Warriors off to a 2-1 start; host Watertown in youth game tonight
Published September 18, 2019
By DAN PAWLOWSKI
WAKEFIELD — If there existed strength of schedule statistics for Wakefield High sports, girls’ soccer would be at the top.
Most fall teams start their campaigns against Middlesex Large opponents, but in girls’ soccer, those opponents are consistently the best in the state. There’s no break when it comes to playing Freedom Division teams either. Not with squads like Stoneham (15-1-3 last year) in the mix.
Typically, gaining experience and fighting to pick up a tie against the likes of Reading, Lexington and Arlington to start the season is a fair expectation for not just Wakefield but any Freedom team.
Clearly, the 2019 Warriors don’t agree.
Wakefield won their first two games of the season. First, on Sept. 5 against Reading, 2-0. Then, on Sept. 10 in Lexington, 1-0.
The Warriors had their first loss of the season on Thursday at home, falling to Arlington 4-1, but it was a tale of two halves – Wakefield was up 1-0 at the break and had plenty of opportunities to extend the lead in the first. It was just more proof that they could compete with anybody.
“The last few years, we haven’t gotten off to a great start so we are taking it one game at a time hoping that a fast start can put us in a good position to make the tournament,” said head coach Steph Martin.
It shouldn’t be a surprise, considering the back-to-back shutouts to start the campaign, that Wakefield’s three captains all specialize in preventing goals.
Leading the Warriors in 2019 are captains Emma Lambiaso, Sarah Melanson and Abby Mondello.
Melanson and Mondello are experienced defenders with the type of toughness and versatility that will confound many more strikers before 2019 is over.
Lambiaso is the goalie, starting in net for the second year after a phenomenal season last year.
Mondello and Lambiaso are the two returning league All-Stars for Wakefield. Combined with Melanson and another senior, Winnie Mylan, the Warriors have plenty to be excited about on defense.
“We are returning a very experienced back line in Winnie, Sarah and Abby along with in my opinion, the best goalkeeper in the Middlesex League in Emma. Mylan, Melanson and Mondello have a great chemistry in the back and are a frustrating trio for opposing players. Emma Lambiaso keeps getting better each year and consistently makes head turning saves. I’m relying heavily on these four to be the anchor of our team.”
So far, so strong.
Lambiaso picked up nine saves during the shutout against the Rockets and 14 saves against the Minutemen. Martin said Mondello was also stellar in shutting down Lexington.
Moving up to the midfield, Wakefield has more returning players with talent and upside.
Four-year varsity player Paige Dube is the orchestrator of the team.
“Paige has incredible vision, footwork and a deadly foot on free kicks,” says Martin.
Juniors Haley Faulkner and Liliana Carioli are the motors in the middle to move the ball upfield.
“They bring strength and vision to see the whole field and feed our transition game,” said Martin.
Faulkner scored Wakefield’s only goal of the game against Arlington on a great finish off a bouncing cross from forward Kayli Porter.
On the outside, the Warriors will count on seniors Lillian Jones and Kathryn Kerrigan.
“Lillian brings an incredible work ethic to our squad and Kathryn is a two-year varsity player with a strong cross and a great touch on the ball.”
Martin is banking on Dube, Faulkner, Carioli, Jones and Kerrigan to all work together in controlling possession.
“I am looking for all five to step up and control the flow of the game,” said Martin.
Sophomore Hannah Hill returns for her second varsity season. She can play a variety of positions and will be asked to help out either in the midfield or on defense, wherever the Warriors need her most.
Up top, Wakefield returns two sophomores who have wasted no time in making an impact during their second season on varsity.
The equally relentless and dangerous Kayli Porter and Ashlee Purcell provided plenty of goals and chances for Wakefield last year. As you would expect, they’re even better this year.
“Both players pose a huge threat to opposing defenses,” said Martin. “With one year of varsity experience under their belt I am expecting them both to keep frequenting the scoring column this season.”
Purcell scored both of Wakefield’s goals unassisted against Reading. She then assisted on Porter’s game-winner against Lexington.
That’s a combined two goals and an assist for Purcell and one goal and an assist for Porter in Wakefield’s first three games.
The Warriors unfortunately lost senior forward Julia Castellano to injury.
“Julia was stellar during the preseason,” said Martin, who went on say it’s a huge loss for the program.
That means Wakefield will need to count on some newcomers including junior Courtney Collins, a “high pressure forward who will give us valuable minutes,” according to Martin, and freshman Emma Shinney who “offers an amazing touch on the ball.”
The forwards aren’t the only ones expecting a boost from first-year varsity players.
Senior Kyleigh Flannigan “has a powerful strike and brings a calm presence to the midfield” while senior Lily Smith “has the ability to put a great through ball into space and also is a vocal leader that this squad needs to succeed.”
Also in the midfield are freshman Caroline Roberts and sophomores Maeve Recene and Emma Partyka. All three will supplement the midfielders with “speed, creativity and a lot of heart.”
The defensive depth will be provided by junior Bridget Noell and sophomore Audrey Longo. Two strong defenders who Martin says bring speed and physical play.
Sophomore Bailey McDevitt will back up Lambiaso in net.
“She has improved tremendously since last season,” said Martin.
“I expect to see all of these players contribute this season,” said Martin of newcomers.
All together, Wakefield has the type of skill and depth that usually equals success. Often times, the difference between making the playoffs and not is determined by how hard you’re willing to work for it.
With two well-earned victories to start the season, Wakefield proved that they are driven to get back to the postseason for the first time since 2015.
“We’re working hard to reach our goal of the state tournament,” said Martin. “Overall, this is a tremendous group of girls with excellent character.”