By John Orrell, Contributing Writer
Grafton – A single year can make all the difference in high school sports, and perhaps there is no more tangible proof of that than the Grafton High School girls’ varsity soccer team.
Battling to reach the .500 mark under new head coach Bill Wilhide in 2014, the team struggled at times to find its identity while winning just one more contest than they lost. That was not the head coaching debut Wilhide had hoped for, but a number of lessons learned from a year ago have made a huge difference going forward.
The 2015 squad has done all the right things in the first half of the fall campaign and from all appearances, very little can stand in their way in qualifying for post-season competition. The Indians ran off a streak of seven wins, no losses and one tie (scoreless at Tantasqua Regional High School) to open the season and don’t appear to be letting their guard down anytime soon.
“Everyone is really stepping up playing a little better than they did last year and taking on a role,” said Wilhide, who is assisted by Matt Bazinet and Sue Cowen. “The combination of everyone doing that is making a difference.
Everyone on the team is taking ownership in every game we play and I think that’s really helped our team progress.
“Everyone has to trust their teammates and that’s what they’re finding out that everyone can be trusted to receive a pass, make a pass, and take a shot. Our defense has been a strength for us and that starts from the strikers to the midfielders all the way back to our defenders and our goalkeeper as well.”
Senior co-captains Maisy Dauphinais, Erika Smith, Kelly Whilhide and Lauren Lyver explained the winning formula.
“We’ve been working real hard at practice and we do at least a half hour of fitness every day,” said Lyver. “That’s making our team really strong. Plus, we’re a close-knit group. A lot of us have been playing together as much as eight years.
“I knew coming into the season we were going to have a very talented team and a lot of great talent coming up from the younger grades and from those coming back from the older grades. To have this type of success is not surprising because we’ve been working so hard for it. It’s definitely exciting.”
“We don’t have any real standout players,” added Kelly Wilhide. “We’re more a team that supports each other and works together. We’re not really an intimidating team and there’s no strong or mean attitudes. Everybody gets along.”
Besides captains, the team consists seniors Kristin Durand, Allie Fasold, Sarah Knowlton and Julia Sweeney along with juniors Katie Delay, Lauren Eddy, Rachel Jones, Gigi Lemay, Meghan Montgomery, Julia Noblet, Caroline Sonnet, Erica St. Jean and Jillian Zinkus.
Underclassmen making the squad are sophomores Olivia Coveney, Maddy Murphy and Erin Tyldesly, as well as freshmen Lilliana Silva and Serena Trinh.
Despite the great run that the team has engineered during the first half of the season, coach Wilhide is there to remind his players to stay focused.
“We need to continue putting an emphasis on hard work and playing as a team rather than individuals like we have so far,” explained Smith. “Keeping our heads in the game and never getting discouraged even if we make mistakes. We always try to stay positive and be a completely unified team.”
“We need to keep our eye on the prize of the ‘W’,” affirmed Dauphinais. “We need to pay attention to who the very good players are on other teams and scout them. Working hard as a team and getting ‘W’s is what it’s all about and definitely one game at a time. We never focus on games ahead, only what we’re doing at the time.”
Having had an inkling that 2015 may be something special is coach Wilhide who has history with the core of this team and knows what this group can accomplish.
“I’m not surprised that this team has been successful,” he said. “I’ve known these girls for a long time and I know the skill level that they have and it’s just a matter of putting it all together. They believe in each other and that makes such a difference.”