High-scoring Brittany Russo of Danvers is the tireless engine that helps drive the UMass Lowell soccer squad.
High-scoring Brittany Russo of Danvers is the tireless engine that helps drive the UMass Lowell soccer squad.
Bob Ellis

Russo seeking to set UMass Lowell mark

Chances are that decades from now, no one will remember her near buzzer-beating shot against Long Island University Post on a Sunday afternoon in early September.

It probably won’t matter. Because if Brittany Russo has her way, her name will sit at the top of the career scoring list for the women’s soccer program at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. “I don’t see why she wouldn’t be able to do it,” said UMass Lowell coach Elie Monteiro .

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Shaquille O’Neal, except two feet shorter — that’s how Monteiro describes the personality and determination of his scoring whiz. The 2011 Danvers High graduate’s 10 goals as a freshman opened more than a few eyes: she was the Rookie of the Year in the Northeast-10 Conference.

But that near goal against LIU Post? That would have been special.

In the 110th minute of a back-and-forth battle in Lowell, in which Russo never came off the field, she settled the ball outside the 18-yard box and found some space.

Her legs, which churn like wheels on a train, driving her 5-foot-2 frame to power faster than most, were about to collapse.

But the score was still tied 2-2. So Russo put up a prayer, devoting her last drip of energy into one final strike, looping a shot that tailed over the head of LIU goalie Nicole Fierro and rolled into the net as time expired. Russo’s foot made contact before the final whistle blew, but the ball didn’t cross the line until afterward.

If only soccer had the same rules as basketball, because this one might could come back to cost her a place in the history books. “I know, and I’m hoping to set the single-season scoring record this year,” Russo said. The mark is 17 goals, held by Jackie MacLean (1997-2000).

If anything, the near-goal will only inspire Russo. She’s been motivated by less.

For instance, before the season opener against 12th-ranked Bridgeport on the last day of August, Russo was in the training room receiving pregame attention. Next to her was her little L.L.Bean lunch box, one of those that come in fluorescent colors and tend to pop up in elementary school cafeterias.

The Bridgeport players found it much more amusing than cute. “I was like, ‘Those girls want to laugh about my lunchbox? They’ll see what happens when I get on the field,’ ” Russo said.

In the 75th minute, Russo outdueled goalkeeper Julia Hansson and put away her own deflection to seal an opening day victory, 2-0.

In his 11th season, Monteiro has the River Hawks ranked 17th in the Division 2 poll, and yet he still can’t believe he was able to recruit Russo over the Division 1 programs. He gave up at one point, no longer attending Russo’s high school games her senior year after watching her score 38 goals and 16 assists in just 23 games as a junior. She finished with a program-record 101 goals.

But Russo opted for a program where she could spent a little more time pursuing her degree in physical therapy. And Monteiro could not be more thrilled.

“Within the first week of our conference schedule last fall, you could already see the man-marking,” he said. “And it didn’t matter where we played her. The defenders would follow her all the way across the field. But she’s a goal-scorer. She just did what she does. She scored goals.”

Savoy gives up goals to anchor defense

Forget about the numbers when it comes to Hillary Savoy, who piled up the accolades during her stellar soccer career at Winchester High, finishing her senior season with 32 points (10 goals, 12 assists).

Yet through two years at Northeastern, she hasn’t recorded a single point. But she’s played almost every minute of 38 games.

“Every team needs players like her,” said Huskies coach Tracey Leone . “She’s the player that might not show up with the stats but you cannot do without. She totally anchors your team. We’d practically fall apart without her. Like a boat that would sail away. Totally selfless.”

Savoy has been playing a more defensive role for Northeastern, staying back as a holding midfielder. But she still controls the game like she did with the Sachems — and with little recognition.

“It’s funny I always think about that, how in high school I had all the statistics,” Savoy said. “In college you learn you’re a defensive midfielder for a reason. I’m more of the player getting down and dirty.”

Although that could change soon.

“I kind of miss scoring goals,” Savoy said. “I’ve got the defending down now, and I want to get back to my old game and be able to go up the field and score and make more passes. This year, [Leone] is allowing me to get a little more free.”

Here and there

Senior Lee Russo (Westford Academy) netted a goal in each half to lead the Brandeis men’s soccer team past Ithaca College, 3-0, in the team’s season-opener last Saturday. . . . Richard DeLong of Gloucester captured top honors in the Boat Division of the 10th annual Leo Almeida Memorial North Shore Striped Bass Tournament, held last weekend. His prized catch: 35.3 pounds and 45.5 inches. In the Surf division, Josh Clogston of Billerica earned his third title, hooking a 31.44-pound, 45-inch prize. More than 225 anglers participated, raising $9,000 to benefit local antihunger organizations. . . . Katherine Gorham , a four-year varsity athlete at Swampscott High (class of 2008), is running in the Chicago Marathon as a sponsor for Mercy Home, a residential home for youth with behavioral and emotional issues, where she is a full-time volunteer. To help her cause, visit www.mercyhome.org/katherine-gorhams-chicago-marathon.