Experienced players lead girls' soccer to playoffs

The Newtonite

by Kristian Lundberg
Every day before practice, girls’ soccer players donned gray shirts with the phrase “No Second Chances” emblazoned on the back.
The Tigers have performed better in this season than in any other with coach James Hamblin at the helm, and with the State Tournament looming, “No Second Chances” is strikingly appropriate.
“Last year, our team slogan was ‘Train to Win,’ just like it had been in the years before,” said senior Lauren Smith, a captain with seniors Sarah Perlo and Katie Regan.
“Before this season, coach Hamblin asked the seniors to change the slogan, so we chose ‘No Second Chances,’ because this is the seniors’ last chance to play high school soccer.”
When Hamblin began his tenure as the head of the girls’ soccer program three years ago, he inherited a young squad deep in the rebuilding process. However, after suffering through a tough first season, the players gained experience, according to Smith, and many of them have stepped up to lead the team.
“We have a lot of returning players this year who’ve played with each other for the past three years,” she said. “If there was any year where we could go far, it’s this year.”
Smith added, “We want to play every game like it’s our last. Whenever we step on the field, we want to make every moment count.”
Hamblin believes the slogan sets the tone for the team’s postseason expectations.
“For the seniors, it’s this year or never,” he said. “We want to get it done now.”
In the postseason, the maxim of “No Second Chances” holds especially true.
The Tigers, 12-3-2, are in line to receive a higher seed in the tournament’s preliminary round than last year, but a loss to any team would still end the their season.
“We wanted to get a higher seed, so we could face the ‘easier’ teams,” Smith said. “Last year, we had to play a lot of tough teams early on in the tournament.”
According to Hamblin, a major focus in the postseason will be “getting it tactically right.”
“Every single game, we’ll play teams at a high level. There’s a higher level of competition.”
One of the revelations of this year’s squad has been its offensive prowess, Hamblin added.
“I thought we’d struggle to score, but we’ve had not just one but four or five players who can step up and score,” he said.
The Tigers host Needham today in their season finale, and they begin tournament play in early November.