CHELMSFORD — Through the first six games of the season, the Tewksbury Memorial High School girls' soccer team had a 5-0-1 record, and had outscored teams 21-3, which included the opening 10-0 domination victory over Lawrence.
After that was a quick two-game losing streak, falling to both Central Catholic, 3-1, and Billerica, 3-0 and during that time the team suffered through some injuries, including Iris Diaz, the very talented transfer player from Central. She hurt her knee and will find out later this week if she can return this season.
After that loss to Billerica, the Redmen were able to regroup and defeat Dracut, 3-0, and then before Tuesday night's road match-up against Chelmsford, the top team in the MVC Division 2 standings, Tewksbury got a boost when all-conference striker Alyssa Marchelletta returned after a serious ankle injury which happened towards the end of last year's season. She was strong in her return as the Redmen ended in a scoreless tie against the Lions, who have now posted seven shut outs this season.
The 1-0-1 week puts Tewksbury at 6-2-2 overall, and the team needs just two wins or four points in the last eight games to qualify for the state tournament.
"We got off to that really good start and I thought between the Dracut game and Chelmsford, we played very well so hopefully we are back on track. I think if we keep moving the ball like we have been doing and stay aggressive, the four points will come fairly easily for us," said head coach Samantha Tavantzis.
In the 3-0 win over Dracut, Daniela Almeida scored two goals and assisted on another, the tally from Erin McIntyre. Jordan Sheehan and Ashlyn Nawn picked up assists. Julia Cafferty made 13 saves in the net for the win, while, back-up Kassidy MacDonald made one in a reserve role as the two combined for the shut out.
"Our defenders have been really strong, especially these last two games (not allowing a goal)," said Tavantzis. "Katie Polimeno, Brenna Cassidy, who is a real tough player, Sophie Eskenas, who is a captain, and Rachel Picher, have all been playing great back there."
The strong play from the defense, as well as the loss of Diaz and the addition of junior captain Marchelletta, allowed Tavantzis to do some tinkering with her line-up against Chelmsford. She moved Almeida from the center midfielder spot to forward to join Marchelletta, who is another talented scorer, while the combination of Lexi Polimeno, Sheehan and then Almeida, when she drops back, have rotated as the center midfielders.
"The injury to Iris is a huge loss for us," said the coach. "So we are trying to figure some stuff out, especially if she is out for some time. She finds out this week if she can return or if she is out for the season. Iris is a talented player, who sees the entire field very well. She has great skills and can score. She had four goals for us already."
The coach added that the emergence of Lexi Polimeno allows the team to push the extremely talented Almeida up front to where she hopefully she find the back of the net along with Marchelletta.
"Alyssa did very well in her first game back and you never would have thought that she had been out this long with the way she played," said Tavantzis. "She did much better than I thought she would in her first game back. Before the injury, her skill was being a lefty and she ended up hurting her left ankle, so since then she has really been working her right foot, and now she may be more dominate with her right foot, than her left."
The coach that both Tewksbury and Chelmsford had numerous amount of chances but couldn't get on the scoreboard.
"I thought we played very well and pretty much dominated the game," she said. "We just couldn't finish our scoring chances. Defensively we were very good. Chelmsford is a tough team. They are much improved from year's past. They were missing their top goalie, but their back-up was just as good. We had plenty of chances to score, but just couldn't finish."
Cafferty recorded the shut out in the net and has been part of five shut outs this season.
Tewksbury's long eight game road trip concludes this week with stops at Andover on Thursday and Auburn on Monday morning, before finally coming home to face North Andover in a huge MVC Division 1 showdown on Tuesday beginning at 3:45 pm. That game could possibly determine the league champion, although Andover and Central Catholic are right behind both squads.