Before making his varsity coaching debut with the Lexington High girls’ soccer team on Wednesday afternoon, Tom Boreiko had one quick stop to make.
A longtime youth soccer coach in town, Boreiko was wondering why he had yet to receive rosters of his new squad. He drove over to the high school to seek out athletic director Naomi Martin, hoping to get a copy of the list of players.
“I assumed it was the athletic director who made rosters,” Boreiko said. “Hey, I’m still figuring out all the little particulars of the job.”
Boreiko is in an unusual situation as a first-year head coach; he is taking over for Frank Pagliuca, who stepped aside this fall after the birth of a daughter (though he still plans on coaching the St. Mary’s High girls’ hockey team this winter, along with the Lexington girls’ softball squad in the spring).
Boreiko is likely to be coaching the Minutemen for just one season. This fall is not a tryout, just more of a stop-gap until Martin can find a long-term replacement.
When the calendar turned to August and Martin had yet to hire someone to replace Pagliuca, Boreiko — who has known most of the players from their youth soccer days, and from watching them compete with his daughter, Alison — was a natural fit.
“With Frank leaving, we wanted someone who knew the program,” Martin said. Boreiko’s children, Alison and older brother John, who both played for Lexington High, are out of school, he noted, “so it’s not going to be super long-term, but it’s a fantastic solution for us in a pinch.”
And Boreiko is taking over a program that’s been on a roll.
The girls’ squad is returning from a powerful season in which they captured the Middlesex League title and went 14-1-3 before falling, 2-1, to Acton-Boxborough Regional in the Division 1 North sectional quarterfinals. But the team graduated five seniors who are now playing college soccer, including scoring whiz Caroline Fitzgerald (Bentley) and Globe All-Scholastic midfielder Nandi Mehta (Northwestern).
And last year’s edition was a team based on a much different style of play than Boreiko and his assistant coach, Brendan Donahue, had been teaching at the youth level.
“We had a more physical style, with physical seniors,” said Annelise Driscoll, a senior taking over the center forward role this fall. “Now it’s more passing, a lot of combinations, and more finesse. The Lexington program is like that, they’re teaching the kids to play on the ground.”
But if Boreiko was going to ask them to play a different way on the field, he decided to let them make their own decisions with any other time spent under his supervision.
“He’s very understanding of all the traditions we do and things we’ve done for a long time,” said senior Grace Kaplan, who controls the midfield and will be needed as a distributor to get Lexington’s offense going this season.
“He never comes into practice without a plan,” said midfielder Michal Clayton, “but off the field he’s totally different.”
Boreiko isn’t ignoring development — he has four freshmen on the squad with eyes on the future — but he understands the expectations.
“People here aren’t used to being average. They’re used to being one of the top teams. We understand that,’’ he said.
“We’re asking kids that might have played more of a secondary role to step up and fill that primary role. It’s a real opportunity for them — hopefully they savor it and perform.”
Boreiko, along with Donahue, whom he calls his co-head coach, had a little more than two weeks to prepare the girls for Wednesday’s opener at Burlington High, but what happened on the field made it seem like they’ve all been together for two months.
Lexington’s execution was often sloppy. But the way the players created and used space, moved the ball, put together one-two combinations, played stone-solid defense — it all pointed to a well-coached bunch that was acting as a single unit. Even if the execution was off, the decision-making was on.
The players had bought into Boreiko’s system.
Playing as the lone striker, Driscoll felt uncomfortable pushing up as high as the new coach wanted her to. She felt useless up there, so far away from the midfield. But it opened pockets of room on the flanks, allowing the outside midfielders — and, at times, even the defenders — to make runs up the sidelines.
Sure enough, Sara Fopiano scored Lexington’s first goal by taking advantage of that extra space, stepping up from right back and making a few quick moves before driving the ball into the top corner — something her teammates said they had never seen her do.
Then, with just four minutes left and the game tied 1-1, Caroline Forlenza found some room just outside the 18-yard box and floated a bender for the eventual game-winning goal.
“Coach was right about making space,” Driscoll conceded after the game.
“Now I can see this isn’t even a rebuilding year. We’re at the same level of play as we were last year.”
Forget about printing rosters. Lexington’s new coach should be just fine.
Teams to watch
Acton-Boxborough Regional: The Colonials return 11 seniors from last year’s squad that finished 13-5-3.
With the midfield anchored by Kaitlyn and Alex Spangler, paired with coach Lee Billiard’s always-solid defensive system, this should be a tough team to beat come tournament time.
Algonquin Regional: The Tomahawks bring back 17 players from a squad that finished 13-3-2 a year ago.
The depth will allow coach Scott Taggart to present different looks when necessary, and his two captains, Chloe Herczeg and Michaela Horne, should be a special pair.
Weston: The Wildcats have to be one of the only teams around who return two captains, seniors Amanda Ivey and Maddie Linde.
Linde can take over the game with her ability in the midfield, leading a big crop of young talent for coach James Blackwell.
Lincoln-Sudbury Regional: With the team’s All-Scholastic goalie, Katie Sia, back this fall, the Warriors will look to make a deeper run into the postseason than last year, when they went 15-1 in the regular season only to lose to Chelmsford on penalty kicks in the opening round of the Division 1 North sectional.