Eric Emmerling's Corner Kicks: Exeter's soccer captains excel as good role models
Day felt intimidated. Short was awestruck. Eichholz thought the players were huge. All three secretly wondered if they would ever be that good. The next day, each player began practicing harder, determined to prove their worth. And, as such, became indoctrinated to Exeter's way of doing things: working hard while being constantly challenged in a competitive environment.
'Competition is fun to them,' said Exeter coach Megan Young, regarding her captains. The sweeper, center midfielder and striker serve as the heart and spine of the squad. 'Whether it's a warm-up drill or the state championship game, they always give the same effort.'
All three made varsity as freshmen, an unusual occurrence at Exeter, where the program involves more than 100 players. The trio has helped Exeter win three straight Division I titles. The program's trophy case contains five championship plaques covering the last six campaigns.
'As freshmen we worked hard to prove we belong and to feel accepted,' said Eichholz, the Blue Hawks sweeper and major deterrent to opposing offenses. 'Now we do it because we're role models. We work hard because we have a lot to live up to.'
Up for the challenge, they have learned to consider anxious and nervous feelings as a means to mastering high expectations.
Exeter is undefeated through 13 games this season. Excluding one-goal victories over perennial powers Londonderry and Pinkerton of Derry, the Blue Hawks average victory margin is nearly five goals; with most opposing teams' goals occurring long after the game's outcome became evident.
'Winning games is all we know. It's what we committed to when we made the team.' said Day. The midfielder committed to play for Boston University next season. She's netted seven goals.
'We work well as a team. We make the extra pass because we have confidence that our teammates won't give the ball away,' said Short, who intends to play at American University next fall. She's tallied nine goals thus far and managed at least 12 goals in in her previous three seasons. 'We don't have the frustration we see on other teams.'
At Exeter, it's share and share alike. Sophomore Casey Estey leads the team in scoring with 21 goals. Classmate Elise Leavitt has made significant contributions. Senior Maggie Couett, a four-year varsity veteran, has seven goals.
Commitment, the captains believe, goes beyond pushing each other beyond comfort levels at practice. It extends to achieving academically and making healthy decisions during the weekend.
'We want to return to the championship game. We don't talk about it, because we don't want to jinx it,' said Day. 'We take it one game at a time.'
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PARITY RULES in Division II boys' soccer. Twelve of the 18 teams entered today's play with a winning record. 'The division is raging with parity,' said Souhegan of Amherst coach Dave Saxe. 'Some of the bottom teams can upset the apple cart at any moment.'
For instance, Saxe's Sabers (5-5-3) and Milford (1-11-1) tied second place Hollis/Brookline (9-1-3).
Additionally, 48 percent of the 106 Division II games played thus far have been decided by a one-goal margin or ended in a tie. Change the trajectory of a shot or two and St. Thomas of Dover (5-5-2) beats first place Windham (11-2) and the Cavaliers instead of losing by a goal. The Saints are 2-4 in one-goal games this season.
Portsmouth (6-6-1) recently lost four consecutive games by one-goal margins. They've won just one of six when the margin of victory is a single goal. The Clippers record is decidedly deceptive. Trinity of Manchester (8-4) is 5-1 and Lebanon (9-2-2) in one-goal games.
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GOFFSTOWN SCORER Michele Tremblay didn't net a goal for the first time this season on Tuesday as the Grizzlies improved to 10-1 with a 2-0 win over St. Thomas of Dover. The junior striker has tallied 25 this season and 70 in her three-year career and has a shot at breaking the school's single season scoring record set in 2010 by Emily Ellis, now playing at Bentley University.
'She wasn't very happy about not scoring a goal,' said Goffstown coach Eric Romein. 'I've been around a long time and I've never seen anyone with the scoring capabilities of Michele.'
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SOMERSWORTH'S Rachel Hill is three goals shy of tying the state career goal scoring mark of 147 held by former Souhegan star Courtney Banghart, the current women's basketball coach at Princeton University. The Hilltoppers (8-4) play at Raymond (8-5) tomorrow and hit the road next week, visiting undefeated defending champ Bow Monday and Hopkinton (7-5) Wednesday.
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TYLER GAHARA was on the outside looking in when playing for Manchester Central last season. He transferred to Pembroke where coach Pete Bisson switched him from the outside to the center midfield position.
'He took some time to get adjusted to the spot and now he just seems to find a way to make us better,' said Bisson. 'He's great at holding the ball up and getting everyone to get up in position in order to make use of our team speed.'
Working as a point guard, the position he plays for the basketball Spartans, Gahara dictates the flow of the game and decides where to direct the Spartans attack. He passes with accuracy and can hold off defenders with good foot skills. As a result he's had a foot on 15 of the Spartans (8-4) 23 goals this season.
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Eric Emmerling covers high school boys' and girls' soccer for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News. He may be reached at email@example.com.