run to the Division 3 state title last fall, Vierra entered this season with 72 career goals. In her first 11 games this season, Vierra has 13 goals and nine assists for Norwell (7-2-2).
“She’s that athlete that works beyond her potential,” said Connerty. “She’s just a pleasure to coach.”
At the conclusion of practice, the Wake Forest-bound Vierra talked with the Globe.
When did you first start playing soccer?
“For as long as I can remember. I have two older sisters who both competed collegiately. The oldest [Erin] played college tennis [at Virginia] and my middle sister [Darci] played college soccer [at Providence], so I was on a soccer field probably as soon as I could walk.”
What does it mean to be a four-year starter?
“Awesome. It’s been an honor.”
What was the transition like going from center-mid as a freshman and sophomore, to forward as a junior and senior?
“The beginning, honestly, was pretty weird. I had played center-mid since I had been put on that soccer field all those years before, so making the transition was strange for me, but I was excited to do it because I knew that was what my team needed from me at the time. We needed someone to put the ball in the net. It was interesting and it was fun to take on a new role. I mean, it’s fun to put the ball in the back of the net for your teammates, for your town, especially when I was used to being the one passing the ball. But it was also strange because at 0-0 when your team brings it in, Kara [Connerty] says, ‘We need someone to score’ and I would say, ‘Alright forwards it’s time to score,” but then I would realize that’s me. I’m the one who’s responsible so it was just a different kind of responsibility. Stats are big when you become a forward because at the end of the day, you have to produce.”
Who helped you become the player you are today?
“Definitely my dad [Roger]. I get sappy thinking about him because he’s played such a big role in my life, not even just soccer. He’s pushed all of us, my sisters included to be the players that we are.”
Who is a soccer athlete that you look up to?
“He doesn’t play anymore, but [former Liverpool player] Steven Gerrard. Growing up that’s who my dad and I always liked to watch. [Gerrard’s] composure in the midfield is something my dad always made me note.”
Your coach praised your relentless work ethic. Where do you get that from?
“Aside from my family pushing me, a lot of it just comes from within. I know that if I’m capable of doing something and I don’t go out there and do it, then I’m wasting my time.”
As a captain and leading scorer, what is it like being the player that teammates look up to for both moral support and goal scoring?
“It’s been a new role because this is my first year as a captain. I think that throughout my years I’ve tried to be a role model even in my underclassman years, mostly through my play on the field. The change this year has been off the field and having to be one of the most vocal people on the team and bringing the team together.”
Why Wake Forest?
“I started my college search process as early as eighth grade. That’s what my [South Shore Select FC] coaches were telling me to do and that’s just the direction that soccer is going in. My first ID camp, which is where prospects go down and try to impress coaches, was at Wake Forest. It was the first college I really looked at with the idea of, ‘I might be going here in the future.’
“I love the South, love the style of play, love the culture, the team, and the college. I’m excited to go to college. I know it’s an awesome opportunity, especially to go to Wake, it’s my dream school.”
“At the same time, a lot of kids say, “I can’t wait to get out of here,’ but that’s not really me. I love Norwell High. I’ve loved being able to play high school soccer, especially with some kids going the DA route and leaving high school soccer, but I’ve loved being able to play for my community. I love my friends here so it’s going to be bittersweet to say goodbye because I’m so excited for the future, but I’m going to hold onto every last moment I have here.”
Friday was a special night at Hingham as the soccer teams celebrated the life of one of their biggest fans.
Maddie McCoy, a Hingham Youth Soccer and Galway Rovers Club player, was named an honorary captain of the Hingham girls’ team last year as she battled rhabdomyosarcoma — a rare form of pediatric cancer. She died May 23 at age 11.
Friday’s boys’ and girls’ games against Plymouth South raised $50,055 for Maddie’s Promise — a foundation created in her honor to raise money for pediatric cancer research. Fans were asked to wear purple, Maddie’s favorite color, and purple T-shirts with Maddie’s No. 1 were available for purchase.
“It was really moving the way it looked,” Hingham girls’ coach Ryan Puntiri said of the purple hue in the sky during the national anthem. “It was eerie, but really incredible.”
The girls’ team presented Maddie’s parents, Ann and Steve, with a framed varsity letter to commemorate her connection to the team.
“It was a fantastic night,” Puntiri said.
“It really brought everything full circle. Some of the girls who were involved with it last year are at college. But the ones who knew Maddie and were back enjoyed the night. It’s a cool movement in high school sports that teams want to be involved with charity things like this. We have done a few events over the years, but this was by far our biggest.”
For more on Maddie’s Promise, or to make a donation, go to maddiespromise.org.
■ King Philip’s terrific run since Week 1 has earned the Warriors the top ranking in the Globe’s Top 20. KP has outscored opponenets, 56-2, this season.
■ There have been plenty of draws in the Bay State Conference this season, so perhaps it was fitting that Monday’s rematch of last year’s Division 1 state semifinal between Natick and Brookline ended in a 0-0 tie. The battle for the top spot in the BSC Carey is shaping up to be one that comes down to the wire with Brookline, Natick, and Wellesley fighting for the title.
Games of the week
No. 9 Weymouth at No. 2 Natick, Thursday, 3:45 p.m. — One of two huge Bay State Conference matches on Thursday’s schedule.
No. 15 Needham at No. 6 Brookline, Thursday, 4 p.m. — Another crucial inter-divisional clash in the BSC, at Skyline Park.
No. 5 Whitman Hanson at Hingham, Thursday, 6 p.m. — It’s almost always a battle when these Patriot League rivals meet. This time it will be under the lights.
No. 13 Holliston at No. 17 Concord-Carlisle, Friday 4 p.m. — The top team in the Tri-Valley League travels to face one of the Dual County League’s best in this intriguing non-league matchup.
No. 1 King Philip at Foxborough, Friday, 3:45 p.m. — The first-place teams in the Kelly-Rex and Davenport collide with more than bragging rights on the line in this Hockomock League showdown.
Ethan Nash can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.