Girls’ soccer previews: Pembroke Academy looking to make third straight trip to D-II finals

By ERIC RYNSTON-LOBEL and DAN ATTORRI

Monitor staff

Published: 08-25-2023 1:07 AM

As Pembroke girls’ soccer head coach Jess Kaufman-Desrochers prepares to kick off her 14th season leading the Spartans, a common theme sticks out in how she wants her team to approach the next few months: gradual improvement.

That seems to be the motto for Pembroke as it embarks on a quest for its third straight Division II championship game appearance, despite needing to replace nearly half of its starting roster from last season.

“We’re hungry to get ourselves ready for that and to again make gradual, consistent progress, not to peak too early,” Kaufman-Desrochers said of trying to reach the championship game in 2023.

The Spartans return several key players from last year’s 15-3-1 runner-up team, including First Team All-State senior defender Mackenzie Hawkins, fellow seniors Abby Shaugnessy and Carly Wood, juniors Bailey Gatchell, Lindsey Jones and Kayla Amyot and sophomore Layla Thorne.

In addition, sophomore goalkeeper Laila Al-Shawafi looks to play a major role as well. A standout freshman last season, Kaufman-Desrochers expects more of the same in her second year.

“She had such grit as a freshman on the biggest stage in D-II last year, and she’s also just a very calming presence,” Kaufman-Desrochers said. “You just feel very confident with her back there netminding and being behind it all.”

Pembroke opens the season with a long bus ride up to Plymouth on Friday before its home opener against Bow on Tuesday, a rematch of last season’s D-II semifinal where the Spartans stunned the Falcons by scoring two goals in the final five minutes to advance to the title game.

Still, with five players from that team since graduated, it’ll take a new cast to propel Pembroke back to the championship game.

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“We’re just looking forward to it,” Kaufman-Desrochers said. “Gradual improvement every game and full-roster efforts is the name of the game.”

CONCORD

Division: I.

Coach: Andrew Mattarazzo (third year).

Last year: 9-8-1, reached quarterfinals.

Returning players: Whitney Vaillant, sr., M; Amanda Vezina, sr., D; Rachel Gridley, sr., F; Maddie Brown, jr., M; Willa Marino, jr., D; Navaeh Kalapinski, jr., D.

Top newcomers: Margot Kennedy, jr., F; Kelley Mikelson, sr., G; Kate Dickson, fr., M; Maddie Muller, jr., M.

Outlook: “We will be a young team that has to gel quickly and come together as one,” Mattarazzo said. “I feel so far this preseason our girls have done that and continue to grow. They have bonded extremely well and seem to all be on the same page of the goals and what is expected of them this season. We will need to compete and battle every game we play in this year with our young team, but I think we will surprise some people and be successful.”

Teams to beat: Exeter, Bedford, Pinkerton, Portsmouth.

BOW

Division: II.

Coach: Jay Vogt (20th year).

Last year: 15-3-0, reached semifinals.

Returning starters: Bridget Hilton, sr., G; Abby Foote, jr., D; Maeve Nadzan, jr., D; Sidney Roberge, sr., M; Lexi Insana, jr., M; Juliette Tarsa, sr., M; Lexana Farr, jr., M.

Top newcomers: Anna Fellers, jr., D; Ella Murphy, so., F; Ella Trefethen, so., M; Charlotte Larochelle, so., D; Brylie Gelinas, fr., M; Cara Van Dyke, fr., F; Anna Zerba, fr., M.

Outlook: “The girls have been working extremely hard so far, and we are on a path to finding this team’s identity,” Vogt said. “We have a lot of potential on this team. How everything comes together will determine our success.”

Part of finding the team’s identity includes replacing the speed and offensive production from the graduated LaPerle twins, Lyndsey and Bella, both First Team All-State players.

Teams to beat: “Pembroke, Hollis-Brookline, Merrimack Valley, John Stark, Oyster River, Coe Brown to name a few. You will need to be ready to play every day this year,” Vogt said.

COE-BROWN

Division: II.

Coach: Josh Hils (19th year).

Last year: 11-7-0, reached quarterfinals.

