TEWKSBURY — Academically, the Polimeno siblings, Michael, Lexi and Kati are outstanding students with GPA's of at least 4.0, including Michael who will be off to Clemson University in the fall and Lexi, who is also the Class President of her tenth grade class. In the community, the three of them are involved with countless programs and events and listing all of them would take up pretty much the entire sports section.
Athletically, what they have done as individuals and collectively has really been impressive. Michael has been a member of the golf and baseball teams while having a torn labrum in his right shoulder. Lexi, a sophomore, has suited up for six varsity seasons and has been one of the top scorers in each of her first two seasons for the lacrosse team and is a captain elect for the soccer team this fall. And Kati, a freshman, has netted 32 goals this season for the four-win lacrosse team, while also being a member of the same three varsity sports as her older sister.
Collectively, the three of them have combined to earn 14 varsity letters (while Lexi and Kati should combine for 12 more), have been a part of league titles in golf and girls' basketball, have helped the golf team make two post-season appearances, the baseball team make one, the girls' soccer and girls' basketball teams make two as well. The girls were also a part of the best season in program history on the parquet floor, as the Redmen were the Division 2 North Finalists this past winter.
On top of all of that, Michael has been named a MVC All-Star in both of his sports. Last year he hit .321 in baseball and was also a league all-star in golf. Lexi, last year as a ninth grader on a team that won one game all season, was also recognized as a league all-star.
Besides all of the numbers and accomplishments, it is truly extremely difficult to find three siblings, who are as incredibly nice, sweet and genuine as these three, who truly love and respect one another, and who are tremendous student-athletes in every sense.
“As a pair I couldn't ask for nicer players,” said first-year lacrosse coach Erin Murphy about Lexi and Kati. “Not only are they forces on the field, but they are fiercely kind and genuine young ladies that bring such positivity to the team. I am very grateful to have the opportunity to coach them both and can't wait to see them continue to grow and develop their already solid skill in the next few years.”
Added baseball coach and science teacher Kirk Monbleau, “Michael is someone we can rely on to try and rally the troops, to tell batters what he saw from a pitcher during his at bat, basically anything he can do to help the team. If we need help with getting the field set up or broken down, he does it without hesitation.
“I have also had Mike in class as his Anatomy and Physiology teacher. The same traits you see on the field can be seen in the classroom. He worked great in groups and was attentive and conscientious. I have no doubt he will do great things at Clemson next year and in the future.
“This year I have Lexi in class too. She too is a terrific student and strives to be the best she possibly can. She self advocates very well, always asking questions to acquire a better understanding of the topic being discussed. She is a very caring young lady.”
THE FRESHMAN STICKS
Last year while she was in the eighth grade, Kati Polimeno was a member of the JV Lacrosse team as the program needed numbers to fulfill its roster. She made an immediate impact, scoring 40 goals in 15 games, so when Murphy was promoted from the JV team to the new varsity head coach before this season begun, she knew that there was a starting spot for Kati, who has worn the number '0' this season.
“Kati plays the center position for us and while all midfield positions are demanding, the job of the center is crucial and she plays the role well,” said Murphy. “Right off the draw, Kati controls the offense. She is continuing to work hard this season moving the ball strategically during the draw. Before last year's JV season, Kati already had a few years experience under her belt and quickly became a great asset to the team. She has worked well with the girls that she has played with for many years and was able to perform incredibly well.”
While the three siblings are sweet as can be off the field, they certainly are competitors on the field. Kati for sure has that trait.
“Kati is fearless on the field,” said Murphy. “She is eager for the ball and is aggressive both offensive and defensively. She forces countless turnovers on defense with her go get 'em attitude and is never afraid to go to goal on offense. Kati is definitely one of my more consistent players. She is a great athlete and I know I am always going to get everything she has to give leaving it all on the field. Kati is currently my top scorer of the season and is able to consistently find the back of the net in the vast majority of our games.”
Before last week's game against Stoneham, Kati was leading the team with 30 goals, while older sister had 28. Kati added two and Lexi added four in the OT loss to the Spartans giving them both 32 going into Tuesday's game with Dracut.
Kati said that she started playing lacrosse in the fifth grade thanks to “my best friend Maeve Cahill, who got me involved.” Besides that Kati also enjoyed fine seasons as a member of the Girls' Soccer and Girls' Hoop team. Both teams made it to the state tournament, losing to Danvers and then Pentucket Regional at the Tsongas Arena.
