By Dom Nicastro
In a season marked by resilience and tactical prowess, the Saugus High School girls’ soccer team, led by Coach Chris Coviello, showcased their skill and determination. Despite a challenging end to their season with a 1-0 loss to No. 1 Medfield in the Round of 16 of the Division 3 tournament, the team’s impressive record of 15-4-1 stands as a testament to their hard work and commitment. Saugus was ranked No. 16 and had beaten North Reading on penalty kicks.
Two tourney games: one penalty kick ending, one 1-0 game. Not for the faint of heart, for sure.
Medfield got the lone goal of the game on a corner in the postseason-ending defeat for the Sachems. Tori Carter made some spectacular saves that truly kept Saugus in the game.
“Our defenders did a great job of limiting the shots taken and reducing the offensive attack,” Saugus assistant coach Brianna Alimonti said. “Led by senior captain Violet Hawley, Layla Manderson, Natalie Justice and Ashley Resendez, they run a tight ship. Our goals against were pretty low for an 18-game season. I’m in awe of the way that Hawley plays every single game. She leaves everything she has on the field, and it pays off.”
Captain Madison Botta ended up being the leading goal scorer. “She’ll go through anyone or anything with the ball at her feet and is almost always successful,” Alimonti said. “Against Medfield, she laid everything on the line. Medfield had to triple-team her to strip the ball away. She also contributes on the defensive side and drops back to support her teammates.”
Shay and Shawn Sewell had some of the biggest roles on the team as sophomores. Shawn Sewell led the Sachems with assists. Her performance against North Reading propelled Saugus to the shootout and ultimately led them to the Round of 16.
“Shay holds down the midfield in so many aspects,” Alimonti said. “Especially against Medfield on both sides of the ball she helped control the game. Applying pressure defensively, while trying to create offensive plays. There are so many positive things I could say about this team. It was a tough loss, but we put on a show and shocked Medfield with our abilities – and our hearts.”
Coach Coviello reflected on the season, highlighting the team’s defensive strengths, some missed opportunities in the season-ending loss and the journey of a squad that has shown remarkable growth and potential. Coviello praised the team’s goalie (Carter) and defense, highlighting their resilience in tournament games. Despite tough opposition, the defense, particularly in long-range situations, was effective, anchored by standout players like Hawley, Danica Schena, Justice, Manderson and Resendez.
A recurring theme of the Medfield game was the team’s inability to capitalize on chances. Coviello pointed out several close calls and free kicks where the team failed to score, but it wasn’t for a lack of effort. Saugus more than held its own against the tourney’s top seed.
The team was comfortable with the opponents having more possession, focusing on defense and looking for opportunities to capitalize on opponents’ mistakes. However, this strategy did not always yield the desired results in the Medfield game in terms of converting into offense.
All in all, the team had notable successes against larger schools and held their own against the top-seeded team, indicating significant growth and potential. The performance against the No. 1 seed was particularly noteworthy, showing the team’s ability to compete at a high level.
Several players received individual recognition for their performances. Botta and Hawley earned Northeastern Conference All-Conference selections, and Madi Femino, Veronica Ortega and Manderson were named NEC all-stars.