Natick Girls Soccer Team Wins Div. 1 State Title 3 Years After Losing In Championship Game


Finally back to a – somewhat – normal season after the threat of Triple E in 2019 and COVID-19 last fall, this fall season was a welcomed sight for many local high school student-athletes.

Whether it be on the soccer pitch or the winding path of a cross country course, athletes were finally able to compete for state championships this fall after the MIAA playoffs were shut down last year. 

Along the way, local athletes made a name for themselves athletically with star-studded performances and trophy-towing moments.

So without much further ado, the Daily News presents its fall All-Stars for girls soccer:

Emma Ballard, Blackstone Valley Tech          

This savvy senior scored 28 goals and added 10 assists for a BVT team that lost just twice all season. Over her career, Ballard accumulated 113 goals and 37 assists and capped off her time with the Beavers by being named to the Division 4 Central Mass. All-State team and helping BVT go 16-2-2 and advance to the Round of 8 in the playoffs. “Her talent for finding the back of the net and bringing players around her to perform better has always been there,” BVT coach Jay Porter said. A talented basketball and softball player, Ballard wants to study nursing in college.  

Ashley Butler, Hopkinton

This team captain thrived in her role of defending the other team’s best player. Voted Team MVP, Butler was also named to the Eastern Mass. All-State Second Team. Even though her responsibility was to connect the offense to defense, Butler scored two goals and added six assists for the Hillers. “Ashley is an athletic, intelligent soccer player with a tireless work effort and great field vision,” Hopkinton coach Tom Skiba said. “She brings energy, leadership and enjoyment to each training session.”  A Tri-Valley League All-Star, Butler will continue her soccer career at Vassar College.

Caleigh Christensen, Nipmuc

The quarterback of a talented Nipmuc squad that went 12-5-1, Christensen switched from playing attacking midfielder last season to being either a center back or holding midfielder this fall. Despite the change in scenery, she scored six goals and added four assists and was named to the Division 3 Central Mass. All-State team. “Caleigh has an unbelievable work ethic, whether at training or in a game,” Nipmuc coach Stephen Khoury said. “Her passion and skills for the game are at such a high level.” Christensen will attend Merrimack College and play Division I soccer.

Rory Clare, Wellesley

One of only two Daily News All-Stars to be named to the Eastern Mass. All-New England, All-State First Team, Clare was the field general for the Raiders. As versatile as they come, Clare created scoring opportunities for herself and her teammates. She scored 21 goals and added nine assists and was named the Bay State Conference Herget Division Most Valuable Player. “Although she is a phenomenal leader and leads by example on the field, she is an outstanding student and a great role model off the field as well,” Wellesley coach Steve Bailen said. Clare is committed to run track at Columbia University. 

Nicola Donlan, Lincoln-Sudbury

Known for her prowess on the lacrosse field, this L-S senior was no slouch on the pitch this fall. From her center back and midfield position, Donlan scored two goals and added an assist while she spearheaded a Warriors’ defense that allowed just 21 goals in 18 games. This season, Donlan was named to the Eastern Mass. All-State Second Team and earned her second Dual County League First Team All-Star honor. A Tufts University commit for lacrosse, Donlan loves to study psychology and coach youth soccer and lacrosse.

Cate Flanagan, Nipmuc

Despite the usual double-team from opposing squads, this senior forward led all of Central Mass. in scoring with 30 goals and 16 assists. Flanagan played a key role in the Warriors claiming a share of the Dual Valley Conference title and was named to the Division 3 Central Mass. All-State team. “Cate plays the game with a high level of skill and a fire in her belly,” Nipmuc coach Stephen Khoury said. “She forced teams to come up with game plans targeted to try and slow her down.” Flanagan will play Division I soccer at Siena College.

Brooke Haarala, Framingham  

In her first and only season playing at Framingham High, this senior made a name for herself on the pitch with the Flyers. As team captain, Haarala led Framingham in goals with 12 and added four assists on her way to being named team MVP and to the Eastern Mass. All-State First Team. A member of the New England Futbol Club, Haarala is also a member of National Honor Society and works for the Framingham Baking Company. A fan of the beach and cats, Haarala will study science and play Division I soccer at Purdue University.

