BILLERICA – With a season destined to bring its share of challenges ahead of them, the Shawsheen Tech Girls Soccer team will be looking more than ever for their players to step up and meet those challenges to help their team navigate through a season unlike any other.
Thankfully for the senior laden Rams, they have a roster full of players who are willing to do whatever it takes to make this abbreviated season a success. Two of those players who have shown the ability to do just that, not only this season, but in seasons past, are seniors Talia Steed and Amanda Howell, both of Wilmington.
As they prepare to kick off their final season of high school soccer, both Steed and Howell expressed an eagerness to get started and get back on the field.
“I am really excited. I haven’t really been able to do anything active for a long time because of quarantine, so I am excited to get back on the field,” Steed said. “I didn’t get to play during the summer, but I am very happy to be here now.”
For Howell, who missed out on her lacrosse season with the Rams this past spring, getting back on the soccer field has been an adjustment, but it has been one she has eagerly embraced.
“My club lacrosse team, Revolution Lacrosse had online practice in our backyard on Zoom, and then we started to get more back into it more, so I have been having one practice a week for lacrosse, but it has been different with social distancing and everything,” Howell said. “It’s hard coming back for multiple days in a row when you haven’t been used to that. And I haven’t played soccer since last season, so it has been a while so it is kind of tough to come back. But it’s a lot of fun, especially after not playing for so long. It is fun to see all of my friends and teammates and meeting all the new players too.”
There was a period of adjustment for both players, as Steed had to get used to being back on the field after not having much activity in recent months. But, thankfully for her and the Rams, she adapted pretty quickly.
“At first I wasn’t very motivated to come back because it was so hard being stuck in quarantine and not doing much,” Steed said. “And then once I got back and got into it, it was kind of hard for me because it was a lot running and physical activity and I wasn’t really in shape, but now that I am here, I am happy to be here with my friends and my teammates and we are ready to play.”
Steed has made the necessary adjustments to help her team in the past, as she showed last season when she switched positions without skipping a beat, and helped the Rams secure a state tournament berth for the first time in three seasons.
“Talia has always played an outside midfielder position, but we tried her in the center mid spot last year and she did very well,” Shawsheen coach Doug Michaud said. “We have her back in the middle again this year, so we are looking forward to seeing what she can do. She’s got a lot of little quick moves. She does a great job of shielding the ball and staying in front of it and looking around to make a good pass.”
Howell as also shown the ability to play multiple positions for the Rams, starting her career as a forward, and then moving back to play defense in her sophomore year.
“Amanda had always been a forward for us, but someone had said to me keep an eye on her, because she plays very well on defense in lacrosse,” Michaud said. “I had a lot forwards and she wasn’t getting a lot of playing time, and then we had an injury on defense, so we moved her back there and she basically sealed a spot back there because she played so well.”
In addition to adjusting to a new position, Howell also had to overcome a major injury in order to get back in the lineup. After playing with the JV squad in her freshman season with the Rams, Howell had secured a spot in the starting lineup as a sophomore, but in her first game of her sophomore year, she tore her ACL, forcing her to miss the entire season.
It could have been a devasting blow to her career, but she battled her way through it, going through both ACL surgery and the rehab that went with it, and recovered even quicker than expected.
“It was really hard both mentally and physically, but I had my friends and family to support me, so I got through it very fast, so I was able to come back a little early, in just six months,” Howell said. “I am almost at the point where I don’t even need the brace anymore. I feel pretty confident in my knee at this point.”
Michaud knows how difficult it must have been for Howell to battle through the pain she was in, but he recalls her doing whatever it took to help the team last season.
“There were a few times last year where she might be a little more tired because of her knee, but she would just come out for a few minutes and then be like, coach I am ready to go back in and she would go in and she would be fine,” Michaud said. “She battled through it.”
Steed meanwhile, has been a starter for the Rams since her freshman year, and has grown into one of the leaders of the team, helping to keep the team loose with her sense of humor, but at the same time, helping to keep them focused on the task at hand. That is perhaps more important than ever this season, and Steed is up to the challenge.
“Honestly we are working really hard. It is going to be hard adjusting to all the new rules, but we are working hard and our coach is pushing us hard, so we are looking to have another great season and we are looking to win no matter what the rules are,” Steed said. “I have been trying to get people motivated and trying to tell them that we just want to have fun and just play the game. Don’t worry about the new rules. I mean of course follow them, but don’t worry about it. Just be happy you are out of quarantine and out in the fresh air and getting to play soccer.”
And while there is no state tournament to play for this season, Steed says that she and her teammates still have plenty to play for
“It’s normally a big part of our season, because every game we play we are playing with the goal of getting to the tournament, so it is a little hard that we don’t have the tournament this year,” Steed said. “But we are still going to work hard and we are still going to try and get those wins four ourselves and for the team, not just to get to the tournament.”
Howell has also taken on a leadership role with the team, and is looking to help guide her team, particularly her younger teammates, to another successful season.
“It’s kind of weird, because normally we would be trying to help them get ready to play to get into the tournament, but we can’t do that this year,” Howell said. “It’s hard as a freshman, because you don’t know anyone, so we are doing our best to make them feel welcome and let them know that we are hoping to have a lot of fun this year.”