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WGVS has high hopes for tournament

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Teammates Mary Harding and Devon Parker celebrate a goal. PHOTO/ WGVS Parents

Teammates Mary Harding and Devon Parker celebrate a goal. PHOTO/ WGVS Parents

By Grace Wang

  A good team beats with one heart. A good team instills confidence and strength into each player. A good team has talent. A good team fights on.  When a good team faces adversity, it gets back up on its feet.

  The 2016 WGVS team has incorporated all of these qualities into their work on and off the field to be a successful team so far this season.

 “After every win or loss, we continue to fight for ourselves and each other,” sophomore goalie Rachel Garofalo said.

   A good team looks out for each other, on and off the field.

  “Every single player would lay down across the tracks for any of her teammates,” head coach John Power said.

  From 2010 to 2016, players have come and gone. But one thing has stayed the same – WGVS is a family of sisters with a winning record.

  The Lady Wildcats claimed their third consecutive DCL Small Title after a win against Waltham on October 26. However, the team hasn’t won states since 2012, and the players are craving another victory.

  Compared to last year, Power has drilled more on defensive techniques, and the hard work has paid off.

  “It’s very rewarding to see the players work hard on their defensive shape and make such palpable progress,” Power said.

  For example, the girls’ defensive line held strong  against D2 Concord-Carlisle, where the Lady Wildcats won 4-3 on September 12.

  “We played a fantastic second half defensively that set up scoring opportunities in a come-from-behind win over a very good program that we have struggled to get a result from over the years,” Power said. “The unbridled joy of the players that day will stay in my memory for a long time.”

  Several team members, including Garofalo, said the depth of the lineup has given the team fresh legs this season.

  “We now have much more freedom to take off a starter and put in another player without the pace or intensity of the game changing,” Garofalo said. “The focus on our offensive and defensive shape and strategies in practice and the improvements have been especially noticeable in our game performance.”

   The team is looking forward to showing off their skills in tournament. And fans of the team – especially those who have been rooting for the Lady Wildcats for years – hope that these strengths will help this year’s team make it past the second round of tournament play.

  For the past three consecutive years, WGVS has been trapped in the second round, perhaps due to key player injuries.

  Going back to the 2009 season, the most detrimental event during the season were her team members’ injuries, WHS ‘10 captain Robyn Manley said.

  “It didn’t matter the injury or the individual. When there was an injury and we weren’t all playing and practicing together, it was evident that the flow of the game was off,” Manley said.

  Reasons for the consecutive second round losses have not only been attributed to injuries, however.

  “In 2013 we were rebuilding our team and our culture after heavy losses to graduation and a difficult team environment,” Power said. “I think we all felt fortunate to make it to the second round!  The following years, we felt very good about our chances in tournament. But in each year we had damaging injuries right at the end of the season.”

  In 2014 and 2015, the luck of the draw also paired the Lady Wildcats with two teams that played far in the tournament. However, Power said the strong team culture will eventually break the curse and with a season record of 9-5-3 and a DCL Small Championship win, his hopes are high for tournament this year.

 “I think a team has to believe that it can play well to be successful in tournament. Success during the regular season can be a function of luck and injuries and many other things, but once tournament starts everyone gets a clean slate. If a team BELIEVES it can win and is willing to stick together and work hard to make it happen, anything is possible,” Power wrote in a passionate email.

  WHS’ 16 Rachel Mordecai, who now plays soccer at Bard College, says that the team was capable of moving further than the second round in tournament in 2015.

  “We’ve never played our best soccer in the second round of tournament games,” Mordecai said. “I’m not sure if the “curse” is getting to our heads or if we just are playing better teams, but I do think we could have beaten Bishop Fenwick this past year.”

  Key forward Karenna Groff suffered a concussion and was out during tournament in 2015.

  But WHS’ 15 Tally Shea doesn’t believe in the second round curse. Shea, a dominant defender, was injured and unable to play in tournament in 2014.

  “Believing in something like that is not going to bring any team forward. I think it’s a coincidence that in my final two years (2013 and 2014) we were knocked out in the second round.”

  Critical players junior captain Ash Baird and sophomore Whitney Sins have both been recently injured this season. With dominant players out once again, does the curse live on?

  Regardless, senior goalie Natalie Pettirossi believes that second round curse doesn’t define who the team is.

  “Reputation will take us nowhere. We need to show up to every practice and game and work as hard as we can, which has been reflected in our results this season so far,” Petirrosi said.

  According to Baird, winning states doesn’t define the team’s success during the regular season.   

  “The past two years that I’ve been on the team we have said that ‘this is our year’ but we end up losing in the second round. At the end of the season I’m always content with how far we’ve come despite the heartbreaking loss,” Baird said. “To win a high school state championship is truly an impressive accomplishment and it probably feels pretty awesome to win it. I believe that winning a state title doesn’t mean anything as long as we can find joy in playing this beautiful game with the people we love.”

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WGVS has high hopes for tournament