Millbury High girls’ soccer coach Hussein Issa believes his Woolies stood a better chance of winning the state title this year than it did last fall when they defeated Millis in the championship game.
Unfortunately, they won’t get the chance. Due to the pandemic, there will be no district or state playoffs this fall, and Millbury won’t even field a girls’ soccer team for another four months because for safety reasons the school chose to take part in the Fall II session that will run from Feb. 22 through April 25.
While Issa admitted it felt “strange” and “weird” for the Woolies not to be able to defend their title, he has chosen to take a more upbeat view of the situation. He told his captains to imagine how much worse the Woolies would have felt if they had lost in the state championship game last year.
“How sweet it is,” Issa said, “that at least we can say we’re the defending champs for maybe the next two years. It would have been really devastating for us if we lost the way we lost in 2017.”
Millbury defeated Millis, 1-0, in the 2019 state final to avenge a loss to Millis in the 2017 state championship game. It was the third state championship for Cameron Wilbur, who has played varsity since the seventh grade; as well as Lexi Hermans and twins Kayla and Kelsey Turner. It was the second state crown for Meghan Walsh. They’re all seniors this year. Millbury also won state titles in 2015 and 2016 under coach Steve Khoury.
The Woolies lost only three starters: T&G All-Star Audra McDuffie, Amanda Sarro and Abigail Gilbert.
Teams that opted to compete during the Fall II session are allowed to practice during the Fall I session. So beginning this week, half of the Woolies will practice for an hour on Tuesdays and half on Thursdays through late November. The players must arrive at practice wearing masks and soccer clothes with their own drinks because locker rooms will be unavailable, and no water or Gatorade will be provided.
“It’s going to be challenging,” Issa said, “but we like it because it gives the players and coaches some structure. Doing Zoom classes and going hybrid can be very exhausting mentally, so this gives them a little break.”
This was scheduled to be the final year of the Central Mass. Tournament because in 2021 the postseason tournament will be conducted statewide beginning with the first round. So Millbury is the last Central Mass. Division 4 champion.
Junior striker Grace Martin led Millbury with 18 goals last season, including the only goal in the state final. Junior Jackie Gilbert ranked third on the team with 10 goals last fall. Junior Allison Walsh is a strong all-around player.
Goalkeeper Keely Perry is back for her senior year after allowing an average of only .667 goals per game last season and helping Millbury outscore its five opponents, 10-1, during the district and state tournaments.
Once they resume playing in February, the Woolies will do the best they can even though they won’t be able to repeat as state champions.
“You can’t do virtual, you can’t do that,” Issa said.
Please go to Worcester HS Sports to read full article.