Natick’s Ross Wants Another Chance To Win State Soccer Title

KEN HAMWEY, Staff Sports Writer
Laney Ross, left, and Kelsey Hatt are captains for the Natick High girls soccer team.
Issue Date: 
November, 2019
Article Body: 

Laney Ross hasn’t forgotten the disappointment or the empty feeling that followed Natick High’s loss to Wachusett last year in the State final of the Division 1 girls soccer tournament.
After compiling a regular-season record of 10-2-5, Natick, which was seeded No. 10, peaked at the most opportune time and won four consecutive road games to capture the Sectional crown. The tourney final was a thriller, a 2-1 triumph over top-seeded Newton South.
As its momentum mounted, Natick entered the State playoffs and downed Brookline before squaring off against Wachusett in the title game. The Redhawks were on the losing end of a lengthy matchup, bowing to Wachusett, 1-0, on penalty kicks (6-5) with the winning goal coming in the eighth round of the shootout.
“That was so disappointing and the feeling was awful,’’ said Ross, the Redhawks’ center midfield who’s also a senior co-captain. “It was our last game of the season and we didn’t get the result we wanted. And, losing on a penalty kick was difficult.’’
Ross, who was selected as a Bay State Conference and Eastern Mass. all-star last year, admits that a return to the State final is not only “a burning desire,’’ but also something that’s occupied her thoughts all season.
The 2019 edition of the Redhawks’ girls soccer team appears to have enough top-notch talent and an outstanding record to satisfy Ross’ hopes for a return engagement. Natick was 7-0-3 at Local Town Pages deadline.
“The key for a deep tourney run is all about balance,’’ Ross emphasized. “What’s important is to stay focused and intense in practice and to maintain solid team chemistry. Motivating each other and staying close-knit are also vitally necessary.’’
The 5-foot-6 Ross has played a major role in helping the Redhawks to keep their eyes on the prize. She’s a captain who leads by example and who communicates in a supportive way. “I work hard and try to set a strong pace in practice,’’ she said. “And, I try to encourage others with constructive criticism. It’s important for all my teammates to feel comfortable.’’
Ross is one of the BSC’s top midfielders because she’s got a variety of strengths. She’s skilled, has a high soccer IQ, is athletic, technically sound, and very coachable. She also likes her role. “Playing midfield enables you to be creative,’’ Ross noted. “You’re in the middle of the action and you have lots of options.’’
Natick’s coach, David Wainwright, admires Ross’ ability and the assets she brings to the table. “Laney is the most well-rounded and gifted leader we have,’’ he emphasized. “She’s a four-year veteran with lots of experience. A team-first player, she’s committed to her teammates. Laney is well-organized — a captain in soccer and basketball — and she coaches in our youth league. Unselfish and a good passer, she’s also solid in transition.’’
There’s little doubt that Ross’ soccer IQ is off the charts because she started playing the sport at five years old. She competed in youth soccer for five years and has played 11 seasons of club soccer. Her passion for the game is sky high, especially considering the injuries she’s suffered. “I had a broken leg in third grade and I sustained a broken arm in the sixth grade,’’ Ross recalled. “
When the 18-year-old wraps up her career at Natick, she’ll likely play four more years at the University of Vermont. She’s accepted a partial scholarship there. Ross is a high honor student who’s a member of the National Honor Society.
“Vermont has a young team, so I’m hoping I can get some playing time by working hard in practices,’’ she indicated. “I plan to major in the science field.’’
One field Ross doesn’t have to worry about is Natick’s midfield where she’s got some very capable teammates.
“Co-captain Kelsey Hatt also plays center middie and Kelly Pease is our defensive midfielder with Holly Browning on the left,’’ Ross said. “Kelsey is a strong player and a great leader on the field. Kelly, Holly and center back Emily Bubonovitch are all talented and have skills that are instrumental to our success.’’
Ross also is bullish on Wainwright, now in his second year as Natick’s coach. “Coach Wainwright is a good motivator who knows the game,’’ Ross said. “He’s got high expectations for us and he’s very effective in helping us prepare for every opponent.’’
The Redhawks’ starting point guard in basketball, Ross relies on a competitive philosophy that focuses on winning, reaching one’s potential and having fun. “If you keep improving, reach your potential and enjoy participating, then winning likely will follow, she said.’’
Calling her grandparents (John and Karen) role models for their support and encouragement, Ross has learned several valuable life lessons from soccer and basketball. “I’ve definitely learned a lot about leadership and athletics help one to be mentally tough and resilient.’’
Resiliency and mental toughness have helped Ross to cope with last year’s loss in the States. She’s had a dynamic senior season so far and she deserves one more chance at redemption.
“My three goals at the start of the season were for the team to mesh and develop great chemistry; to win the Carey Division title; and to get back to the State final and win it,’’ she emphasized.
Laney Ross isn’t afraid to set lofty goals and her commitment to excellence never wavers.