Coach, players, thrilled to be back on the lacrosse fields – Tewksbury town crier

Posted: May 9, 2021 at 1:55 am

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BILLERICA The return of spring sports has meant different things to different people, but perhaps most of all, it has meant to a return to at least a semblance of normalcy for the athletes and coaches that missed out on competing last spring due to the pandemic. For Shawsheen Tech Girls Lacrosse coach Alex OReilly, that may have been the best part about stepping back onto the field with her team for the first time in two years.

(Assistant coach) Heather (McLaughlin) and I were talking about that. This is the first time we have felt normal in a year, OReilly said. Especially when last year we felt like there was just going to be a two-week delay, but we never were able to get out there. I was so horrified that it could happen again, so we were so happy to actually get back out there.

They should be happy, especially with the amount of success they have had as a team in recent years, including in 2019 when they posted a 13-6 overall record and finished in second place in the CAC. Prior to that, the Rams had won three consecutive league titles, and in 2019, they also won their third straight state vocational championship.

Of course, a lot has changed since that 2019 season, with two different sets of seniors having graduated since the last time the Rams took the field. The Rams do return four players from that 2019 squad, but the remaining players are all new to the program, making for a challenging preseason for OReilly and McLaughlin.

We ended up having a full week of tryouts last week, which we never do, OReilly said. Heather and I usually only need a couple of days to figure out the varsity and JV players. But because we had only four returning varsity players it was so different. We knew those four, but the other kids, we had no idea. We needed five full days, with two hours each day in order to pick the teams.

The Rams will rely heavily on those four returning players, perhaps none more so than senior goalie Jenna Johnson. Johnson takes over in net for 2019 graduate Julia Ryan of Wilmington, who had an outstanding career as a three-year starter for the Rams. OReilly believes that Johnsons tutelage under Ryan will help her find her own success.

Jenna is just a phenomenal goalie. She learned how to play from Julia and theres not a better person she could have learned from OReilly said. Julia was a little more quiet in her leadership, where Jenna is more vocal, but they are both equally intense.

Midfielder Devin Sweeney and defender Sarah Comeau are two other returning seniors who OReilly is counting on this season.

Devin is an incredibly talented and hard working athlete. She was able to get in two club seasons since the last time we played. She is going to have a great season OReilly said. Sarah has really grown into a standout athlete. Her sense of space and self awareness has improved dramatically and she is very promising.

The fourth senior leading the way for the Rams will be Rachael Halas, who will start at one of the attack positions.

Rachael is very fast and a very good athlete, OReilly said. Her regular position Is attack, but she can also fill in at midfield. She is ready for anything.

The Rams should have a fifth senior to go along with the players mentioned above, but Amanda Howell of Wilmington will be forced to miss the season due to a torn ACL. It is the second torn ACL of Howells career. The veteran midfielder, however, is not letting that stop her from helping out OReilly and the Rams get ready for the season.

Amanda is still very much a part of our team, OReilly said. She is at every single practice, and she organized the preseason workouts for the team. She is still one of the leaders of this team, even if she is not playing.

Several Tewksbury residents will also be helping the Rams get into the win column this season, with junior defenders Gabby Ortiz and Darielle Wilson being two of the most prominent in their role as the last line of defense before Johnson.

They are the dynamic duo, OReilly said. Gabby is a very promising defender and we are expecting a big season from her. Darielle is great on defense. She played for Heather her freshman year at JV, and then missed out on her sophomore year. Both of them play low defense, so they will be a huge help for Jenna this season.

Sophomore attack Mikayla Melanson and junior midfielder/attack Ashley Talbot will be looking to make their mark with the team.

I met Mikayla in seventh grade when she played in the youth league. She is fast, and quick with her stick. She missed out on her freshman year, but she is very impressive for a first year, OReilly said. Ashley is awesome. She is very much like her sister Alesha who played for us, in that she is very fast and very intense. But she is also her own player. She will leave her mark on this program. She has improved immensely and we are really excited to have her.

Junior defender Kasey McFadden and sophomore midfielder Kylie McFadden will form a dynamic duo of their own, with each player bringing their own unique set of skills to the Rams.

Kasey is a very strong defender. She played for Heather as a freshman at JV. She is very vocal on defense, and has an awesome bubbly personality, OReilly said. Kylie is very fast. She is new to high school lacrosse, but she played club lacrosse for years, and she knows how to play the game.

With all of their success in recent years, it is only natural that expectations are high once again for the Rams. But OReilly has slightly different goals for her team this season.

I think we are definitely capable of winning the league, but that is not our focus this year, OReilly said. In speaking with the girls at the beginning of the season, we always talk about our goals for the season and normally we talk about winning the league or winning the vocational title, and carrying on the success of the past.

But this year, the biggest thing they talked about was just having a season and having a team family. Winning doesnt even matter. We just want to get out there and have fun. That is the most important thing. We would love to win as well, but right now we are just happy to be out there having a season, and especially being able to give our seniors a season.

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Coach, players, thrilled to be back on the lacrosse fields - Tewksbury town crier

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