Fall Tournament Roundup
Above, the 2021 Natick High girls soccer team won the State Championship after defeating Hingham in the tournament final. Coach Left, Dave Wainwright guided the Natick girls soccer team to the first State championship in the program’s history. Courtesy photos.
Natick High’s Girls Soccer Team Wins First State Title
By KEN HAMWEY
Staff Sports Writer
Mission accomplished for the Natick High girls soccer team.
Before the 2021 campaign began, coach Dave Wainwright listed four objectives for his squad — build team chemistry, build confidence as the season progresses, compete for the Bay State Conference’s Carey Division championship and advance as deep as possible in the State tourney.
The Redhawks not only achieved all four goals, but they also kept their eye on the big prize throughout the Division 1 Tournament. When the playoffs ended at Whitman-Hanson Regional, sixth-seeded Natick captured a hard-earned 3-2 victory over top-seeded Hingham and the program had its first State championship.
Junior Zoe Graves scored Natick’s first two goals but junior Emma Grant’s goal in the 77th minute was the difference in the title match. Natick’s smothering defense also can take a bow because it made the Redhawks’ journey through the tourney memorable and historic.
The Redhawks shut out all four of their playoff opponents before facing the Harborwomen. Natick’s four tourney triumphs came against Attleboro (4-0), Needham (1-0), Acton-Boxboro (2-0), and Bishop Feehan (2-0).
“Our defense peaked at the right time,’’ Wainwright said. “The shutouts built confidence and game by game our defense improved.
Two defenders who competed tenaciously were senior Kiyo White and sophomore Kaitlyn LeBrun. “Kiyo did a marvelous job,’’ said Wainwright. “She’s our guiding light. And, Kaitlyn did a masterful job on the back line. She was assigned a huge task — to mark Hingham’s All-American striker (UCLA-bound Sophie Reale). Kaitlyn did a formidable job.’’
If any coach can guide a team to a deep tourney run, it’s Wainwright. In his just-completed fourth season at Natick, he led the Redhawks to the State final in his first year in 2018. Natick bowed to Wachusett on penalty kicks. In 2011, however, he and his Dover-Sherborn girls soccer team won the States, and his boys lacrosse squad at Needham High rolled to a State crown in 2003.
The victory over Hingham provided the Redhawks, who finished their season at 16-1-5, with validation and vindication. By downing Hingham, Natick showed that a No. 6 seed can beat a No. 1. That’s an underdog achieving validation. The triumph also was vindication after coming so close in 2018 when the Redhawks lost to Wachusett.
“As an underdog, we were playing with house money,’’ Wainwright said. “Being the underdog provided motivation. It galvanized both our veteran players and our younger kids. Five teams were seeded higher than us. We beat the top seed (Hingham), the No. 2 seed (Bishop Feehan) and the No. 3 seed (Acton-Boxboro).
“As for 2018, we feel like we took care of some unfinished business. The girls on our 2018 squad were pioneers. They not only showed how to handle pressure, but they also laid the path on how to compete on a big stage.’’
The 51-year-old Wainwright has a knack, or is it a formula, for getting results in pressure situations.
“It’s important to be healthy and to have some luck in tournament soccer,’’ he noted, “but perseverance, resiliency and mental toughness are huge. Our journey in the playoffs took 22 days and it was an emotional roller-coaster.’’
Wainwright relies on an athletic philosophy that focuses on making sure his players reach their potential and enjoy playing their sport.
“If those two things occur, then winning will follow,’’ he emphasized. “As for life lessons that can be learned though athletics, my motto is ‘expect nothing, earn everything.’ That means paying the price for success, overcoming adversity, being resilient and also mentally tough.’’
Graves and Grant combined for Natick’s three goals, and Wainwright knew a multi-goal effort would be needed to beat Hingham, which entered the final at 21-0-1.
“Zoe’s two goals gave us a 2-0 lead,’’ Wainwright said. “She’s always at the right place at the right time. She was a massive presence. Emma’s winning goal was a shot from the right, about 25 yards out, and it was at an impossible angle. The ball sailed into the upper left corner past their goalie. When Emma took the shot, our staff knew at that moment it was meant to be.’’
Other key efforts were turned in by Mikayla Henderson (midfielder/defender), Allison Jeter (goalie), Briar Grady (center midfielder) and Kyra Hacker (defender).
“Mikayla is the x-factor,’’ said Wainwright. “We use her where she’s needed. She assisted on one of our goals but her play and effort on our journey were crucial to our success. Allison provided a solid foundation. She’s skilled, composed and instinctive. Briar is a big part of our nucleus. One of our top facilitators, she handles her role effectively. Kyra is a true field general who’s a force on defense. She’s been selected to the All New England team and the voting was done by the Eastern Mass. Coaches Association.’’
Wainwright, a three-time Boston Globe coach of year, keeps Natick’s opponents guessing on what mode of attack he’ll employ from game to game. “We can be an up-tempo team or a possession-oriented group,’’ he said. “We’re balanced but whatever we’re faced with we can adapt and overcome.’’
That flexibility was on full display in the final and it was a prime factor in helping the Redhawks capture the first State championship in the program’s history.
KP Football Team
In Super Bowl
The King Philip Regional football team could join Natick as a State Champ but it must defeat unbeaten Catholic Memorial in the Division 2 Super Bowl, set for Thursday, Dec. 2, at Gillette Stadium at 8 p.m.
The Warriors earned their bowl date by defeating Milford, 31-16 in the semifinal round of the playoffs. Their other playoff triumphs came against Chelmsford and Mansfield. KP downed Chelmsford, 35-0, and followed that victory with a 21-14 win over Mansfield.
The Warriors enter the game with a 9-1 record while Catholic Memorial is 11-0.
KP’s date at Gillette marks the fourth time in five years the Warriors will have competed in a Super Bowl. The Warriors two bowl victories came against Lincoln-Sudbury and Reading.
Medway High’s volleyball team lost its bid for a State title, dropping a 3-0 decision to Ipswich in the Division 4 tourney.
The Mustangs posted a trio of three-set victories over Greater Lawrence Tech, Malden Catholic and Rockland before edging past Lynnfield in the Final Four. Medway finished at 19-4 and its appearance in a State final was its first since 2001. Ipswich ended its season at 22-1.
“It was great to be able to show what these girls did both during the regular season and in the tournament,” said Medway coach Gary Patch. “They’re here because they should be here, there’s no luck involved in anything we did this year. They earned everything, played hard, got to the final and just fell short.’’
Three Franklin High teams lost in the State semifinals. The football team bowed to Springfield Central, 60-49, after winning playoff encounters against Braintree (42-6) and Methuen (24-7). The Panthers volleyball team fell to Needham, 3-2, after tourney wins over Lynn Classical, Shrewsbury and Barnstable. And, the field hockey contingent was eliminated by Andover, 5-0, after it rolled to convincing victories over Beverly, Central Catholic and Winchester.
Another team bowing out in the semifinals was King Philip’s volleyball squad, which posted 3-0 triumphs over Chicopee Comprehensive, Notre Dame of Hingham and Woburn before losing to Hopkinton, 3-1.