Malden Girls at Danvers Soccer Tournament

I sent this to the Malden papers. I thought I’d share it here. I was so happy with how our eight-ten year old girls were playing soccer together, I was jumping up and down on the sideline with excitement!

Malden Youth Soccer U10 team

Over Memorial Day weekend, a Malden Girls Under-10 team went to the Danvers Invitational Tournament to test their mettle. The girls, from two different Malden Youth Soccer teams, quickly became mates, played great, and had a wonderful time at the Danvers Invitational.  They left with fodder for great memories, uniform patches from the teams they played against, trophies, and a record of 2-1-1.

As a newly combined team with girls nervous to play in their first tournament, the first game was a little rough. On sweltering Saturday afternoon, Malden lost to Andover 0-7. Head coach Maria Cotter remarked that the score would have been much closer had the match been their third or fourth of the tournament instead of the first. “The girls gained confidence with every game and pulled together as a team really quickly.” Hugo Bonilla and Kim Brookes served as assistant coaches.

Malden girls protecting the goal.
Gunjan clearing the ball. Julia in goal.

Cotter hadn’t been able to recruit a goalkeeper, but three girls stepped up and did a great job, even against Andover, which shot many more than what went in. Sarah Barrett, Gunjan Kumar, and Julia Swanson all took turns in goal. The second game, Saturday afternoon, brought some shade and a more evenly matched opponent. Malden beat Portsmouth, 1-0, on a goal scored by Bailey DeLeire, a defender who seizes every opportunity to steal the ball yet also jumps at the invitation to play up front. Fellow defender Lucia Antonucci hurdles throw-ins further than a girl twice her sizes might, and is a shooting threat from the middle of the field.

Malden girls moving the ball up the field.
Peterly with the ball, Emelia getting open

Sunday began with yawning all around, at 7:30am, against Danvers. Though the Danvers girls were physically imposing, unfortunately they were overwhelmed by Malden’s skill. Malden kept the score down to 7-0, including goals by Julia (a master attacker who drives up the left side), Peterly Leroy (a tricky dribbler, always available to take a pass), Alexa Bonilla (a small midfielder and attacker who uses fancy footwork to get around much bigger opponents), and Bailey. Already a solid defender, Abigail Ssewankambo showed her aptitude for learning by drastically improving her field positioning over the course of three games.

Malden girls on offense.
Sarah driving upfield. Bailey behind.
Malden girls moving the ball up the field.
Alexa dribbling, working with Tia.
The last game was a nail-biting 0-0 tie against formidable Wilmington. The Malden girls made their coaches and parents proud. They stopped Wilmington’s onslaughts time and again, and managed a good amount of offense themselves. Defenders Bailey and Gunjan, and mid-fielder Tia Sljuka played the entire game, helping goalies Sarah and Julia keep endless shots out of the net. Attacker Emilia Maria-Babcock took passes with grace and doggedly fought for the ball against intimidating players. When not making unshakeable saves in goal, on offense, Sarah worked in sync with her teammates, which threw off the opponent’s defenders. Demure off the field, Gunjan again brought out the soccer beast inside, pushing shoulder to shoulder against skilled attackers, shepherding them to the outside and making them lose possession. As she had every game, Tia was always where her teammates needed her, equally adeptly stripping the ball from opponents and moving the team forward with shrewd passes.
Malden girls on defense.
Tia defending. Alexa in the background ready for Tia’s upcoming pass.

The girls left the Danvers Invitational with a renewed excitement about soccer. In their regular season, Cotter and Brookes’s GU10-1 has locked a place in the mid-June Middlesex Youth Soccer League’s Commissioner’s Cup tournament. The other half of the team plays for coaches Pedro Montenegro and Edwin Flores as GU10-2. With two games left, they currently lead their subdivision.

I’ve taken hundreds of pictures of Malden Youth Soccer games (most, but not all, are mine).

More about Malden Youth Soccer.

1 Comment

  1. You’re blog is great, but I think you’d also make a great sports announcer. I felt like I was at the games! How terrific that you’re able to combine two of your great loves – writing and girls’ soccer – and that we get to enjoy them.

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