Team Chemistry Boosts Girls Soccer

Published in the November 19, 2008 issue of The Stow Independent

By Jordana Bieze Foster

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A streak of nine games without a loss. A league title. A return to the postseason tournament just one year after missing out for the first time in recent memory.

Nashoba girls' soccer is back.

Granted, the Chieftains' playoff run didn't last as long as they would have liked. After bouncing Milford 5-0 in the preliminary round, they had the misfortune to draw a second-round opponent that was just too hot to handle.

The 4-0 loss to Algonquin – which, by the way, went on to win the district final – was a disappointing way to end the season. But it didn't negate all of the positive developments that had brought the Chieftains that far, said head coach Pam Vaughan.

“Algonquin was on fire. They played a great game, we did not play a great game, and that's not a good combination,” Vaughan said. “But I think for us, we were overachieving, given how young we were and how our season started. I think over the course of the season the girls began to understand what it's like to play for Nashoba girls' soccer. At first, it was as if they thought it was like just another team, but it's not. Over time, that started to hit home.”

The 2008 Chieftains were a young team, with just four seniors and a preponderance of sophomores seeing a lot of playing time. But what they lacked in experience, they made up for in team chemistry.

“Last year it took a while to get to know each other, so it took a while to start playing well and it ended up costing us the tournament,” said senior captain Marissa Goodhue of Stow. “This year, we were a primarily sophomore-freshman team and at first we didn't really think it was going to be a great season. But we meshed well together, we worked really hard, and right off the bat we were playing well. Our chemistry definitely showed on the field.”

With any young team, there is an inevitable learning curve, and for the Chieftains the important lessons began with the first game of the season against Milford. Despite taking a 2-0 lead, Nashoba allowed Milford to come back and had to settle for a 2-2 tie.

“Our team learned a valuable lesson that first day, because we played not to lose, and we ended up with a tie,” Vaughan said. “Had we had the mentality of playing to win, we would have pushed harder. From then on we decided we would never do that again.”

When the two teams met again in the first round of the playoffs, there was little question that the Chieftains had learned their lesson. Tellingly, three sophomores and a freshman scored in that game, with one sophomore scoring twice. (In keeping with her team-first philosophy, Vaughan requested that individual players not be singled out in this article.)

Vaughan makes no apologies for the difficult schedule Nashoba plays each season, specifically requesting tough non-league opponents rather than looking to pad the team's record. Early on, it looked as if that schedule might be this year's Chieftains' undoing, as they found themselves at 3-3-3 at the end of September. But from that point, they ran off an improbable string of seven wins and a tie to finish the regular season 10-3-4. The end of that stretch included come-from-behind victories over Westboro, Groton-Dunstable, and Algonquin, as well as a decisive 5-0 win over Quabbin on Oct. 21 that clinched the league title and a tournament berth.

The Oct. 14 Westboro game, in which the Chieftains prevailed 3-2 after being down 2-0 at halftime, marked a real turning point for the team, Vaughan said.

“It was an important moment in our season, to be able to say we never say die,” she said. “I told them, 'You're going to remember this game for the rest of your life. Whether it's in soccer or in life, you work together and you never give up.'”

Copyright 2008 Jordana Foster – 24 Kirkland Dr, Stow, MA – Email: – Fax: (815) 346-5239