TEWKSBURY – Towards the end of the 2019 season, you could tell that the Tewksbury Memorial High School girls' soccer team had an emerging star in Jordan Sheehan. Her non-stop effort and determination on the field was one thing, but with a little more experience and development, the tenth grader at the time could get to that next level.
That next level certainly came last year in the abbreviated COVID-19 season. Despite just playing ten games, despite the rule changes which took away the players' skill sets, Sheehan emerged as one of the top players in the tough Merrimack Valley Conference, being named All-League, as well as making it to the Eastern Mass All-Star second team.
Sheehan finished second on the team in scoring with four goals, and this season will certainly be counted on to not only score, but help out the rest of her teammates as they begin their quest for another successful season.
“Jordan is a phenomenal, skilled player. She plays year round and it just comes naturally to her,” said head coach Samantha Tavantzis. “She is so quick in the midfield and she gives great crosses, and she can also score goals. Every year she gets better. She’s quick, she is smart and she has a great shot. She’s one of the best shooters on the team, by far.
“She’s just a natural soccer player and it just comes easier for her than other people. She also loves the game. She works really hard at it. I can always count on her and I can always throw her out there at any position on offense and I know she will do a great job.”
Just like almost every kid in every town, Jordan was put into the Tewksbury Youth Soccer program as a kid. She quickly got attached to the game and was starting to get noticed.
“I first started playing soccer when I was really young, both me and my sister (Riley),” she said. “Our parents just put both of us into the Tewksbury Youth Soccer program. Then Daniela Almeida’s father Mario told me that I should try out for this club team when I was in the fourth grade and it was called the New England Rush. Ever since then I have met so many new people and I played for a really great coach named Ricki Klein. She pretty much took me and placed me on all of these higher (club) teams. I really didn’t have time to play other sports but I also really didn’t have any interest in playing other sports. I just wanted to keep getting better in soccer.
“I love soccer because it’s the one thing that I know that I can perform pretty well at. I have never really been an artistic person, I always have liked the school but I just feel like when I’m on the field, I’m a different person. I’m just free of all of my worries and I also have been able to meet all kinds of new people and have a lot of great friendships and that’s all because of soccer. To me that’s pretty awesome.”
Sheehan is beginning her fourth year with the varsity team and just has gotten better and better each year. She said early on in her career she had to make a big adjustment when she changed from her normal position.
“Last year I became really confident. Coming into high school, I always played center-midfield and coach put me at outside midfield which I played when I was little,” she said. “At first during my sophomore year it took a little time getting used to it, but junior year I had a lot of confidence playing as an outside midfielder, and I also had a lot of fun playing it last year.”
She was asked about what specific adjustments she had to make going from center-midfield to outside midfield.
“There’s a lot of running obviously, but there’s also a lot of plays that you see happening. When the ball is on the other side, you have to know when to stretch it outside or when to pinch into the middle of the field. You also have to make that play around the defenders and cross the ball. Even though I’m not shooting the ball as much as I did when I played center-midfield, I still get a lot of shots on net or I’ve been able to set up the other midfielders or forwards with crosses so they can score.”
While Sheehan enjoyed scoring some goals last year, it was a difficult season for everyone. The dreaded COVID season was odd to say the least with no throw-ins, no headers, no slide tackles, four quarters instead of halves.
“Last year was one of the hardest years and most difficult seasons I have ever had in soccer. With the rules being changed, it didn’t even feel like the sport that we play and the sport that I grew up to love. Between Coach (Tavantzis) and all of my teammates, we were all good sports about it. No one wanted to wear masks but we all respected the game officials and what they told us to do and all of the new rules, even though it was really difficult and it was a completely different game, I thought we adapted to those new rules pretty quickly and we still had a really good season. It was too bad that there weren’t any playoffs because I think we could have done really well.”
Still despite all of that, Tewksbury finished 7-2-1, losing both games to powerful D1 Central Catholic.
“I wasn’t surprised (how well we did),” said Sheehan. “We had a lot of good players on the team and our goalie Kassidy (MacDonald) is one of my lifelong best friends and she had a rockstar season. I think she really held us in a lot of the games. We adapted to all of the rule changes quickly and it was just one of the best teams that I have been on.”
Entering this season things are different. Real soccer is back and Tewksbury has a roster filled with experienced players, some new players, and three sets of siblings, including Jordan and Riley, who is a junior midfielder.
“Since we are only a year apart, we have played together every other year. We honestly just play really well together,” said Jordan. “I think that started when we were little and just kicking the ball around to each other and into the net in our backyard. We had the net for the longest time until unfortunately it got crushed by a tree. We definitely have some sister energy and really hoping we get a chance to play together on the field.”
And off the field?
“We’re really best friends. We used to argue a lot when we were younger but ever since quarantine, being stuck together in the house, we have become the closest that we ever have been. We spend so much time together. Once I got my (driver’s) license, we would drive to Chick-Fil-A or drive to get some ice cream. We were spending so much time together and we still do. We’re in some of the same classes together, we sit next to each other in one class and we always help each other out with schoolwork.”
Next year at this time, the girls won't be able to play soccer together or be in the same classes as Jordan will be off to college. She is hoping to continue to play soccer and has chatted to several coaches and still plans to reach out to more, as well as visit some schools.
Thus far she has been interested in Curry, Endicott, University of New England and Roger Williams University, while, she has chatted with the coaches from Hamilton and AIC. Until she makes that decision, her plans are to keep getting better and better, all while helping her team get better and better.
“We have a lot of talented girls. We lost a lot of seniors from last year, but we also added a lot of juniors this year who will get a lot of playing time. They will be great additions to the team,” she said. “I am really, really excited about this season. I’m just hoping that we finish out really strong with this being my last year in high school, with all of my friends who I grew up. Pretty much everyone on the team I have been playing soccer with my entire life so I’m so excited that I get to do it for more season, play with my friends and have a regular season.”