It’s winner takes all against Wilmington on Sat.
Published November 20, 2020
By JENNIFER GENTILE
MELROSE—The Melrose High girls soccer team can clinch their first-ever Middlesex Freedom title this weekend if they earn a tie or victory over rival Wilmington, whom they play on the road in a season finale on Saturday. The two teams stand at the top of the league (Melrose is 6-1-2 and Wilmington 5-1-1) and both will battle each other in a “winner takes all” slugfest. This comes just a week after both teams finished round one against each other last Saturday with a 0-0 stalemate at Fred Green Field.
Obviously, there is a lot at stake for Melrose this weekend, and they want to update the banner inside the Melrose Veteran’s Memorial Middle School gym. As Melrose and Wilmington stand now, the only thing that really separates them is two games that weren’t played by Wilmington during their COVID-related two-week shutdown. Right now, a Melrose win or tie between the two teams should guarantee a slice of the title. That makes it a true possibility.
A history-making season during a pandemic? That seems about right.
When Melrose and Wilmington faced each other last Saturday at Fred Green Field during round one, it was clear the two teams had met their match. They played four quarters of tough, scoreless ball which ended in a 0-0 stalemate, and vows to pick things up where they left off this weekend.
It is the first time in Melrose coach Rob Mahoney’s tenure that his Red Raiders have shutout the Wildcats, thanks in part to the work at the net. Jocelyn Skane and Ava Tormo split the shutout as goalies, and Melrose’s overall defense was smothering, thanks largely to the work of seniors Jenna Champagne and Katherine Carney. Coach Mahoney credits their effort after the game. “Jenna is probably one of the top three players in the league. And Katherine Carney had another strong game. Together, they sort of marshal our defense.”
The fact that Melrose couldn’t find the net either meant that Wilmington’s defense was just as suffocating. And indeed, they were a team that didn’t make a lot of mistakes. They appear to be the toughest team that Melrose would face in the league and simply didn’t make a lot of mistakes. And sometimes you need those.
“Wilmington came as advertised,” says coach Mahoney. “We’ve watched plenty of film of them. They are well-coached and we knew they were strong in the midfield and had a lot of strong attacking players. Their backs did a good job. We’re now anxious to get another crack at them.”
On Saturday, when they face Wilmington on the road at 9:00 a.m. for their season finale, generating offense will be a top priority for the Red Raiders. Says Mahoney, “We’re talking about showing composure and having the presence of mind while in high-pressure situations, rather than rushing our shots and passes. That’s something I want to see them work on. We want to pressure them even more next week.” Stay tuned.