Oxford co-captains Gina Manzi, Emily Dawidczyk, and Dominique Lesieur
Text and photos by Steev Riccardo
Oxford - The Oxford High School girls soccer team has seen some hard times the last few seasons, but the climate and attitude seem right for change and this could be the year the team turns things around.
One thing that the Pirates do have going for them is that they have one of the best athletes in Central Mass in all-star co-captain Emily “The Sweet Assassin” Dawidczyk on their team. The track star, who holds many schools records, is also a superb soccer player who is feared by her opponents.
Alongside Dawidczyk the team has several other seniors who are proven players, ready to win some matches. One of them is co-captain Gina Manzi, who has been playing with Dawidczyk for ten years in school, town leagues, and on a premier team that features many of the areas top players.
Manzi, who was second in scoring last year behind Dawidczyk, and fellow co-captain Dominique Lesieur, along with senior defender Blair Reilly, gives the team plenty of experience and leadership.
They also have a second-year coach who is fired up and ready to bring a winning attitude to the program. “Our program has changed a lot since last year,” said Head Coach Dung Hguyen.
“Our girls are a lot more prepared this year, we are working on a lot of things, their skills, the attitude is positive and they want to be here. They want to play, they want to compete, and I think we are going to do well this year.”
Hguyen feels good about his team leaders and knows he and the team need to rely on them, especially Dawidczyk.
“She is a great kid, a well-rounded athlete, a great student and she is a phenomenal player. I think she has been playing since she could walk. She has a great attitude. She is a great role model for these girls. Her teammates like her and they want to play with her.”
The chemistry that exists between Dawidczyk and Manzi will also play a key role. “Emily and Gina understand each other, they know how to read each other, they know how to get open,” said Hguyen. “They really work well together. It’s a plus for us; we don’t have many premier players at our high school level compared to most schools”.
“I think the girls know that Emily and I have played together over the years,” said Manzi, “and I think they have seen all the things that we have done together and they want to aspire to that.”
Dawidczyk knows what she and her fellow seniors bring to the table, she also realizes that it’s important to involve the younger girls in the program.
“Last year was all about the team building up skills and by the end of the season we were getting better. Everyone is working hard and a couple of the older players have improved. For us the big thing is the eighth graders coming up.”
With the Oxford junior varsity team being discontinued because of the lack of players, the varsity has twenty players. Fourteen of them are underclassmen, four of whom are eighth graders.
Pirates senior Blair Reilly
“Since there is no jayvee team we were able to bring up the eighth graders and they have been a really good contribution to the team because they work as hard as anyone,” said Blair Reilly, who is in her third year as a varsity player, and also thinks a youth movement can help the team. “I think we are going to be better this year than we were last because of these contributions.”
Co-captain Lesieur knows that this team has what it takes to be better than last year’s 3-16 team. “Sometimes it can be a little frustrating playing for a team that has been struggling, but you have to keep your head up, we know that we can only get better. It’s a team effort it’s not about any single player. You win when everybody plays together and tries harder, everyone needs to play together, it’s a team sport.”
The Pirates will need many contributions to get on the winning track and they will still be relying on Dawidczyk a great deal, but with help on the way, the formula could be a winning one.
“Emily is really good and I know everybody already knows that. It’s nice to be able to pass to her and know that whatever she is going to do it’s going to go somewhere,” said Reilly. “It’s hard for her to do everything, she is good but she needs someone else. So it’s nice that we have a lot more offensive players this year to help her out, so I think she is going to like that.”
Pirates sophomore Callie Andrews
One position that is still being worked for the Pirates is the goaltending situation. Sophomores Callie Andrews and Bethany Keefe are currently in the mix, but Andrews suffered a leg injury, which has slowed her down, but Hguyen likes what he sees in her.
“Callie is a tough kid, this is a girl who never played soccer before until last year. She has natural ability. She is one of strongest players on the team, she is a great player.”
The Pirates will start their season on Thursday, September 6, at Southbridge, return home on Monday, September 10, to host Uxbridge, and have a marquee match-up with Bartlett on Wednesday, September 12, in Webster.
The Bartlett game is an intriguing one for two teams that are ready to turn their programs around and had a fierce contest a year ago in which the Indians escaped with a 3-2 win.
“We really look forward to playing Bartlett, we feel that we are equally matched teams,” said Manzi.
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- Sunday, 09 September 2012
- Posted in Categories: : Sports