At long last, Tyngsborough savors taste of victory
Tyngsborough High School is looking at the Dual County League in the rearview mirror, leaving behind four years of tireless effort to find its niche in the Midland Wachusett League’s C Division in Central Massachusetts.
As a relatively small school, with roughly 500 students, competing against regional schools four times its size, every game was a struggle for the Tigers, no matter the sport.
For the varsity girls’ soccer team, the new, often longer travel time - sometimes approaching an hour to an away game - is an easy trade when the end result is a few more victories, and renewed hope.
“I remember losing and everyone being so sad and no one talking,’’ said senior forward Amanda Pruyn. “Now the bus rides are so much more enjoyable and they’re farther away so we have a long bus ride to just kind of bask in the win.’’
Last fall, in a miserable 1-15-2 season, the Tyngsborough girls did not register a win in the DCL. This season, the Tigers are 9-2-1 (6-1-1 in league play) and have clinched a berth in the Division 2 Central tournament following a 2-2 tie against Mid-Wach C leader Oakmont Regional on Monday. The other league members are Bromfield, Lunenburg, Littleton, and Fitchburg.
“We’re a smaller school so being in the new league, the competition is just more at our level,’’ said senior cocaptain Brittany Ashdown. “We’re making a statement for our town and our school, it’s good to win.’’
Tyngsborough’s student-athletes, said first-year athletic director Tim O’Keefe, “are really benefiting from playing schools better suited to our size.’’
“They are more excited and confident, going into games knowing that they can win. Cross-country is winning. Golf is winning. Boys’ soccer is winning. The excitement is unbelievable right now.’’
“The atmosphere within the team and on the bus and the whole athletic department has changed completely,’’ said Doug Clare, who is in his 14th season as head girls’ soccer coach. “There is an electricity here; the idea that we can win. It has spread throughout the school.’’
The varsity boys’ soccer team has benefited from the switch. A cellar dweller in the DCL, the Tigers are third in the Mid-Wach C race with a 5-2-1 mark.
The DCL is home to perennial soccer powers Acton-Boxborough Regional, Lincoln-Sudbury Regional, and Concord-Carlisle, among others. In hindsight, Tyngsborough is beginning to see more gains than losses from playing against strong competition.
“They were seeing proper movements off the ball, proper tactical and technical skills,’’ said Clare. “[The players] saw what the most proficient players in the state could do. Now we are starting fresh and showing how good we’ve gotten in past four years.’’
“We definitely benefited from playing with them,’’ said Ashdown. “They taught us to be a good sport. We learned how to take a loss and turn it into something good.’’
The Tyngsborough girls have 10 seniors on the roster who experienced three years of losing and are now finally feeling the pride of success.
“We would work so hard in preseason and it just wasn’t enough,’’ said senior cocaptain Lauren Mason. “Now we have a chance for first place in our league. It gives us such confidence and shows us that all of our hard work paid off.’’
Senior defender Helena Hamilton said the Tigers are set up to succeed.
“Before it was a fight to just give ourselves a name,’’ she said. “We were the small team and everyone expected to beat down on us and get an easy win. But now we’re in it until the end.’’
“It’s almost like a relief, because I’ve played with these girls my whole life and we’ve always been an awesome team,’’ said Ashburn. “We’re being rewarded this year for everything we’ve done.’’
Now on a more equal footing in their league, the Tigers are showcasing their offensive skill. Scoring goals simply makes the game more fun, and 16 players had found the back of the net this fall, led by junior Amanda Hogan, who notched her team-leading 11th and 12th tallies of the season Wednesday night in at 3-0 win at Gardner.
“With different people scoring we feel like it’s more of a team effort,’’ said Hamilton. “Before we struggled to get even one goal and usually it came from the same player so we rallied around that player. But now everybody feels supported.’’
Hamilton, who scored off a corner kick, said that less pressure on the back line allows them to move up the field and take more scoring chances.
“In the DCL we were pounded by the offenses of the other teams all game long,’’ she said. “Now we’re back to our original role of supporting the offense.’’
“We want to make improvements everyday in practice,’’ said Clare. “There is always room for growth in everything we do. We can win some league championships now, it was always just out of our grasp.’’
For the 10 seniors on the team, a league title would be a perfect career ending to ease the pain of their first three years.
“I definitely think anything is possible this year; we’re on the right track,’’ said Hamilton. “It would be an amazing way to end senior year.’’
Cat Calsolaro can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.