“We all work hard, but I think (Kati) is the most pure athlete out of the three of us,” said Michael.
DODGING A SOPHOMORE SLUMP
Just like younger sister, Lexi made an immediate impact as a freshman. She made the same three varsity teams. She helped the soccer team reach the state tournament before losing to Arlington, helped the hoop team advance to the playoffs before losing to Newburyport and then was one of the lacrosse team's top three goal scorers and was named a league all-star despite the team winning just one game.
From that ninth grade calendar year, Lexi made an incredible leap in all three of her teams this season. In soccer, she played a lot more, as she and Kati were midfielders on a pretty talented and skilled team. In the winter, she was the sixth/seventh player on the basketball team, filling in at both guard positions, while getting the occasional start. She came through with a handful of clutch shots throughout the season and it was clearly evident that she has a tremendous future on the court.
While she knows that she will have a much larger role in the years to come, nothing will take away the memories she has made from this past season.
“At the beginning of the season, our coaches told us that we were going to make it (to the Tsongas), that we were really good but we had to work on some things,” said Lexi. “I don’t think we were surprised that we got there, but just psyched that we kept winning to get there.
“Pentucket was really good, but I wish we could have played them again. They won the whole thing so if we won that game, it’s crazy to think what we could have done.”
While she connected with some big offensive shots during the hoop season, Lexi has taken those offensive skills to a new level on the lacrosse field.
“Lexi is a midfielder and works well on both sides of the field,” said Murphy. “On top of her goals, she also has numerous assists and draw controls. A trait that I love about Lexi is her leadership on the field. She is confident in her offensive skills and often takes charge in calling out plays and getting our offense set. As only a sophomore this is a great thing to see developing so early in her career on the team.”
While Kati and Lexi play the same three sports, are with each other day in and day out on the athletic fields for practices and the bus rides to games, Kati was asked if there was ever a time on the field or basketball court when either of them got upset at the other?
“No, we never get mad at each other. Not with sports. Maybe at home but that’s just about clothes but nothing bad,” she said with a laugh.
Michael Polimeno has been a member of the varsity Golf teams for each of the past two years and a member of the Varsity Baseball team each of the past three years.
This past fall, he helped the Golf team win the league title and advance to the sectionals. Michael was the No. 3 player for the Redmen, and always played in the second pairing along with Ben Froment. Polimeno along with Michael Lombardo were named as league all-stars.
“All individual honors are voted on by all of the coaches in the MVC, and were all well deserved honors for them,” head coach Jim Sullivan told the Town Crier back in October. “I am so happy for (Polimeno and Lombardo) to be recognized in this fashion, and am so very honored to be the coach of this entire team.”
Polimeno had previously played two years of Golf on the JV team, while he played a year between Freshmen and JV Baseball as a ninth grader, before playing mostly varsity his sophomore year, including playing in 14 of the team's 20 games, mostly at second base.
“Mike is a corner guy by trade but we needed someone with good infield skills to play the position so he learned the footwork around second base and where to put himself in various situations,” said Monbleau. “That's how he has approached the game since I've coached him. He asks questions, wants to get extra work after practice, and doesn't take a rep off. Guys like that are invaluable because in an indirect way they are an extension of the coaching staff and they make their teammates better."
Certainly Michael made his teammates and team better last year as a junior. He found himself as the team's third baseman, who also provided a nice bat.
“Going into his junior year he put in tons of work in the off-season — as he has always done — and it showed,” said Monbleau. “He played the majority of his innings at third base and was a DH for some games as he was dealing with some shoulder issues. He has great instincts at third and communicated extremely well with the rest of the infield.
“Perhaps his biggest contribution for us was his bat. He was always in the middle of our order but for the majority of the season he was hitting in the No. 3 spot going 17-for-53 with 11 RBI, eight runs scored and four walks. His bat control has always been his best strength, so he is the guy I was comfortable having in any situation. He can move a guy over with a bunt, hit and run, or drive guys in who are in scoring position. He was a very big reason why we were more successful in 2018 than we had been in previous years.”
Michael did all of that — play third base, bat from the No. 3 spot, hitting over .300, all with a banged up shoulder.
