Millis Girls Soccer – State Champions Again!

Christopher Tremblay, Staff Sports Writer
18th Straight Win for Team Earns Second Title in a Row, Third Total
Issue Date: 
December, 2018
Article Body: 

Entering the 2018 season, the Millis girls’ soccer team was looking to capture back-to-back Division 4 State Championships. Last fall, the Mohawks finished the regular season with a 12-2-2 record and earned themselves a two seed in the Division 4 South Tournament. In the post-season, Millis dispatched of its victims in convincing fashion to capture the Sectional Title by scoring 15 goals and only allowing one in three games. Once in the State Championship, the Mohawks continued along outscoring its two opponents 3-1 to take home the State Championship.
Millis went out and put together a 12-3-4 season, pretty similar to last year’s regular season performance. Although they didn’t secure one of the top two seeds, they did manage to earn a six seed and put together yet another impressive run through the Divisional tournament. En route to another Division 4 Championship the Mohawks dispatched of St John Paul II, Mashpee, Cohasset and Hull by the combined scores of 12-1. The final two contests were a lot closer, as Millis needed penalty kicks to take a 1-0 win over Cohasset and then edged Hull 2-1 for the title.
The Mohawks continued to assert dominance in the State Championship bracket dispatching of Amesbury, the North Champion 2-1 and then Granby, the kings of the West, 2-0 in the championship contest held at St John’s Prep in Danvers. The victory culminated in Millis’s second straight 18-win season (18-3-4 overall) and Division 4 Champions. The back-to-back titles became the third State Championship for Millis, the first came in 2009.
Granby had put together a season similar to that of Millis, beginning the season 3-3 before coming on strong down the stretch to finish 12-5-1 and secure the number one seed in the West.
In the Championship game, the two teams were scoreless throughout most of the first half. The Mohawks broke on top first, as Jordyn Ferrantino took control of an Erin Murray pass in front of the Granby net, turned and fired a shot behind the Rams keeper. The goal not only gave Millis a one goal lead, but also turned out to be the eventual game winner.
Two minutes later, with a defender close on her tail Grace Jewett maneuvered enough to get the room she needed to drive a shot that went off the Granby keeper’s hands, the off the cross bar and into the back of the net to give the Mohawks a 2-0 lead going into the half. The rest of the game was basically controlled by Millis, and Granby was only able to get a mere five shots on Caileen Adams, including a breakaway late in the contest. Adams was stunning and turned the Rams offense away each time.
“Everyone bought into our system. The chemistry of the team was once very important again this year, and that is a reflection of the culture that we’ve been able to build here,” Millis Coach Steve Bailen said. “Our younger teams work just as hard as our varsity team. We all connect on the same level and want to continue to capitalize on what we’ve built so far.”
Coach Bailen knew winning its second straight Division 4 State Championship wasn’t something that would be automatic for Millis this year. While having a coach’s optimistic approach to the season, Bailen knew that it was going to be somewhat of a challenge.
“Coming into the tryouts, I knew that we had some definite positions that needed to be filled. Looking at our personnel, we had girls with athleticism, speed and soccer skills, but we did not have that one person who possessed the complete package,” the Coach said. “We were going to need to solidify the team and work with the players to figure out where to put them to our advantage.”
The Millis coaching staff had their work cut out for them as the squad didn’t seem to come together as a team right away. According to Bailen, things didn’t happen overnight, in fact, it took upwards of three weeks before the team was all on the same page.
Although the Mohawks opened the season with a big win over Bellingham (8-0), Millis then fell to Holliston and Dover-Sherborn and tied Hopkinton before eventually capturing their second win of the season against Ursuline Academy.
“We were not coming out on fire after the first game and were still trying to figure out who we were and how we were going to get there,” Bailen said. “We experimented a lot with ideas that didn’t hurt us in games. Players may not have felt comfortable in certain positions, but we were looking to build a successful team; we had nine new girls and had to find out where they’d fit in.”
Helping to get the Mohawks to where they needed to be were tri-captains Riley Donovan, Jessica Krauss and Ciara Moynihan. Ever since Bailen had begun coaching high school soccer, he has always emphasized the importance of his captains pulling the team together.
“I’ve kept an eye on things, but the captains needed to become fluid in our approach as well as consistent in our work habits,” the Mohawk Coach said. “Some may not buy into it right away, but if they wanted this team to be successful they had to.”
It was evident that the different aged players felt more comfortable taking part in drills with players their own age. However, Bailen felt it important to get those different ages and skill levels playing together during practice so that they be compatible during games.
Another instrumental player to Millis’ success this season has been Sydney Bailen, who hasn’t played all that much because of a torn ACL. Despite not being able to help her teammates on the field, she has continuously talked to the girls on the sidelines, making sure they played with a more physical game as well as a mental toughness.
Offensively, Bailen considers his team to have a well balanced scoring attack, where the girls spread the wealth.
“The forwards have stepped up and the midfielders have been serving up some good passes giving us a balanced attack,” the coach said. “We continue to push the players to be in good physical shape all year, so that if needed, they can go an entire game without getting winded.”
Looking at their tournament scores one can see that the Mohawks continuously found themselves in close battle and were never blow out by their opposition.
One of the big reasons Millis found themselves in just about every contest they took to the field to compete in was the play of goalie Caileen Adams.
“She had a superior season and has become one of the top keepers in the TVL, if not in all of Division 4,” Bailen said. “Teams underestimate her, and time and time again she would come up with big saves to keep us in it. When the game is on the line, she’s even bigger.”
In the Cohasset game, which was scoreless and went to penalty kicks, Adams was on the top of her game, stopping everything that the Skipper players sent her way until her teammates could bail her out and net the winning goal.
Millis will sit back and enjoy this their second straight title in as many years for now, but Bailen knows that a high percentage of his team will be back, and the younger athletes from the junior varsity and freshman teams are ready and able to step into any holes, thus leaving the opportunity to three-peat as Division 4 State Champions looking good.