Growing Pains But Lots Of Promise For TMHS Girls Soccer Team
Sep 15, 2015 11:54PM
By Rick Spencer
Tewksbury's Emily Velozo (24) tracks down a loose ball against Methuen.
It would be easy for Tewksbury High girls soccer coach Mike Dobbs to find a silver lining in his team’s 1-3 start this season.
After all, the Lady Redmen have recorded a win and two one-goal losses against their first three Merrimack Valley Conference opponents this fall, which is pretty darn respectable considering the program’s recent victory-starved history.
But Dobbs didn’t come to Tewksbury to find silver linings, he came to build a winning soccer program, so he wasn’t mincing words after watching his team stage a ferocious second-half comeback only to come up a goal short in a 2-1 loss to Methuen on Tuesday.
“The progression I see is that we've progressed technically. But we have not progressed in any way in terms of anticipation and aggression and being first to the ball,” Dobbs said. “It's not the technical side of the game; it's the mental side of the game. Once we start to put together the mental piece and not be afraid of going into challenges and not be afraid of winning air balls, the sky is the limit. But until we do that, we'll struggle.”
Tuesday’s loss to Methuen was exactly what Dobbs is talking about. The Lady Redmen fell behind 2-0 on two soft, first-half goals, both of which could have been prevented with some quicker, more aggressive decision making. Tewksbury stormed back with 40 minutes of spirited soccer in the second half, and the Lady Redmen pulled to within a goal at 2-1 when senior forward Emily Velozo notched her sixth goal of the season just three minutes into the half.
Tewksbury pressured the Methuen goal on multiple occasions after that, but the visiting Rangers, who already have wins over Andover and Chelmsford to their credit this season, were just a step quicker and a bit more aggressive.
“We talked about (being more aggressive) at halftime and we immediately created the better of the opportunities, but we just couldn’t capitalize,” Dodds said. “It's frustrating, because if we had done that from the (first half) kick off that’s probably a game we win by two goals.”
In spite of the fact that Dobbs is only in his second year as Tewksbury’s head coach, his frustrations stem from the fact that his team is already playing a noticeably better brand of soccer, but still finding victories hard to come by.
“They’re definitely taking to the concepts we’re teaching them and trying to execute it a lot better,” Dobbs said. “They’re listening to the coaching and understanding that what I want to see is balls to feet when we can, and exploiting the defense in behind when we can as well. But if players choose to come out and get beat for balls, if you don’t choose to be aggressive and assertive and anticipate, then a team that is more aggressive will constantly beat you. This is the year I’m hoping they figure that out and put it together.”
Dobbs will be calling on his senior leadership, led by his four captains, to help the team ramp up its aggressiveness. Senior goaltender Haley Pozzuto, senior defender Ashley Collarusso and junior midfielders Emily Sessa and Sarah Catanzano are the team captains.
Pozzuto returns for a third year as Tewksbury’s starting keeper and is the team’s vocal leader on the field. Collarusso has moved from central defender to outside back this season, giving the team a better attacking option from the flank. Catanzano earned all-conference honors as a junior, and Dobbs will rely on Catanzano and Sessa to set up the forward line, which this season features Velozo as its central striker.
“When Emily (Sessa) can get forward and down the wing she can dictate play,” Dobbs said “And when Sara (Catanzano) gets time on the ball she's very dangerous.
“Emily Velozo is a great athlete and a great soccer player,” he added. “She'll win a lot of possession for us because she is physical. She loves the physicality of the game. She just needs to put away her chances, and she's gonna get a lot of them this year. She's got the ability to be one of those girls who can put 15 goals in the back of the net. “
Senior midfielder Karalyn Gallella also returns with plenty of soccer experience, and Dobbs is more than happy to have Gallella’s two younger (freshmen) sisters Erin (a defender) and Lizzie (a midfielder) in the line-up as well. Erin Gallella has already stood out at center back this fall, in a position seldom entrusted to freshmen.
“Erin has settled in nicely,” Dobbs said. “She's had some learning moments, but in terms of the learning curve she's settled in quickly, and I'd attribute that to her athleticism. They (the Gallella twins) are both great athletes and great kids and Karalyn has been a big part of this program for three or four years. Clearly the Gallella’s are just pushing out athletes left and right.”
Unfortunately, whenever you play in the Merrimack Valley Conference, your schedule is never easy, and the schedule maker was particularly unkind to TMHS over the next two weeks. The Redmen have away games at Haverhill (Thursday), Andover, Central and Dracut over the next 14 days, before the schedule gets more manageable with seven home games in their final 10.
“We need to be anticipating at a natural level and at times we’ve done that,” Dobbs said. “But success is measured in wins and losses at the high school level and we’re going to have to figure it out and put it together real quickly if we want to be successful.”