Returning starters: Alyviah Blad, sr., D; Kylie Prusia, sr., D; Maggie Escabi, jr., M; Bella Lapierre, so., F; Somer Joto, sr., F; Jennifer Noni, jr., M; Katie Pease, jr., G; Lily Wolf, sr., M.

Top newcomers: Jadyn Spearin, so., M; Jaelyn Demers, fr., M; Ellie Escabi, fr., M; Camryn Buchannan, jr., D; Sadie Scruton, so., G; Bella Tenney, jr., D; Audrey Tuttle, jr., M.

Outlook: CBNA ended the season on a 7-1-0 run, and it took eventual champions Pelham penalty kicks to take the Bears down in the quarterfinals. Coe-Brown returns three All-State selections – Loto, Lapierre and Wolf – and only graduated one senior from last years squad. Prusia and Blad are proven senior leaders who will anchor the defense with Samantha Ball and Amanda Thomas. Abbey Franke, Noni and Maggie Escabi will be relied on to pressure opposing midfields, while the flexibility of Samantha Perron, Spearin, Demers and Ellie Escabi give the Bears options to stay fresh and increase speed and intensity. Goalies Katie Pease and Sadie Scruton will give the Bears depth and flexibility between the posts.

Teams to beat: Pelham, Pembroke, Bow, Hollis-Brookline, Milford.

JOHN STARK

Division: II.

Coach: Eddie Marceau (first year).

Last year: 9-8-1, reached quarterfinals.

Returning starters: Lexi Boudreau, jr., G.

Outlook: “We have a great senior leadership team and are hoping to be a hard team to play against this season,” said Marceau, who is taking over for Chris Pike as head coach after Pike led the program for six years. The Generals have 11 seniors on their roster and also return junior keeper Boudreau, last year’s First Team All-State selection.

Teams to beat: Coe-Brown, Pembroke, Bow, Merrimack Valley.

MERRIMACK VALLEY

Division: II.

Coach: Kylee Yam (third year).

Last year: 10-8-0, reached quarterfinals.

Returning starters: Gabrielle Andrews, jr., D; Syndey Bailey, jr., M; Calli Gray, sr., D; Colby Magoon, sr., M; Sierra Mercer, sr., F; Juliana Palhof, sr., M; Hannah Verville, sr., G

Top newcomers: Izzy Navoy, so., F; Lila Gray, fr., M; Ella Mercer, so., D

Outlook: The Pride hovered around .500 last year but scored some major upsets, beating both Bow and Pembroke during the regular season, the only team in D-II to accomplish that feat.

“We have a strong returning group and some excellent new talent that will add to both the starting lineup and relief players,” Yam said. “The center of the field will hopefully be a strength for us in possessing the ball, and we will have a more aggressive attacking line. We are building back our defensive line after the loss of some key defenders.”

Teams to beat: Bow, Pembroke, Pelham.

BELMONT

Division: III.

Coach: Jeff Malcolm (third year).

Last year: 7-9-1, reached prelims.

Outlook: After starting the 2022 campaign with a 1-7-0 record, the Raiders won six of their final eight games in the regular season to sneak into the playoffs. Belmont hopes to make a return trip in 2023.

BISHOP BRADY

Division: III.

Coach: Joe Levesque (second year).

Last year: 11-6-1, reached quarterfinals.

Returning starters: Lydia Tremblay, sr., F; Anna Beauchesne, sr., F; Finley Hollenberg, sr., M; Addie Haas, sr., M; Gwen O’Keefe, sr., D; Caroline Michaud, sr., D; Abby Crowdes, jr., D; Claire Jackson, jr., G; Kiki Herrington, so., D

Top newcomers: Natalie Brooks, fr., M; Maia Dow, fr., M; Stella Priesto, fr., D; Madeline Nicholls, jr., F.

Outlook: “We should take a step forward from last year,” said Levesque. “We have a good group of freshmen to help give us some depth. Our core group is seniors and should be able to repeat their success from last season.”

Teams to beat: St. Thomas, Stevens.

HILLSBORO-DEERING

Division: III.

Coach: Makayla Savoy (third year).

Last year: 7-10-0, reached prelims.

