H.S. Soccer Preview: Pioneer squads ready to roll

  • Pioneer’s Josh Glazier winds back to clear the ball downfield against Sabis during action in 2019. FILE PHOTO

Recorder Intern
Published: 3/24/2021 6:30:58 PM
Modified: 3/24/2021 6:30:56 PM

(Editor’s Note: With the soccer season set to begin next week, we are running previews for individual schools over the course of the next few days.)

The Pioneer Valley Regional varsity girls soccer team is chomping at the bit to take the field for their first game. A roster filled with many different grade levels, head coach Nikki Pullen is taking a similar approach to many other coaches this season.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, Pullen, who teaches several different grade levels at Pioneer, said she has hardly been away from her computer screen. Soccer has provided her and her team the opportunity to enjoy the company of others safely while not being forced to socialize through a screen.

“This is my first time working without the need for a screen,” started Pullen. “I could talk face-to-face to a group of student-athletes for the first time. It seems like the rewarding and fulfilling opportunities of this school year are few and far between. Yes, we need to develop skill and conditioning, but if you’re not enjoying soccer during a pandemic, is it really worth it?”

After losing some seniors from last year’s roster, Pioneer will see some new faces this year. Because of low numbers, this year’s roster includes a variety of ages, spanning from seventh to 12th grade.

“All teams have to do a little rebuilding when their seniors graduate. But at Pioneer, we also lose players to other schools, which adds reconfiguration. Due to numbers, this year our varsity program is grades 7-12, which is a first,” stated Pullen.

Pullen first started as a middle school coach when this year’s senior class was in seventh grade. As this quirky and unusual season will unfold, she said she is excited to have the opportunity to send off her seniors on the right note. They began together about six years ago, and now Pullen will celebrate what they have put into the program and what they have accomplished throughout their careers.

“The three seniors have a special place in my heart,” offered Pullen. “I really look forward to celebrating them during this extra short season.”

Despite the low numbers, and despite the vastly wide range of age and experience on the roster, Pioneer has some really talented players on its 2021 squad, and some have the experience to go along with it.

“We will be utilizing the experience of our three seniors, with Sarah Johnson as on offensive threat, Tayla Sadlowski as my well-rounded player that can play any position, and Charlotte Kahler as a fearless, first-time goalkeeper. I also have no doubt that Lucia Saviano will make her way on to our opponent’s radar,” noted Pullen.

Pioneer boys

The athletic and feisty Pioneer boys soccer squad looks to be a competitive, standout team among their Franklin County opponents this spring. After failing to reach the postseason in the fall of 2019, head coach Don Fraser and company look to turn the tide with a talented roster returning.

With multiple dual-sport athletes, and tons of senior leadership, Fraser expects this year’s team to be just as competitive as his preceding playoff squads in 2017 and 2018. Fraser also fostered the idea of there being no fans at the games this year, and how it is disadvantageous to his team that people will not be able to witness their games in person. 

“It’s unfortunate we can’t have fans this year,” began Fraser. “This is my fifth year here at Pioneer coaching varsity, and this is the first year that we have had a strong and fully complete starting 11 from top to bottom. I think we’re going to end up being really fun to watch, so to not have fans is definitely unfortunate for us.”

No spectators is one of the guidelines set in place to help ensure the safety of not only the players, but fans as well. Following a recent meeting with the MIAA reporting the COVID-19 rules and regulations of how this season will unwind, Fraser said he was thrilled to hear that his bunch will have the chance to play what will look like normal soccer again.

“We want to do everything correctly [in terms of following the guidelines],” Fraser said. “Yes, we’ll be wearing masks and remain socially distanced on the sidelines, but essentially we’re going to be playing soccer.”

Considering the Panthers are quite heavy on upperclassmen, no postseason this season is a disappointing blow. Fraser noted that a total of nine players decided to opt out of this season. This ultimately left him with no choice but to pull up a few middle schoolers to complete his roster. 

“We’re heavy on seniors, so it is sad for them because this was their last chance to play for a high school championship. We did have nine players decide not to play, and I heard it’s because there is no tournament to look forward to. It’s unfortunate, but the kids that are on our roster really want to play. You can just tell how much they love to play soccer. I think the motivation issue isn’t going to be as big of a deal as I originally thought,” stated Fraser.

As for players to keep an eye out for, Fraser emphasized the hard work and dedication of senior goalkeeper Zach Piescik, lauding at his rare combination of both leadership and skill. Midfield duo Brad Norwood and Daniel Kang are also expected to perform at a high level for the Panthers this season, according to Fraser. Sam Cahill and Joshua Glazier are also hard working leaders that have stood out to the fifth-year coach as well.

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