Needham mom races to root on 3 Rayners
On Friday, Jeanne Rayner plans to drive from her Needham home to Providence College to watch her son Will skate on defense for the Sacred Heart University men’s hockey team in its season opener against the host Friars.
“But that’s after I watch my daughter Kathryn’s soccer game on the Villanova University website,’’ said Rayner, an All-Ivy League soccer and lacrosse standout at Harvard University from 1981 to 1984.
Her weekend tour will continue Saturday in Hartford, where the Tufts football team takes on New England Small College Athletic Conference rival Trinity. Her son Andrew starts at left tackle and is a senior captain for the Jumbos.
Then she will fly to Philadelphia to watch Kathryn and the Villanova women face Notre Dame in a Big East matchup Sunday, then be back home Tuesday for a Sacred Heart hockey game at Bentley.
“Love those Bentley games, just a short drive,’’ said Rayner, who helps organize football tailgate parties at Tufts, which means leaving for Medford at 9 a.m.
She is occasionally accompanied in her travels by her husband, Bill Rayner, who always wears bright orange-colored apparel so his kids can spot him in the stands or in the corner of the rink, and her mother, Carolyn Piersiak of Needham, who raised six sons and two daughters and has a combined 33 grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Rayner’s job flexibility allows her to see most Tufts, Villanova, and Sacred Heart games. She just jots down the team’s schedules in her calendar book and off she goes, credit card in hand.
“I know it’s a lot for my mom and I can’t express how much I appreciate it,” said Kathryn, a 19-year-old sophomore defender at Villanova.
“My goal was to be just as good as she was on the field and possibly better and I trust her opinion on how I play. And when my grandmother comes down, it’s an awesome treat because she is truly where our competitive spirit comes from.’’
The youngest of four siblings, Kathryn, a four-time Bay State Conference soccer all-star at Needham High, endured roughhousing and kidding from her brothers.
“My coaches have always commented how it is rare for a woman athlete to be as physical as I am, and I attribute that to trying to keep up with my big brothers,’’ she said.
And they are big: Andrew is 6-foot-6 and 270 pounds, and 22-year-old Will is 6-1, 189 pounds. Both were star athletes at Needham High. Will played on the Rockets’ state championship hockey team as a senior, then skated for South Kent School in Connecticut and a junior team in Lincoln, Neb.
Andrew was an all-league football player, team MVP, and captain who helped lead the Rockets to wins over archrival Wellesley his junior and senior seasons; he remembers making three key tackles in overtime during their Thanksgiving Day clash as a junior. He was also a center on the basketball team.
“Will, Kathryn and myself share a sense of humor which keeps everything in perspective, and that definitely comes from our mom,’’ said Andrew.
He considers his captaincy at Tufts “humbling, and an incredible honor every time I step on the field. Not many players get that opportunity to play a sport you love with teammates you love.”
One is classmate Sam Stone, the Jumbos’ starting center, once a foe from rival Wellesley.
Will, a transfer from University of Massachusetts Lowell, said he was taught how to skate by his father.
“We’re very competitive,” he said of his sibling. “Andrew and myself, yeah, we didn’t take it easy on Kathryn, but we always had a good time and we support one another to this day.
“But growing up with six brothers, Mom has empathy for what Kathryn went through with us, even at the dinner table,’’ Will said.
Tufts football coach Jay Civetti; John Byford , the women’s soccer coach at Villanova; and Sacred Heart hockey coach C.J. Marottolo say they appreciate what the Rayners bring to their teams.
“Andrew does things the right way and he does it with class and a fantastic sense of humor,” said Civetti, a Wellesley native that played at Belmont Hill School. “He’s a determined and disciplined player who has made great strides.’’
Byford said Kathryn is a great one-on-one defender with “a super competitive mentality who refuses to lose. She’s the player who takes care of our opponents’ top forward.’’
Marottolo calls Will (2 goals, 4 assists last season) a “throwback, no-nonsense defenseman who enjoys blocking shots and gives us a strong physical presence. I love his intensity in the weight room and at the rink.’’
All of which should not come as a surprise to those who saw their mother captain three sports at Needham High and two at Harvard; her soccer coach at Harvard was Bob Scalisle , now director of athletics for the Crimson.
She was also a superb defender on the 1983 Ivy League champion lacrosse team. Both squads played in the NCAA tournament her senior year.
“I loved my time at Harvard. It was a blast,’’ said Rayner, whose oldest daughter, Sarah, 24, an accomplished equestrian, works at the Oliynyk Show Stables in Plainville. “But that’s in the past. It’s our kids’ time now and I see much of myself in them.’’
Here and there
Weston’s Harrison Choate skated to his first international medal with his bronze finish at the ISU Junior Grand Prix last Friday in Croatia. The 18-year-old Choate, representing the Skating Club of Boston, placed third in the short program and fourth in the free skate. He will be a freshman at Harvard next fall. . . . Former Middlesex League cross-country opponents Chris Stadler (Belmont High) and Andrew Herring (Lexington High) renewed acquaintances at the recent Paul Short Run at Lehigh University. Herring was 66th overall (25:08) in the gold race and Stadler, second among all Division 3 runners, was 72d (25:10) and first for Haverford, which was ranked second nationally. In the meet’s open race, Herring’s teammate, Newton South alum David Nelly was 22d (25:13) over the 8K course. . . Recent Assumption College graduate Nick DiAntonio of Milford is the men’s regional NCAA Division 2 Conference Commissioner’s Association Scholar-Athlete of the Year. The national winner will be announced Oct. 22. DiAntonio was a defensive standout on the ’Hounds football team.