WEST BOYLSTON — When West Boylston High girls’ soccer coach Angel Mogel wanted to get the attention of varsity striker Madison Pitro before practice on Monday, she shouted “old Pitro.”
Pitro is only a freshman, but she’s known as “old Pitro” because her seventh-grade sister Emily “young Pitro” plays for the junior varsity and the two squads usually begin practice together. So what does she think of being called “old” when she’s a 14-year-old freshman?
“I’m not used to it,” she admitted before practice, “but it makes me feel older so I like it.”
Pitro is one of a dozen Lions whom Mogel has coached since they were 5 or 6 years old and played on her indoor town team.
“She’s taught me everything I’ve known and she’s going to keep teaching me,” Pitro said. “So I’m just proud of all the stuff she’s taught me and how I’ve become the soccer player that I am.”
The Pitros are one of seven sets of sisters on the varsity and junior varsity girls’ soccer teams at West Boylston.
Two sets of sisters play for the varsity: Junior Serephine Jodoin and eighth grader Nicole, and junior twins Kara and Mary Wattu.
“It’s nice playing with my sister because I haven’t played with her for so long,” Nicole Jodoin said, “and she’s very supportive. And she’s very nice on the field, and I wasn’t really expecting that.”
Junior Emma Nett plays for the varsity and her sister, sixth grader Molly, plays for the JVs. The other three sets of sisters play for the JVs: sophomore Caitlyn Flaherty and seventh grader Meg, sophomore Mia Guinto and eighth grader Sam, and sophomore Olivia Downer and seventh grader Sonia.
Students from the sixth grade and up are eligible to play for the junior varsity and varsity because West Boylston has a junior-senior high school.
The Lions also have a mother-daughter combination. Mogel’s daughter, Jesse Ayres, is an eighth grader on the JV team.
Mogel usually calls the other sisters by their first names, but she had grown accustomed to calling Madison Pitro by her last name because she was the only Pitro in the program until this year. “Old Pitro” first started for the Lions in the sixth grade, and she was one of the team’s leading scorers in each of the past two seasons.
“Old Pitro” said there pluses and minuses of so many sisters in the program.
“We can sometimes have arguments with our siblings,” she said, “but we’ll get over it quickly, and other times we can bond with them easier. We understand how they play and can help them become a better soccer player on the field and at our houses.”
Nicole Jodoin may be only an eighth grader, but in her first two varsity games, both as a reserve, she scored the only goal in a win at Tahanto, and she scored four more times in an 8-0 conquest of Clinton. The win over Tahanto was West Boylston’s first in Mogel’s five years as head coach
“She’s my super sub,” Mogel said. “She’s tiny, but she’s good. She’s a great player. She’s quick, she’s fast, she’s got great foot skills.”
Mogel said she’s not surprised at all by Jodoin’s production in her first varsity season, but Jodoin admitted she is.
“I was just going out there to stand out and play my best and not worry about size,” she said.
At 5-foot-1 and 100 pounds, she’s one of the smallest players on the field, but she’s used to that.
“I just use my speed and skill,” she said.
Jodoin wasn’t at practice on Monday because she was playing for her NEFC soccer team in Epping, New Hampshire. So she spoke to a reporter on Mogel’s cellphone.
The Lions have only two seniors, Mia Klotz and Abbey O’Brien, who co-captain the team with junior Rhiann Dugan, and they start two sophomores, three freshmen and an eighth grader. The Lions are young, but not quite as young as they used to be. In Mogel’s first year as head coach, the varsity had 14 sixth, seventh and eighth graders. This year, Jodoin is the only one in those grades.
Freshman Annya O’Rourke played junior varsity with Jodoin last year, and they’re both starting strikers on the varsity this fall. Freshman Shannen Luschka posted shutouts in her first two starts in goal.
Many of the young players have played soccer for clubs in addition to West Boylston, so they have lots of experience for their ages.
Dugan, who has two goals and three assists, received honorable mention last fall for the T&G All-Star team. She’s one of the older members of the team, but she can relate to the younger players because she has started since she was in the seventh grade.
“I want to lead them in the best way I can,” Dugan said, “because I know what it was like when I was that young and working with people who are much older, playing against teams much bigger in size than you. So I want to help them adjust to this change.”
Beginning Thursday, West Boylston students will start to attend school in person two days a week, but so far all teaching has taken place remotely due to the pandemic. So when the Lions began practicing, the students were happy to see each other for the first time since March.
“Overall, it’s been good,” Mogel said. “We get to play and that’s what we’re excited about. It’s important for the girls to get out there and to exercise and have some socialization and some fresh air because everyone’s been stuck inside for so long.”
“We do want to make it as normal as we can,” Dugan said. “We’ve been doing some bonding online because we can’t do it in person. We’re making adjustments. It’s hard, but we’re working through it.”
The Lions finished 7-8-3 last season, but Mogel expects a much better record this fall. West Boylston is playing in a pod with Tahanto, Clinton, Ayer-Shirley and St. Bernard’s. The Lions were scheduled to visit Ayer-Shirley on Tuesday and will host St. Bernard’s at 3:30 p.m. Thursday.
Because of the pandemic, the Central Mass. and state tournaments have been canceled, but the Lions will take part in a tournament to determine their pod champion.
“I think we’re finally here,” Mogel said. “We’ve been working really hard the past five years to build the program and we’re here. We’re really good this year, and we’re going to be really good next year too, which is great. So it’s bitter-sweet this year that the (districts) are off this year because, not to jinx anything, but I’m pretty sure we would have got in this year.”
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