Kyra Hacker, Natick

The heart and soul of the Division 1 state champions from Natick, Hacker held down the fort at her center back position for the Redhawks. She helped Natick post 14 shutouts during its 17-1-5 campaign that resulted in the first ever state title for Natick. Hacker also added eight assists and a goal, and was named to the Eastern Mass. All-New England, All-State First Team. Hacker, who plays club for New England Futbol Club Girls Academy and is a CORE member of the TOPS Soccer Program, plans to study biology and play soccer at Bowdoin College.

Rachel Herman, Dover-Sherborn

With a penchant for singing the national anthem, this senior midfielder put on a show in her lone season with the Raiders. After playing in the FC Stars development academy for her first three years of high school, Herman joined D-S this fall and scored nine goals and added 11 assists. “Elite foot skills, soccer IQ and work ethic,” D-S coach Evren Gunduz said. “A field general and an awesome leader.” Named to the Eastern Mass. All-State First Team, Herman will play Division I soccer at the University of Pennsylvania, where she’ll study business at the Wharton School.

Allison Jeter, Natick

A vocal leader for a talented Natick squad, this senior goalkeeper was the eyes, ears and mouth of the Division 1 state champions. Jeter, who started as a freshman when the Redhawks last played in a state final, posted 14 clean sheets and a 0.51 goals against average en route to being named to the Eastern Mass. First Team. A three-sport athlete who also plays basketball and tennis, Jeter played soccer for New England Futbol Club as well. She will play soccer at Central Connecticut State University.

Caroline Kelly, Algonquin

A four-year varsity player for Algonquin, this senior captain and striker – who goes by “CK” – couldn’t be kept from the ball this fall. Kelly led her team and the Midland-Wachusett A League in points with eight goals and 12 assists. She was voted a first team MWL All-Star and selected to the Division 1 Central Mass. All-State Team. “Accomplishments and awards over CK's career are plentiful but only tell part of the story,” Algonquin coach John Clifford said. “More than any of those, at least for me as a coach, is her consistency.” Kelly will play soccer at Tufts University.

Mia Luisi, Holliston

With an impressive mix of speed and endurance, this senior midfielder was the burst of energy that Holliston needed this fall. Luisi, a four-year starter on varsity, scored five goals and had seven assists for the Panthers in her final high school season. A three-time Tri-Valley League All-Star, Luisi was also named to the Eastern Mass. All-State First Team this fall. “She is so smart and skilled with the ball and sacrificed her scoring stats this year to give us more defensive help in the midfield,” Holliston coach Brielle Chadsey said. “A true team player.”

Shannon Mejia, Medway

Speaking of team players, this junior switched from playing goalie to striker with three games left in the regular season and scored four goals in five games – including Medway’s lone score in a tournament win over Pentucket. As a goalie, Mejia posted nine shutouts after being thrown in net for the first time due to an injury to the Mustangs’ original goalkeeper. “Shannon is the best athlete in the school; she can dominate wherever she is on the field,” Medway coach Jason Rojee said. A three-year varsity basketball player, Mejia likes to snowboard and hopes to play soccer and study business in college.

Ava VanBuskirk, Marlborough

Only a sophomore, this player may be small in stature but she stood tall on the pitch and was the go-to scorer for Marlborough this fall. “Ava is tiny but plays like a giant,” Marlborough coach Gerry Padilla said. “Most schools struggled defending her speed and strength on the ball.” VanBuskirk scored 26 goals and added three assists en route to being named to the Division 2 Central Mass. All-State team. A team captain as a sophomore, VanBuskirk also does indoor and outdoor track and holds the Marlborough High records for fastest times in the 55-meter dash and 400 meters.

Kristin Wilichowski, Westborough

This senior center back was the primary shield for a Rangers team that advanced all the way to the Division 2 state semifinals (or Final Four). A four-year varsity starter, Wilichowski was big reason why her team allowed just two goals in 14 regular season games to spearhead an 11-0-5 record for the Rangers heading into postseason play. Named to the Division 2 Central Mass. All-State team, Wilichowski also plays basketball and does outdoor track. In charge of the Westborough High School yearbook, she plans on study psychology in college and hopefully continuing her soccer career.

Anya Zub, Franklin

A sophomore sensation for the Panthers this fall, Zub scored 20 goals and dished out six assists to help lead first-year head coach Jodi Klein’s squad. A forward for Franklin, Zub was named to the Eastern Mass. All-State First Team and a Hockomock League All-Star in her second year of playing on varsity.

“She eagerly accepts the pressure of being our top scorer, supports both her younger and older teammates on and off the field and is very coachable,” Klein said. Zub also enjoys photography and wants to continue her athletic career in college.

Source :

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