earns first-ever league title after 6-1-3 season

Published November 27, 2020

FEELING LIKE Champs. The Melrose High girls’ soccer team earned their first-ever league title last weekend and enjoyed their best record in years. (Kristine Palumbo photo)


MELROSE—Their Cinderella season started with promise and ended on the perfect note. The Melrose High girls’ soccer team has achieved what no other has done to date when they clinched the Middlesex League Freedom title this week after a 1-1 tie against Wilmington. The points earned on Saturday guaranteed Melrose at least a share of the coveted league title. Melrose finishes their season 6-1-3, one of the best records in a decade, after tying Wilmington on the road last Saturday. 

The feat is the first league title for Melrose and for coach Rob Mahoney as Melrose chief. “We’re so excited to make history and become the first-ever league champs,” he says. “We’d been moving in this direction for some time, so it feels validating. We’ve had alumni reach out to us and congratulate the team. It’s a big moment.” 

Melrose and Wilmington were facing each other for the second-straight week after a 0-0 stalemate last Saturday at home. A victory for either team on Saturday would have resulted in a league title. But Melrose is fit to be tied, eager to enjoy the historic moment. On Saturday, Melrose’s only goal came 17:00 in the second quarter when Andrea Mortimer scored on a nice pass from Kate Hubbard. Wilmington responded shortly after when Alyssa Granara found the net past Melrose goalie Jocelyn Skane with 5 minutes left before the half. The two teams took their 1-1 tie into halftime. From there it was a chess match. 

“Wilmington was the toughest opponent we’d seen this season,” says Mahoney. “We were able to study some film last week and identify areas of opportunity that we missed. I’m glad we played that first game because the girls understood that this was a team we could really compete with. We’re used to not beating Wilmington. But, once we knew we were good enough after our first meeting, it helped us get out there and score.”

IT WAS a hard fight to the finish for the Melrose High girls’ soccer team, who earned a league championship last Saturday. (Kristine Palumbo photo)

Perhaps the most critical moment in the game came in the second half when some fantastic defensive plays by Melrose prevented two Wildcat goals off of ten-yard indirect kicks. It started when Wilmington’s Granara nearly scored when she kicked a shot right out of the fumbled hands of Melrose goalie Ava Tormo directly towards the net. That goal was deflected off of the head of Grace Donahue, who was called for a violation but one that prevented a sure goal, effectively saving Melrose’s season. From there, Granara was awarded an indirect kick at the 17:30 minute mark. Tormo made a clutch, diving-save but referees called Melrose defenders for encroachment, which gave Granara a retake kick. Another missile of a shot was kicked from 10 yards out, in the direction of a line of Melrose defenders. Senior Jenna Champagne deflected the ball to ruin the scoring chance in a terrific save. 

The two teams traded scoring opportunities while the second half ticked away but would not face another threat as potent as the indirect kicks. As the buzzer signaled, the Melrose girls happily took the stalemate as it automatically assured them a piece of the long-coveted title. After the game, Mahoney credited his hard-working defenders once more for coming to the rescue. “Katherine Carney, Lucy Hannon, Jenna Champagne and Ally Maguire never came off the field,” Mahoney says. “We also saw some great work by Hailey Keegan and Jenna Maguire, too.”

It was a season to remember from an MHS squad to remember. All during the strangest of sport years. Go figure. While in this climate, Melrose seniors may not have much cause to celebrate, but this will certainly help that. 

“I’m happy for my seniors,” Mahoney says. “We came into this with a one-day-at-a-time mindset and focused on making the best of the season. I credit captains Grace [Donohue] and Jenna [Champagne] for providing leadership and maturity. The fact that they led us to a 10 game season uninterrupted, the only team in the league to do it, speaks so much to their hard work and sacrifice. They did all the right things.” 

Leaving this season are seniors Randi Sullivan, Jocelyn Skane, Alyssa Champagne, Haley Smith, Ava Palumbo, Ella Fleming, Andrea Mortimer and captains Grace Donohue and Jenna Champagne. 

As their season ends, there is much to show for what they’ve achieved this fall. Because of their first-place efforts, they named five All-Stars: Jenna Champagne, Andrea Mortimer, Katherine Carney, Jenna Maguire and Shelagh Downes. Two of them received additional honors: Mortimer and Jenna Champagne were named EMass All-Stars (Champagne first team, Mortimer second team). Both are expected to play college ball with Mortimer already committed to Clark. Individual team-based awards include MVP to Jenna Champagne, Unsung Hero to Katherine Carney and Most Improved to both Haley Smith and Ali Maguire. The Steve Turner Award (given to high character athletes) was awarded to Jocelyn Skane. Melrose will be celebrating with a virtual banquet this week. 

Next year’s captains have been announced as Lucy Hannon and Katherine Carney. And undefeated JVA team is expected to deliver additional players next season.  With the season over, coach Mahoney feels especially grateful to the students and parents for making history during a pandemic. “I just want to thank my seniors for showing Melrose how to safely adapt to this new version of soccer to such success,” says Mahoney. “And to those parents who helped to keep them safe and sacrificed entry into games, all the while supporting us during my first few years here. Thank you.”