New Coach, New Hope For TMHS Girls' Soccer
Sep 19, 2014 11:54AM
By Rick Spencer
Tewksbury High defender Taylor Donahoe (19) blocks an Andover shot while goaltender Hayley Pozzuto and fellow defender Emily Sessa (24) look on.
He arrived on the scene full of optimism and enthusiasm, but just six games into his tenure as Tewksbury High’s new girls’ soccer coach, reality has set in for first year TMHS head coach Michael Dobbs.
“The goal is to make this program competitive with every other team in the league, but it’s going to take some time,” Dobbs said Thursday after his team dropped a 3-0 decision to Andover and saw its record fall to 1-5 on the season. “I don’t have a set time frame in mind, just because I came in blind without knowing much about the kids. But I think that making this program into a competitive team year after year is a reasonable goal, and I don’t see any reason why we can’t do that. It’s just going to take some time.”
Dobbs became the program’s fourth head coach in the past six years when he accepted the job this summer after his most immediate predecessor, Jeff Keefe, resigned following a less-than-spectacular three-year run as the team’s head coach. In 2011, Keefe inherited a talented young team fresh off a Merrimack Valley Small School Championship in 2010. But Keefe’s squads never fulfilled their promise, and spiraled downward from a 9-7-2 record in his first season to a 6-7-4 record in 2012 to a 2-13-3 record last season.
That two-win team from last fall also graduated seven seniors, many of whom were three or four-year varsity letter-winners. So Dobbs is tasked with picking up the pieces of a program that is both inexperienced and unfamiliar with winning.
“The good news is that we have some talent,” Dobbs said. “We’ve already shown that when we decide to play the ball on the ground and go forward and put pressure on teams up high, I think we’ve played really well. But we’ve introduced a new system and a new style of play, and it’s going to take some time before the kids get comfortable with it. The raw soccer talent is definitely there, it’s just a matter of someone giving them the opportunity to flourish.”
Tewksbury opened the season with losses to Billerica (4-1), Bedford (2-0) and Newburyport (6-0) before notching its first win of the season last week, 3-2 over Methuen. This past week the Redmen lost 5-1 at Haverhill before Thursday’s 3-0 home loss to a talented Andover team. TMHS stands at 1-5 so far, having surrendered 23 goals while scoring just five.
“Probably 19-20 of the goals we’ve given up have been mental mistakes,” Dobbs said. “But those are things that can be corrected.”
The team features eight returning seniors led by co-captains Michelle Creedon and Hillary Fletcher. Creedon a forward, is a four-year varsity letter-winner and the team’s top returning scorer. Fletcher is a solid defender who has been on the varsity squad for three seasons.
The other seniors include starting midfielder Arianna Calouro, midfielders Karah Chaisson and Monica Aronson, forwards Meredith Cahill and Hayley Tiernan and defenders Samantha Teague and Sandra Lily Lantum.
Junior forward Brittany Fletcher starts alongside Creedon up top, while two sophomores, Emily Sessa and Sarah Catanzano have drawn the starting positions at center midfield. Junior winger Ashley Colarruso starts at outside mid opposite Arianna Calouro. The back line features Hillary Fletcher, junior Taylor Donahoe, sophomore Maddie Westcott and freshman Rachel Sessa.
Junior midfielders Karalyn Gallella and Emily Volozzo have also seen steady playing time, as has sophomore defender Victoria Morabito, freshman forward Izzy Pitcher and junior defender Samantha Parker.
In goal, junior Hayley Pozzuto and sophomore Lindsay Harris initially started sharing time, but Pozzuto has claimed the starting role since Harris suffered a concussion in the team’s first game.
Dobbs entered his first season as the team’s head coach with an extensive resume of both playing and coaching the game of soccer. He grew up in Westport, Connecticut where he was an all-state player for Staples High School. He captained the team for two years and led them to a 19-1-2 record in his senior season.
Dobbs, who is 34, went on to play soccer at Ohio Wesleyan University, as well as a variety of top level amateur and semi-professional teams in western Connecticut and the New York city area. His coaching resume includes stints at Staples High, Westport Youth Soccer and most recently Wakefield Youth Soccer.
Unlike his predecessors, Dobbs is blessed with a brand new artificial turf playing field at Tewksbury High. His team has yet to record its first win on the new surface, but Dobbs hopes that the state-of-the-art facility will become a cornerstone in his quest to build a successful program.
“The program needs a steady ship and a rudder for it,” Dobbs said. “The kids have to make a commitment to the game. They need to be working on their game at indoor sessions together and they need to be playing on summer teams. We need to instill a work ethic that includes off season programs and a summer conditioning program.”
But at the end of the day, Dobbs knows his role as the team’s head coach extends far beyond the squad’s won-loss record.
“I’ve always been a competitive person, so I’ll always have that desire to win deep down inside me,” Dobbs said. “But I want to make sure this is all about developing the kids. I really look at what I do as more helping the development of the kids than anything else. I want to be positive and make sure they have a good time while they learn something and compete at a high level. If we can take all those things and blend it into one great experience, we’ll have a successful program.”