By John Orrell, Contributing Writer
Marlborough – Players and coaches don’t hold back in conceding that the 2016 campaign ended suddenly and all too painfully for the Marlborough High School (MHS) girls’ varsity lacrosse team. The Panthers were edged out of post-season competition by a single game after an arduous schedule that put the team to the task day in and day out.
The 2017 lineup of opponents has been no less complicated for this squad led by veteran head coach Mary Kelleher who has been with the program since its inception in 2005. Players remain motivated and committed to positive results with an enthusiastic group led by senior captains Casandra Pierre and Megan Saari. Both are goal-oriented and set to take this group as far as it can go.
“It would be really cool to go far in the playoffs,” said Saari with conviction. “We made it my freshman and sophomore years but we never won a game in playoffs so it would feel really good. I think we have what it takes for this team. Everybody’s just really good friends this year. There are no cliques. That really helps on and off the field.”
“It would be amazing especially because it’s our (seniors) last year,” echoed Pierre. “I’m excited and hope that we make it. I think we have good momentum going. We just can’t have a bad minute.”
“It’s always a goal to make the tournament every year,” added Kelleher, who is assisted by Angela House. “Last year we missed it by a game. Getting to the post-season is what we’re striving for this season. I think we’ve really improved a lot as the season’s gone along. We have a lot of sophomores and juniors who’ve done a great job fitting in and some of them are starting.”
A recently concluded four-match win streak did nothing to hurt confidence. Winning brings motivation and determination and this year’s team has much of those characteristics. The team’s record stood at a healthy 6-4 at Community Advocate press time and while lacrosse remains a fundamentally team effort, captains’ leadership is where it all starts, says Kelleher.
“Our captains have been great. They started in the offseason bringing kids together and worked with kids who have never played before. They played indoor lacrosse through the winter and they’re very good with the new kids coming into the program. They actually did some recruiting as far as bringing in new players into the varsity who have really helped. They’re class kids and they really set an example on the team. They’re great role models and they’re good kids.”
A series of tough opponents make up the remaining contests. Lunenburg is currently undefeated. Groton-Dunstable and Nashoba Regional will test the team’s mettle. But the team knows only too well what needs to be accomplished to be successful both on and off the field.
“We just really need to communicate on defense, be patient on offense and look for opportunities,” Kelleher explained. “We can’t afford to have a bad minute in the games we have left. We have to play the whole game of lacrosse.”
“We have to trust each other and talk, be patient on offense and on defense we really have to talk and make sure we stand our ground,” said Pierre in agreement with her coach. “We make sure to let the younger kids know that it’s ok to make mistakes sometimes and we’re all still learning as the days go by, even us as captains. I think that if they know it’s ok it makes them feel more comfortable.”
Along the sidelines there is an unmistakable feeling of mutual respect among players and coaches. Kelleher is a coach that players can turn to, has their backs and will always make the spirit of competition one that will be remembered fondly after the final whistle has blown. Seeing her players unite for the good of all is clearly a signature statement of this Panther squad.
“I like the way that the players on this team get along,” Kelleher said. “The chemistry is great. They’re so respectful of each other, their opponents and other coaches. They’re great people beside great players. The fact that they come to practice, they don’t complain, they come and work hard and are always looking to get better, that’s meaningful.”
Members of the 2017 Marlborough High girls varsity lacrosse teams are seniors Megan Saari, Mariah Berry, Jillian Bates, Casandra Pierre; juniors Leticia Farias, Erin Doherty, Kendra Bastarache, Victoria Machado, Sharon Fernandes, Aliyah Nisbett, Cynthia Cote and sophomores Natasha Santos, Morgan Raun, Katelyn Silva, Hannah Romain and Ciara Shanahan.