TEWKSBURY – During last year's state tournament loss to Billerica, you couldn't help but to notice Iris Diaz-Archilla on the field. Wearing a knee brace, and her uniform completely covered in mud due to the rainy conditions and slick field, Diaz stood out because she stands out on every soccer field. She can play the game, but more importantly her motor never, ever, stops.
In that 1-0 loss to Billerica, the Indians head coach Tom Foley — who has decades of coaching experience in both girls and boys ranging from extensive success at the youth, high school and college levels which followed his tremendous playing days — said after that game, "Tewksbury is a very good team and their record is not indicative of how soccer they play. They have had a tremendous amount of injuries and (those players) were pretty much all back today. With Daniela (Almeida), Iris (Diaz-Archilla), (Alyssa) Marchaletta, they are a handful, all of them are a handful."
And both Diaz-Archilla and Marchaletta were not at full strength. For Iris, she injured her left knee in an earlier game against Central Catholic, the same school she played for as a freshman before transferring over to TMHS.
"I got tackled and it was something with my meniscus because I had torn by ACL (in the same knee) before when I was going from the fifth to the sixth grade so it was pretty sensitive," she explained. "I was out for a bit and I have been doing a lot of recovery stuff to get back in it so I feel like I am really prepared for the season."
As one of the four captains along with Marchaletta, Lexi Polimeno and Brenna Cassidy, Diaz-Archilla will be the backbone of the team as the center-midfielder. An extremely aggressive player, she sees the field very well, has a strong shot, can defend and is very physical. However, physicality has been taken out of this year's games due to the COVID-19 restrictions.
"I have a really positive outlook on the season," she said. "I feel like we have been working really, really hard this summer. The informal practices were amazing and I think the girls were really intent with being attentive and working hard, so I think we all developed a lot. I'm super impressed and think we have all improved a lot. I expect to see some good results. We are all pretty versatile so we can all be pretty successful no matter where we play (and no matter the rules)."
Diaz-Archilla plays soccer year-round and said she did workouts and training with her Club Team and Foosball Coach before the informal workouts began for the Redmen. Athletics is a strong passion for the Diaz-Archilla family. Her father, Jose, was a baseball and basketball player and her mother, Maria, ran track when they first lived in Puerto Rico before moving to the states, starting in Florida.
In 2012, the family moved to Tewksbury. After a quick one year stay at Central as a freshman, Iris transferred to TMHS for her sophomore season but didn't play high school soccer because she was part of the Developmental Academy. She joined the team last year and is glad she made that decision.
"I feel very accepted here at Tewksbury (High). It's really nice to play with people that I grew up with and were friends with me when I moved here, who accepted me and welcomed me from Florida so it's nice to play with them right now," she said.
Despite battling her knee injury, Diaz-Archilla was named as a Lowell Sun second team all-star last year. This year, coach Samantha Tavantzis said that Iris should be among the top players in the league.
"Iris will play center-midfield for us but she may play some forward because she is a goal scorer," said Tavantzis. "She sees the field very well, she's skilled and she is feeling great this year which I am excited about. Last year she kind of came up with an injury, but she played tough through it. It was pretty hard for her to do that and to get her in and out of games, but this year we're hoping she's healthy.
“She's by far one of the best skilled players (in the league). She's aggressive, she sees the field and I'm excited to have her."
While coach is excited to have Iris, Iris is excited to have Gabby – her younger sister on the team.
"I love playing with Gabby," said Iris, while noting that they have two younger brothers, Nelson and Kairo. "I think Gabby is a very consistent player. I love being around her. She's super reliable and she's very relaxed, no matter what position she plays. I hope she plays midfield with me but she likes to play center-back mostly, but she also plays midfield."
The sisters will be able to play ten games together this season before Iris heads off to college.
"I'm looking at a few colleges right now," she said, while stating that she's looking possibly into studying biology or neuroscience with a minor in spanish. "I want to continue to play soccer."
She shouldn’t have any problems doing that.