“The reason why I have always loved baseball so much is because I used to pitch, but I stopped because I hurt my shoulder,” he said. “ I tore my labrum. It was the summer after my sophomore year and I was pitching in an AAU game and I just remember I threw a pitch and my shoulder felt like it had exploded. I have to get surgery at some point in my life. I was always iffy about whether or not I would play in college, but I thought it was more important to (be able to play) for the high school team (rather than have surgery and sit out).”
This year, because of the injury, Michael has shifted once again to first base.
“I throw when I have to and (it hurts) sometimes. I take a lot of Advil before games,” he said with a laugh.
Before Tuesday's game with Methuen, the Redmen are 4-9 but still have a shot at making the state tournament. That outside chance remains mostly because Tewksbury pulled out a shocking win on Friday, beating one of the top teams in the state, Chelmsford, 2-1.
“We knocked off Chelmsford and they were in first place in the MVC Division 2 (Conference) so it was a big win,” said Michael, who celebrated his 18th birthday three days after this interview. ”There's been talk that they could make it to the Super-8 (tournament). We were locked in. We still made some mistakes in the field but we picked each other up. (Riley Frost) pitched one heck of a game. I think they had runners on three or four innings but we stranded them each time. He pitched just unbelievable.”
THE THREE MUSKETEERS
The three siblings come from a sports oriented family. Both of their parents, Phil and Krissy, were athletes in high school and both have been heavily involved in the youth leagues over the years. The family of five enjoy going to many sporting events together, including multiple Super Bowls and are always watching the Boston professional teams together at home.
As children and even today, the three siblings do a lot of things together, whether it's watching games on TV, going for car rides in either Michael's or now Lexi's car and listening to their favorite tunes, or playing a pick-up game of basketball.
“I think it's awesome watching (my sisters) play sports,” said Michael. “I tell them all of the time that if they can compete with me (in basketball) out in the driveway, you'll complete with anyone.”
Michael was asked about his sisters, what they are like as individuals and as athletes.
“Lexi might be the sweetest person I have ever known,” he said. “She's always so nice. I don't think I have ever heard her talk mean about someone. She's always been really good in basketball. She's a good shooter. And Kati is so smart and she is wicked funny. We watch a lot of professional games together like the Celtics and the Bruins and she's always doing homework, while we are screaming at the television.”
During the winter season, Michael was able to watch his sisters play basketball, being a part of the league championship season and that magical trip to the Tsongas Arena. Both Lexi and Kati have tried to make it out to several of Michael's baseball games this spring when their lacrosse games don't conflict.
“I think Michael has helped make us good at sports. I like watching his baseball games but I think he should have played basketball. In the yard, he’s nasty so I don’t know why he never played,” said Lexi, while Kati added, “He’s always going to our games, supporting us and he’ll tell us what we need to improve on and stuff like that.”
Michael played basketball his freshman year and then stopped, sticking to golf and baseball. The girls, on the other hand, played the sports together, including all three sports this calendar year.
“It’s awesome. It’s like playing with your best friend. You are always on the field together,” said Lexi about playing with Kati. “Growing up, we only played together every other year so the year that we weren’t playing together, we just looked forward to the next year. I like playing with Kati’s grade too — those girls are awesome.”
The bond between the sisters seems to become even closer thanks to athletics at the high school.
“In high school is where I think we have really become close,” said Lexi. “She’s like my best friend and I’m not just saying that. Especially since I got my driver’s license, we just go everywhere together.”
Added Kati, “(Lexi's) like my role model. She is just so kind to everyone and I try to be like her.”
If you ask Murphy, the two are not only close as sisters, but are the types of players and athletes that coaches dream of having.
“Kati as well as Lexi are players that ask questions and are eager to learn,” said the coach. “They want to perform at a top level and are always motivated to find ways of improving. Both girls have stayed behind at practice to work on shooting or express sadness when practice comes to a close because they want to keep playing. Having athletes like that make my job so enjoyable.”
The lacrosse team will finish its season on May 29th and unfortunately the team will not be making it to the state tournament. The baseball team as of Tuesday morning, still has an outside shot of making it and if not, Michael would have two games left in his high school career with games on May 31st against Amesbury and June 2nd against Lawrence. You can bet that the sisters will be on hand to watch him play.
“Michael's so much fun,” said Lexi. “He’s actually going to Clemson which is really sad. I’m not sure what we’re going to do without him. I know our dog is going to be really sad.”
The dog won’t be the only sad one.
“I love my sisters. They are the best,” said Michael.