By Dom Nicastro
Saugus has been the real deal when it comes to girls soccer. In the last seven seasons, it’s gone 84-36-5 for a winning percentage of .692 in the regular season.
Last year, the team finished 12-5-1 in the regular season and drew the No. 22 seed in the Division 3 tournament. It beat Southeastern, 6-0, in the preliminary round and then got past Tantasqua Regional in the first round, 2-1. Saugus exited the tourney in the Round of 16 with a 3-1 loss to Belchertown. It was the most wins in the postseason for Saugus in recent memory and gives the team some inspiration heading into the 2023 season.
Chris Coviello leads the Sachems into this fall after coaching for a couple of decades. And the recent past has been excellent. The Sachems won one postseason match in 2021, when they went 10-8-0 in the regular season. Saugus went 12-6-0 in 2019 and lost to Fenwick in the first round of the Division 3 North tourney.
The Sachems were the No. 2 seed in 2018 with a 15-2-1 record and beat Bedford, 1-0, in overtime before falling to Swampscott in the quarterfinals. In 2017, Saugus was 17-0-1 and the No. 1 seed but fell to Wayland in Round 1. In 2016, Saugus was 10-8-0 and lost to Weston in the opening round. It was 8-7-2 and lost to Weston in the first round in 2015.
The last time Saugus didn’t make the postseason? 2014. That’s a streak of seven straight seasons getting into The Dance; 2020 had no postseason.
They’re hungry to get back after being just one win away from the state quarterfinals last fall. “We lost to Belchertown, and we came out a little slow in that game,” Coviello said of the 2022 postseason. “And I think they smelled the blood. They were up, 3-1, and we had a chance to score late in the game, but we didn’t and it kind of just played out after that. It was great season.”
Numbers-wise the team is right where they left off last season. The Sachems weren’t heavily depleted by graduation at all and look forward to having their veterans back. They have experience all throughout the field.
“We’re going to have a good mixture of offensive and defensive players,” Coviello said. “Our strength will be our offense. We have a good defense, but we are going to be an offensive-minded team between my midfielders and strikers.”
Saugus is led by captains Madi Femino, a senior forward, Violet Hawley, a senior defender, and Madison Botta, a junior forward. Botta was an Eastern Mass. All-Star last year and can light it up from a goal-scoring perspective. Femino was dinged up a little bit last year and missed the tournament games but she’s back healthy. Hawley, along with Botta, was a Northeastern Conference all-star for Saugus, which came in second in the Northeastern Conference Lynch Division behind champion Swampscott.
The team is heavy on juniors with nine, and brings in seven seniors, so it’s got a lot of experience and veterans. Players like Lilian Hernandez, a junior midfielder, and Danica Schena, a junior defender, will see more time this season. Junior Tori Carter is back as goalkeeper. Veronica Ortega, a senior midfielder, returns to provide strength up the middle.
Coviello likes what he sees so far. The team opens up at home Wednesday, Sept. 6 against Winthrop then travels to Masconomet Monday, Sept. 11 for a 4:30 p.m. matchup. It hosts Salem Wednesday, Sept. 13 at 4:30 p.m.
“We’ve been moving the ball the last two games,” Coviello said of preseason scrimmages. “The other day [Aug. 29 against Revere] was good and then [Aug. 31 against Lynn Classical] was really good.”