TEWKSBURY — Over a nine year period from 2007 to 2015, the Tewksbury Memorial High School girls' soccer team had just three winning seasons, won just two state tournament games and went though four different head coaches.
Since 2016 when Samantha Tavantzis was named head coach, the program has been much more consistent. The team has reeled off three straight winning seasons and have combined for a record of 30-22-6.
The Redmen have qualified for the state tournament all three years, but have been defeated by significantly better teams all three times in North Reading, Arlington and Danvers.
In each of the past two years, the team finished with an identical record of 9-8-2, which includes being moved up from Merrimack Valley Conference Division 2 to Division 1 in 2018, and still finishing with a strong 7-5-2 league record.
Tewksbury lost a good handful of players from last year's nine-win season, including almost the entire defensive backline as well as talented striker Haley Mignon, who was named to the Massachusetts Division 2 All-State team, among many other accolades.
Fellow league all-stars Erin and Lizzie Gallella as well as two other defenders Christine Santos and Emily Chmela also graduated.
Now Tavantzis enters her fourth season as head coach and by far it's the youngest and most inexperienced team she has had. The 2019 Redmen have just five returning players, including sophomore league all-star Daniela Almeida, but certainly there's some skilled players and a host of outstanding athletes on the roster. The coach is expecting the team to compete with the best of them once again this year.
"We have a hardworking group of soccer players that are going to be very successful," she said. "I'm very proud of the girls for all of their hard work this summer coming into this season. They were the most prepared group fitness wise and skill wise I have had in my four years of coaching coming into pre-season. I'm very excited to coach this group this season and to see how successful we will be."
The team will be led by its four captains, including seniors Julia Cafferty and Sophie Eskenas, as well as juniors Lexi Polimeno and Alyssa Marchelletta.
Cafferty returns as the team's goalie and she is coming off a strong season. Eskenas will be on defense and will enter the season with the most experience back there.
Polimeno is a well-rounded athlete, who is back for her third season and will play both in the midfield and at striker. Marchelletta is an extremely fast, talented and skilled player, who is coming back after a knee injury kept her out all of last season.
"We come into this season with a young group,” said Tavantzis. “I have my returning seniors Julia Cafferty and Sophie Eskenas. Julia Cafferty will be our starting goal keeper and Sophie will be one of our starting defenders. I have a big group of juniors who will be fighting for starting positions on the field.”
The other two seniors on the team will be Sara Boucher and Caitlin Fiore, a defender and midfielder, respectively.
The junior class is large with defenders Abby MacAllister and Catalina Burke, midfielders Erin McIntyre and Iris Diaz, a transfer from Central Catholic, and strikers Alex Fowler, Abby Hansbury and Allie Indigaro. McIntyre may also see some time on defense.
The sophomore class is also large with eight players, thus next year's team could possibly bring back 17 players with varsity experience. The tenth grade group includes back-up keeper Kassidy MacDonald, defenders Brenna Cassidy, Kati Polimeno, Rachel Picher and Ashlyn Nawn, midfielders Jordan Sheehan, who could also play forward, Christina Capacheitti and Almeida.
Tavantzis said that positions were still being sorted out at the time of the interview.
“As of now I'm not positive of a starting line up,” she said. “I think that who is working the hardest and shows the most success will be starting. I can't wait to see who steps up out of our young group. We have phenomenal leaders on this team that will help bring us big victories.”
Tewksbury opened the season on Tuesday against Lawrence and actually have four straight home games to begin the season before going on the road for the following eight games. After Lawrence, Tewksbury will host Methuen on Thursday, Lowell on the 10th and Andover on the 17th.
The Redmen will again compete in MVC D1 and face Andover, North Andover, Haverhill and Central Catholic twice each, and then D2 teams Lawrence, Methuen, Lowell, Billerica, Dracut and Chelmsford one time each.
In addition will be four non-league games with Auburn, Peabody, Newburyport and Wilmington.
Of the 14 different teams they will face this season, nine went to the playoffs last year including North Andover, Peabody, Andover, Chelmsford and Central Catholic in D1 North, Dracut, Billerica and Wilmington in D2 North, and then Auburn finished with 15 wins coming out of Division 3 Central Mass.