Dover-Sherborn keeper Emma Williams makes her way to the net.
Dover-Sherborn keeper Emma Williams makes her way to the net.
Steph Johnson

Soccer Across the Valley: The TVL teams complete their fall season

Across five Tri-Valley League towns, girls’ soccer provides competition and community for athletes.

The Tri-Valley League boasts three of the top five teams in Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association Power Rankings with Hopkinton, Medfield, and Dover-Sherborn. All three teams advanced to the round of eight or beyond in state playoff tournaments.

The DS girls, who finished the season with a record of 14-3-1 and clinched the TVL Small title, made a deep run into the tournament this year, progressing to the Division 3 state semifinals.

Senior starting goalkeeper Emma Williams attributes the Raiders’ success to their team chemistry.

“​​I think overall, we are a team full of supportive and kind teammates who truly want to help each other grow as people and players,” she said.

This was especially evident in DS’s MIAA tournament round of eight win against Nipmuc.

“I feel like it was a super competitive game,” Williams said. As a keeper, she said she loves penalty kicks and was glad she got a chance to showcase her skills.

“There was a lot of energy accompanied with tension, but overall I found the environment to be pretty fun.”

Williams believes the hardest matchup of the regular season was the game against Norton, which fell on the DS senior night.

“I think that their team’s energy and physicality pushed our team to change how we play.”

DS teammate and midfielder Kate Hammerness agreed, recalling the Norton game as her favorite of the season.

Senior Kate Hammerness surveys the field before kickoff. (Steph Johnson)

“Everyone was super excited to celebrate the seniors. Even though it was raining, we were grateful to be there together.”

Despite the energized contest between the Raiders and the Lancers, Ally Medina, a senior winger from Norton, had a different top game in mind.

“My favorite game was our senior night against Millis,” she said.

Medina endured a difficult season after being hospitalized twice. Millis was her first game back. “I had only previously played about three minutes two games before that.”

Medina believes her team’s passing ability and their strong midfield is the core of their success. Beyond physical technique, her favorite part of the game is the adrenaline rush she gets when she’s on the field.

“I feel unstoppable and powerful,” she said.

The most difficult game for the Lancers was Medfield, according to Medina. Senior captain Emily Steiner of Millis expressed the same sentiment.

“Their strength, depth, and skill level as a whole just overwhelmed us, especially defensively,” Steiner said.

The center-back, whose team made it to the MIAA Division 5 tournament round of eight, attested that the players’ collective hard work in practice reflects in games.

“Team chemistry is key and a defining factor of success,” she said. “This means inclusivity, positivity, and helpful, constructive, effective communication.”

For Hammerness, the best thing about soccer is playing with the same girls year after year.

“We started on teams together playing town soccer at such a young age, and getting to play together in high school is amazing.”

She believes the most challenging game was against Hopkinton.

“I think it definitely helped us learn what things we needed to focus on in practice, but it was our hardest TVL matchup,” she said.

Juliana Grontzos, a senior captain from Hopkinton, agreed.

“Both us and DS were undefeated at that point and we knew it would be the hardest game we’d had so far, but we played really well,” Grontzos said.

The Hillers triumphed in a 4-1 win after an emotional match.

Senior captain Juliana Grontzos drives down the field, scanning for her teammates. (Steph Johnson)

According to Grontzos, DS was an electric night for the Hillers, followed by a victorious bus ride home—deafening music, singing, and celebrating with their favorite bus driver Duke. However, in her opinion, the most challenging matchup came well into the postseason.

“Franklin ​​ended up being the closest game this year,” she said. “The second half was spent mostly defending our goal to keep the 1-0 lead.”

The Hillers met this high-energy opponent in the MIAA tournament round of eight. As the number three seed in division one and after claiming the title of TVL Large Champions, Hopkinton cemented a historic season before falling to Bishop Feehan in the state semifinals.

Grontzos believes the reason her team was able to achieve final four status was because of the way they consistently pushed each other to be successful.

But for her, the best memories were beyond the turf.

“My favorite thing about soccer is being able to play the sport I love with the people I grew up with,” said the center-back.

“We had a team tradition of holding spaggers every Sunday night. We ate dinner and spent time together at the beginning of every week which helped a lot with chemistry and strengthening friendships within the team.”

But the Hillers are not the only ones with traditions.

Every time the Millis soccer team returns from an away game, they sing “Country Roads” as they enter the parking lot. They also run the town 5k as a team each year, according to Steiner.

A few towns over, the Raiders have a tactic to build pregame confidence—they hold a power pose before each team cheer.

“It gets us feeling connected to one another, courageous, and excited to play soccer together,” Hammerness said.

Their warmup playlist also serves as consistent motivation. Williams loves the mix of different songs. Hammerness describes how whenever she hears them, she “always thinks of soccer season.”

“I think the music sets the tone of our team,” Williams added.

The Holliston team has its own traditions, according to senior captain and four-year varsity player Emma Houk.

“We read a quote before every game from our quote book.”

Although the Panthers closed the regular season with a record of 5-8-2 and progressed to the first round of the tournament, their toughest matchup was just next door.

“Hopkinton was the hardest game,” Houk said. “They are a very good team, and they have good team chemistry.”

Holliston’s senior captain and forward Emma Houk races across the turf. (Steph Johnson)

After a difficult season, Houk looked forward, to sharing advice for her younger teammates for future games.

“Don’t take anything to heart,” Houk said.

Williams has similar advice for her DS teammates.

“Enjoy the season and have fun in your games while you still can,” she said. “I think that as the games become more and more important it’s harder to enjoy the soccer.”

Medina believes kindness and respect are the cornerstones of a team, especially at Norton.

“Communicate to each other, and be each other’s shoulders to lean on,” she said.

For Grontzos, her Hopkinton team is at the center of it all.

“Stay close with each other and keep supporting each other even when it’s hard.”

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