TEWKSBURY – After finishing with six wins back in the 2019 season, the Tewksbury Memorial High School girls' soccer team enjoyed (using that term loosely considering all of the COVID rule changes last year) a terrific abbreviated 2020 season finishing with a 7-2-1 record, with both losses coming to D1 state power Central Catholic.
A year later, with throw-ins, headers, slide tackles and direct kicks back on the table, the Redmen lost quite a bit of talent from last year but return almost an entire starting line-up that all have a good amount of varsity experience under their belts.
“We have a ton of juniors and seniors. We have a talented group. We have a hardworking group of juniors that are coming up. They all deserve to be on the team,” said head coach Samantha Tavantzis. “We have about twenty-three girls total on the roster and they’re all going to play. Every year is different with playing time, but I think every girl is going to get a chance to get on the field this year in order to prove themselves for a starting spot. As of right now, I’m really not sure what the starting line is going to be.”
While most of the line-up is unsettled, the sixth-year head coach does know a handful of positions are indeed set.
“I have some of the seniors who have been there for a while who have earned their time like Daniela Almeida, Kati Polimeno and Jordan Sheehan, as well as Rachel Picher, who like Kati is a standout defender,” said Tavantzis. “We have our group of hardworking seniors as well so I’m excited to incorporate juniors who are coming up this year to varsity because they all came ready to play.”
Almeida returns as the team's top goal scorer with seven. Her efforts landed her on the All-State Team and a year before that as a tenth grader, she was also MVC All-Conference and a Lowell Sun First Team All-Star. Almeida can play – she's one of the finest players to ever suit up for the past few decades. She sees the entire field and uses it, she can pass, dribble, she can score and she's pretty darn quick.
“Dani is just a very talented player. She plays the game year round and she just constantly improves. She wants to play in college. She’s a smart player, she is quick, she’s going to score some goals and she will assist on others. She looks phenomenal,” said the coach.
With Almeida as the center midfielder, senior Jordan Sheehan returns as the outside middie. Last year she improved leaps and bounds, making it as an All-Conference selection and a second team Eastern Mass All-Star. She netted four goals during her junior season.
Lining up behind the midfielders, anchoring the defensive line is veteran center-back Kati Polimeno. Fellow senior Rachel Picher will be on one side of her, while another senior Kassidy MacDonald returns in the net after a stellar rookie season.
“Kati just got over mono, so she is back healthy. She’s in good shape, she worked hard this summer and she is looking good,” said Tavantzis. “She will be a solid defender and she’s important for us back there in terms of the communication and making smart passes up the field.
“Kassidy is doing great so far and she’s coming off a real good season for us. I really thought she was phenomenal last year. She’s in great shape, she’s ready to play so we’ll see how she does. It’s her senior year so she is more confident and I’m very confident having her back there again.”
The other returners include seniors Ashlyn Nawn, Ashley Bielecki, Noelia Cura and Raia Price with juniors Gabby Diaz-Archilla, Victoria Catanzano, Katrina MacDonald and Brooklyn DeGrechie, as well as sophomores Christa Giasiracusa and Emma Ryan.
Nawn as well as Katrina MacDonald, DeGrechie and Nickerson are on defense, Diaz-Archilla, Bielecki, Cura, Price and Ryan, who will swing from JV to varsity, are midfielders, while Catazano is a forward and Giasiracusa is the back-up goalie.
The new additions to the team include seniors Christina Wentworth, Victoria LaVargna, Natalia Nickerson and Sarra Barkallah and juniors Alex Fillmore, Riley Sheehan, Lauren Bielecki, Alyssa Devlin and Ava Paquette.
Barkallah, Lauren Bielecki and Nickerson are on defense, while, Fillmore, Riley Sheehan, Devlin and Paquette will add depth to the midfield positions, while LaVargna and Wentworth, who has opened up some eyes, are forwards.
“Christina Wentworth played freshman year and she’s back. She’s a really good athlete and based on the tryout that she had, I think she can be a starting forward,” said Tavantzis.
Tewksbury will again compete in the Merrimack Valley Conference Division 1 league along with Andover, North Andover, Haverhill and Central Catholic and they face each of those teams twice, and then one game each with MVC D2 foes Lawrence, Methuen, Lowell, Billerica, Dracut and Chelmsford.
In addition are four non-league games with Wilmington, Bedford and then Pentucket Regional and Newburyport from the Cape Ann League.
The season got underway Tuesday against Andover with results not known as of presstime. On Thursday, Tewksbury will host North Andover for its home opener starting at 3:45 pm.