|(Suzanne Kreiter/Globe staff)|
Soccer stars prepare to shine in college ranks
Morgan Branco and Jenna Savi don’t recall playing against each other as they developed into top high school soccer players south of Boston, but they have a few things in common. They both come from families with deep soccer traditions. They both were Globe All-Scholastics. And they’re both about to play their first seasons on the collegiate level and may end up facing each other.
Branco graduated this spring from Brockton High School, where she had 89 goals and 30 assists in her career as a Brockton Boxer. She started on the varsity team all four years and was named MVP of the Big Three Conference in her senior year. Branco was also the first girl to score 100 career points at Brockton High.
Her father, Ernie Branco, coached men’s soccer at Stonehill College from 1984 to 1998. He led the team to three Northeast-10 Conference championships, and was inducted into the Hall of Fame after retiring with an overall record of 151-118-25. Her older brother, Jordan, played for Brockton as well, but graduated before she entered high school and they didn’t play for the school at the same time.
That’s about to change. Branco signed her letter of intent to play at the University of Southern New Hampshire in February, and will be joining her brother at the school. He transferred to Southern New Hampshire from the University of Connecticut, and will graduate after the fall.
“He’s only going to be there for a semester, so it’ll be nice that he’ll be there to get me used to the school, and then he’ll be gone,’’ said Branco. “He’ll get to watch me play, so it’ll be good.”
Like Branco, Savi also has family ties to the sport. Her father, Don Savi, was her coach at Dedham High School, where she started on varsity all four years, and her older sister, Nicole, plays soccer at Assumption College. The sisters were able to play on the same team when Jenna was a freshman and Nicole was a senior at Dedham High. Jenna will play at Merrimack College in the fall.
“She was a great player here and it’s nice to see her go on, but I’m going to miss her. It’s a great opportunity for her,” her father said.
Jenna Savi talks about how much she learned from her father and sister, but knows she will have a new chance to leave her own mark when she leaves Dedham.
“Sometimes I feel like I have to work harder than everyone else just to show that it’s not just because of them,” said Savi.
At Dedham High, Savi led the Bay State League in scoring for three seasons, was league MVP her senior year, and was an All-American. She was a four-time league all-star and ended her career with 138 career points, the most in Dedham High’s history.
“I’m probably the most proud of being an All-American because I was the first one at my high school ever, but I couldn’t have done it without my teammates’ help,” said Jenna.
The summer is coming to an end, and Branco and Savi are about to start preseason workouts with their college teams. Branco leaves on Sunday for Southern New Hampshire and Savi heads to Merrimack next Thursday. The girls have both trained hard preparing for their first collegiate season.
Both Merrimack and Southern New Hampshire participate in the Northeast-10 Conference, meaning the two young women will most likely be on the field together in the fall. The two teams played against each other in the semifinals of the league championship last year. Merrimack beat SNHU, 2-1, in overtime, but lost the championship to Saint Rose, 5-1.
Savi participated in a summer league with the rest of the Merrimack team. She has also followed a strength and conditioning program four days a week at Dedham High, working on speed, jumping, change of direction, and other cardio regimens.
Branco suffered a setback in her preparation plans when she hurt her knee in May and couldn’t train until early last month. On Mother’s Day, she was playing the last game for her club season and suffered a bad bone bruise on her right knee. After completing physical therapy, she trained with her high school coach, Andrea Tassinari, and played for Plymouth in the Cape Cod Women’s Soccer League, coached by Tassinari’s husband, Jason Tassinari. She also tries to run 2 miles every day to increase her stamina.
“She was highly recruited by Saint Rose and a couple other colleges, but I think she is very humble in the way that she is not going and saying, ‘Well, I scored 100 points’ in her high school career, so that’s good enough. We’ve talked at length about how now she’s a small fish in a bigger pond,” Andrea Tassinari said.
“I know the competition is going to be outstanding because that’s one of the best conferences’’ in Division 2 college soccer, said Branco. “I’m just trying to be mentally ready, because I feel like if I’m mentally ready everything will fall into place.”
Coryn Doncaster can be reached at email@example.com.