Nashoba Regional won’t play for a third straight Central Mass. Division 1 title this fall — the MIAA canceled postseason tournaments during this abbreviated and greatly altered fall season due to COVID-19 — but that doesn’t mean Chieftains star Maddie Zacchini isn’t motivated for her senior season.
“I just want to do the best that I can, learn new skills, increase my level of play and most of all be with my team,” Zacchini said before Sunday afternoon’s practice.
Zacchini, a talented midfielder who is committed to the University of California in Berkeley, is a two-time T&G Super Team selection. Last season, while leading the Chieftains to 20 wins and their fourth CMass championship in six years, she finished with nine goals and 14 assists and tied for the scoring lead in Mid-Wach B.
“In her class,” Nashoba coach Jaime Mariani said, “she has been one of the top around since her sophomore year. “Her stick skills are so elite. She’s so elusive. She effortlessly cuts through the defense and makes it seem so easy. Her ball control is among the best around. She’s been put into huge situations and never gets rattled. She’s just an incredible player.”
As a sophomore, Zacchini totaled seven points and helped Nashoba to a record of 20-1-2. The Chieftains’ only loss in 2018 was a 2-1 setback to Somerset-Berkley in the state final. Last year, the Chieftains went 20-2 and rode a 17-game winning streak into the state semifinals before falling to Longmeadow, 2-1.
The last two seasons, Nashoba outscored its opponents, 212-19. That dominance continued Monday as the Chieftains opened 2020 with a 9-0 win over Maynard.
Zacchini, whose sister, Abbie, a sophomore, scored two goals against the Tigers, is one of just three seniors on the roster. Zacchini, midfielder/forward Kira Spedden and defender Katie Bateman are the captains.
Each brings her own kind of leadership.
“I’m probably the motivational one,” Zacchini said. “While I might not be as loud in the cheering aspect, I like to think I hold the team together while being loud on the field and talking to everybody and making sure they’re doing well. Kira is the cheerer and energetic; Katie is funny and motivational as well, and she’s the glue.”
The trio’s experience will be important in guiding the young Chieftains.
“It will be good for our seniors to teach the younger kids what our team is all about,” said Mariani, who is in her 14th season.
Among the changes for field hockey teams this fall is the seven-on-seven format. Teams usually have 11 players per side.
As a midfielder, Zacchini is adapting.
“(I’m) having to work harder with dropping back and making sure the defense is set in marking,” she said, “and particularly watching the middle to make sure the line of the goal is always defended.”
Zacchini, a high honor roll student who lives in Bolton, began playing field hockey when she was 10.
“And I just loved it,” she said.
Mariani said Zacchini made an immediate impact as a freshman.
“People would come to our games and comment right away seeing her play all over the field,” Mariani said.
Zacchini said she has evolved in many ways since.
“I was one of the quiet freshmen who did their job to being more outspoken and confident and scoring more,” she said.
Zacchini, who was able to practice with her club team, Northeast Elite, this summer, verbally committed to Cal two years ago. The Bears’ 2020 field hockey season was postponed due to the pandemic.
Zacchini loves the West Coast and is looking forward to studying biological sciences at Cal.
“I’m so excited,” she said. “The distance will be hard, but I’m excited to go out and be on the campus. It’s beautiful out there, I love the campus, and I love the team atmosphere.”
Around and about
Returning 2019 Super Team selections Day Ruffo and Hannah Berry led their respective teams to opening-day wins as well. Ruffo, an Algonquin Regional senior, had a hat trick in a victory over Leominster. Berry, a Wachusett Regional senior, scored in the Mountaineers’ win over Westboro. … Among the coaching changes for 2020 are: Courtney McCarthy for Alexandra Mills at Burncoat, Brittney Field for Karen Marino at Leominster, Mel Melkonian for Denise Rudzinsky at Marlboro, Jackie Damato for Bill McInnis at Nipmuc Regional, Renee Bailey for Jacqueline Lapierre at South High, and Lindsay Ryan for Melkonian at Worcester Tech.
—Contact Jennifer Toland at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @JenTandG.
Please go to Worcester HS Sports to read full article.