EASTHAM — The future looks bright for the successful Nauset girls soccer program. The junior varsity team finished the season unbeaten, conceding just three goals in 16 games, winning 12 and playing to a draw in four others.
“I am incredibly impressed by and appreciative of the girls that I got to coach this year,” said their coach, Jeff Falk of Eastham, who was in his first year with the program.
The JV Warriors were a young team this year, with three sophomores, nine freshmen, and three eighth-graders. But the team grabbed momentum early, held it, and finished the season as the only Nauset team at any level to go unbeaten.
“It’s pretty awesome being on a team that went undefeated,” said freshman defender CJ Kennally of Brewster. “It’s something we get to brag about.” The 14-year-old was familiar with the Nauset program, having worked with varsity coach Evan Botting at AC Independence. “I think very highly of my team,” she said. “We are very good.”
Just how good? The young Warriors dismantled many of the opposing teams, finishing the year on a six-game winning streak. They put 11 goals past Sturgis West Charter School and scored 14 and 12 against Dennis-Yarmouth Regional High School in two contests. All three wins were shutouts. Overall, the team racked up 14 clean sheets. The year started and ended with shutout wins over Pembroke High School, including a 2-0 victory on Oct. 28. Only Nantucket and Bridgewater-Raynham managed to score against Nauset in two games that ended in ties.
In total, the Warriors outscored opponents 72-3. They were held without a goal twice — in two draws with Sandwich High School and Falmouth High School.
“It’s such an accomplishment to be undefeated,” said Elise Seppala, one of four juniors — including her twin sister, Ali — who played on both the junior varsity and varsity squads this season. “It’s something we can be proud of because we worked well as a team.”
Despite the offensive output displayed by his team, Falk highlighted one game that stood out most for him: the 2-2 draw at Bridgewater-Raynham on Oct. 6.
He recalled the team trailing 2-0 at halftime after a two-hour-plus drive that was plagued by traffic jams. “Nobody was in the mood,” said Falk. “It was an easy game to just pack it in and accept it and go home, but at halftime the girls weren’t having it. They took it upon themselves and decided they weren’t going to lose. The resilience they showed was impressive. That’s when I got a pulse of how tough these ladies really are.”
The defense, meanwhile, was backstopped by freshman goalkeeper Abby Cahill and a rotating cast of six defenders. Cahill joins a succession of great keepers who came through the Nauset program: Brady Deschamps moved on to Mass Maritime Academy following her time at Nauset, while Pepper Escher transferred to Worcester Academy as a junior, paving the way for sophomore Haley Jackson to take on the starting role in the net this season.
At every position, the goal is to build a player capable of stepping up to fill a hole on a team that has state championship aspirations each season.
The varsity team, which wrapped up its fourth straight Cape & Islands Atlantic Division title and first under Botting this fall, will graduate six seniors, including Olivia Avellar, Sammy McIsaac, Alexi Montalto, Caroline Kennard, Tess Williams, and Mackenzie Still. Avellar recently broke a 47-year-old school record by setting the single-season goal scoring mark with 41.
The girls varsity and junior varsity teams practice with one another, doing the same drills. “They see and compete with the varsity girls in practice and then see them play, and they want to emulate that,” said Falk. That has paid dividends, with sophomore Aria Robinson progressing throughout the year to form a formidable midfield partnership with eighth-grader Nina Swaby.
That transference of habits from varsity to junior varsity players is what has made Nauset girls soccer so successful year in and year out.
“I look up to the varsity players, the players that have been through Nauset before, and all the girls that I’ve had a chance to work with starting as a freshman,” said Elise Seppala. “I see the shoes that I have to fill. It is a lot of pressure, but it’s something I can work toward.”
Seppala, who lives in Eastham, plays halfback and watches Williams and Still closely during practices and games. “For them to have had all the success they have had is something that we younger girls can strive for.”
“I want to be someone that younger players can talk to and ask questions and just help them and uplift them in any way I can,” said Ali Seppala. She believes the prospect of an unbeaten season made them raise their game. “The intensity is just so unbeatable,” she said.
Cahill, along with the Seppala twins, juniors Molly Farrell and Darien Falk, and sophomore Emma Enos, were all swing players who gained valuable experience at the varsity level this season.
“There’s a lot of pressure being associated with Nauset girls soccer because of how successful it has been, but I’m grateful for it,” admitted Kennally. “I could’ve been somewhere else, where soccer was not a strong suit, but here it really is something that people take pride in.”