By John Orrell, Contributing Writer
Shrewsbury – Big changes are in store for the Shrewsbury High School (SHS) girls’ varsity soccer program this fall.
New head coach and SHS alum Jim McKinley is on board with a lengthy resume of soccer coaching and expertise. Couple the coaching prowess he brings with the talent and skill of the players up and down the roster and this could certainly be a fun season for players, coaches and team supporters.
McKinley comes to town following a five-year head coaching stint at Nashoba Regional High School where his boys’ teams notched an impressive 35-12-17 record. He has been named Midland-A League coach of the year twice, Mid-Wachusett B League coach of the year in 2010, Central Massachusetts boys’ coach of the year in Division 1 in 2010, and received the 2014 Midland-A Sportsmanship award. He currently serves as executive vice president of the New England Futbal Club and President of the Central Mass Soccer Coaches Association. He also coached SHS boys’ soccer from 1990-1995, so he knows the Colonial way very well.
“Early this summer I got a call from Jason Costa (SHS athletic director) asking me if I had an interest in returning to my alma mater,” said McKinley. “As it turned out the timing made sense and the opportunity to work on rebuilding the SHS girls’ program was enticing to me. SHS girls’ soccer has had a rich history of prominence and success in the region. I felt it would be fun to challenge myself and the players as we move forward this season to re-learn the game and bring back the passion to the program.”
Captains of the team, Jordyn Oliveri and Lea Rocco, have been excellent role models and leaders for their peers and all underclassmen, said McKinley.
“Encouraging, demanding, focused, and passionate are a few words to describe their demeanor,” he noted. “The aim is to bring together the JV and varsity programs so we become stronger together in our training.”
Other seniors that McKinley will look to for key contributions are Bridget Campos, Grace McNeil, Rebecca Paddock and Stephanie Wilczynski. All are talented and experienced as are juniors Caroline Calderwood, Autumn Dauksz, Joan Laramee, Sophia Marshall and Sydney Murner. Rounding out the team are sophomores Brielle Carelli, Kathryn Cawley, Erin Duffy, Grace Foley, Anna Lizotte, Claire Lowe and Sophia Rocco and freshmen Haley Collins and Julia Perugini.
“As coach I have a lot of high demands for the girls technically and tactically,” said McKinley, whose team opened Sept. 8 hosting Westborough High School. “With such a short window to focus on these areas, we need to ramp up quickly as we open up with two league games right out of the gate which is a difficult task and one I look forward to with this year’s young squad.”
“I like our intensity so far,” said Oliveri of this 2015 team. “With our new coach, I think a lot of our intensity that was missing last year has been brought up. With a lot of seniors leaving, it’s been a big change but we’re adapting well to it.”
“I see a lot more hard work on this team this year and a lot more motivation to come in hard from the start,” added Rocco. “We’re a lot more fit this season so we have more time to focus on us technically and working as a team rather than individually. Winning is always our goal but working hard is always our number one priority.”
Despite the earliness of the schedule and all things considered, the team has come together with comradery and commitment to a higher goal of improving as the season moves forward.
“I would say that the girls have excellent unity this early in the season,” McKinley said. “Chemistry takes time to build, along with understanding a new coach’s expectations. I have to say that I am encouraged by the girls’ willingness to get out of their comfort zones and push one another to learn and be better together. I am really looking forward to the fall season so we can learn and grow together as a team.”