East Bridgewater girls dominate the field
The East Bridgewater girls’ soccer team has dominated this season, outscoring its opponents, 42-4, on its way to an 8-0-1 record and first place in the South Coast Conference.
Returning All-Scholastic forward and captain Rachel Blauner rightfully gets the majority of the credit for the Vikings’ success but it’s the work on the defensive half of the field that’s raising expectations in East Bridgewater.
“Our defense is so solid,’’ said Vikings coach Pam Ross. “It’s because of that defense that we’re able to have such a potent offense.’’
The Vikings almost haven’t missed a beat offensively after having three scorers in the top 10 in EMass last season. Through nine games, they’re just three goals behind last year’s pace (45), but have allowed nine fewer goals (13).
Fellow captain Rachel Fasanello anchors the defense from her sweeper position. The four-year starter is the team’s field general according to Ross.
“Rachel’s our vocal leader out there,’’ she said. “She’s such a sound player that when she’s on the field we can almost play with four midfielders because we know she can handle things back there.’’
Fasanello’s real talent is her ability to control the ball, as evidenced by her two assists this season. “You don’t usually see you sweeper getting assists,’’ said Ross, “but she’s that strong with the ball and if you let her she’ll find one of our wings.’’
Sophomore keeper Brooke Troup, whose 0.47 goals against average leads the conference, has looked impressive as well.
“[Troup’s] not afraid of anything,’’ said Ross. “She’s extremely technically sound and has made some big saves for us in her first season as a starter.”
Ross’s extra emphasis on ball control has been executed to perfection by this year’s team. The Vikings have consistently possessed the ball more than their opponents, with a 70-30 split being a bit generous according to Ross.
“We prefer to play a possession style of play and just let things happen,’’ she said. “Our defense will never just clear the ball. We’re always looking to pass it back and keep control. We know that if we take our time and find our scorers up front that good things will happen.’’
Vikings stopper Sarah Setler, who has four assists, has been a table setter for all season, getting the ball back on the attack.
The Vikings’ consistent possession of the ball has allowed Blauner, who will play at Boston University next season, to tally 15 goals and four assists, including hat tricks in her first three games, and five of the nine overall.
Blauner now has 83 goals for her career and her play has forced the school to search its record books for someone with more, a task that as of yet has been unsuccessful.
“[Blauner’s] the fastest and most skilled player on the field no matter who we’re playing against, said Ross. “She just invents moves as she goes and comes to the sidelines and says she doesn’t even know how sometimes.’’
Blauner’s best friend and fellow forward Melissa Figueiredo has benefited from the Vikings’ strong play as well, putting up 11 goals and three assists.
Figueiredo has enjoyed moving from midfield last season to a forward.
“She has a natural knack for finishing and always being in the right place,’’ said Ross. “She and Blauner have been best friends since the womb practically and their connection has paid dividends on the field.’’
Last season, the Vikings entered the state tournament riding high at 16-2, only to fall to Ashland, 2-0, in their first game. A similar letdown is something coach Ross and the Vikings have put in extra work all season to avoid.
“I think they’re sick and tired of the tournament struggles,’’ said Ross. “But from day one this season it’s been about getting ready for the tournament. We’ve made an effort to keep up our intensity in every game and it’s reflected in our high scoring numbers.
“Skill and speed will only get you so far,’’ she said. “It’s the intensity that we’re trying to bring. We don’t expect anything less than more success in this year’s tournament.’’
Games of the Week: Bishop Stang at No. 7 Bishop Feehan, Tue., 3:30 - The Shamrocks will look to put even more space between themselves and the rest of the EAC, as the top two teams face off.
No 1 Andover at No. 9 Tewksbury, Tue., 3:30 - This is just the beginning of a tough week for the Redmen (6-0), as the last two unbeatens in the MVC (Small/Large) clash.
No. 8 Lincoln-Sudbury at Westford, Tue., 4:00 - The Grey Ghosts have struggled as of late, as the Warriors (7-0) look to put even more space between themselves and the rest of the DCL.
No. 17 Franklin at No. 6 Canton, Wed., 3:30 - Look out for a close one as the Kelly-Rex and Davenport leaders square off.
No. 2 Central Catholic at No. 9 Tewksbury, Thu., 3:30 - Right now the teams in MVC are just beating up on each other, as the Large and Small leaders face off, but come playoff time the higher level of competition should work to their advantage.