Returning starters: Abby Benn, sr., D; Claire Doyle, sr., D; Callia Card, jr., F; Kathryn Thyng, jr., M; Megan Ferguson, so., D; Molly Smart, so., D; Katie Gipson, so., M; Faith Daley, so., M.

Outlook: “We are really looking forward to growing our soccer program over the next few years,” Savoy said. “We have a really young team this year, with only four upperclassmen. So far, we have seen some skill and talent coming from the younger players, which is always impressive. This is a very teachable, hard-working group of girls, and I can’t wait to see what they can do this season.”

HOPKINTON

Division: III.

Coach: Mike Zahn (sixth year).

Last year: 10-5-4, reached quarterfinals.

Returning starters: Sarah Chodosh, sr., M; Ally Duval, sr., D; Liz Holmes, sr., F; Belle Serzans, jr., M/F; Kennedy Mark, jr., M; Paige Prisco-Nelson, so., D; Paige Boudette, so., D; Annie Morrall, so., D.

Top newcomers: Keegan St. Cyr, sr., M/F; Avery Chase, fr., F.

Outlook: The Hawks return eight of their starting 11 and plenty of speed. Hopkinton also returns several strong defensive players. If the Hawks can be patient in building up their play and take advantage of their goalscoring chances, Hopkinton can be a threat to go deep in D-III.

Teams to beat: Gilford, St. Thomas, Stevens, Derryfield.

KEARSARGE

Division: III.

Coach: Dave Smith (third year).

Last year: 7-8-2, reached prelims.

Returning starters: Adara Boucher, sr., G; Reese Lacombe, sr., D; Tessa Marinello, sr., D; Ava Shapiro, jr., M; Carly Grant, jr., M; Maddie Thorpe, sr., F.

Top newcomers: Chloe Hassey, so., F; Ellie Wimer, jr., M.

Outlook: The Cougars have a solid core of players from last year’s playoff team back for this season, including most of the defensive starters. Kearsarge also has some talented newcomers that will bolster play on the attacking end of the pitch.

“We have the ability to improve from last year and hope to advance further in the playoffs,” Smith said.

Teams to beat: Gilford, Stevens, Trinity.

CONCORD CHRISTIAN

Division: IV.

Coach: Josh Winans (sixth year).

Last year: 14-5-0, reached semifinals.

Returning starters: Ella Baker, sr., F/M; Lilli Carlile, jr., M; Kristina Baglio, jr., D; Makayla Baglio, so., M; Kate Smith, so., G/D; Emma Smith, so., F; Kayden Rioux, so., M.

Top newcomers: Annabelle Syvertson, D; Faith Dudley, F/M; Grace Spiewak, D; Emmy Laboe, F/M; Brooklyn Robbins, D; Savanna Cabral, D; Addison Wright, M.

Outlook: The Lady Kingsmen return the majority of their starting lineup from last year’s team that nearly made the final for the first time in program history, falling in overtime to Portsmouth Christian in the semifinals.

Teams to beat: Newmarket, Portsmouth Christian, Sunapee.

PITTSFIELD

Division: IV.

Coach: Doug Cheney (third year).

Last year: 5-11-0, did not make tournament

Returning starters: Tiffany Boucher, sr.; Sydney Provencal, sr.; Sam Carney, sr.; Emma Baker, sr.; Addie Clark, jr.; Olivia Cunningham, jr.; Mabel Johnson, jr.; Abby Hodgdon, jr.; Adelia Stopyro, jr.; Carly Griffin, jr.; Helene Flores, jr.; Sadie Rafferty, jr.; Lilly Mooney, so.

Top newcomers: Chelsea Chagnon, eighth grade; Savannah Chagnon, eighth grade.

Outlook: The Panthers return all but one starter from last season and have “a young team that is slowly maturing in the game of soccer,” Cheney said. “The team’s technical abilities are continuing to grow and evolve. Through their experiences, the players are developing their tactical intelligence and should be stronger this year than last year. Their level of fitness has increased, too. They all have a great attitudes and a strong willingness to learn the game.”

Teams to beat: Sunapee, Newmarket, Concord Christian.

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