Bement girls reflect on title-winning season

  • Bement School eighth-grader Allie Kandel of Greenfield scored 55 goals and added 15 assists to help the Phoenix to a 12-0-1 record and a New England Boarding School Girls’ Soccer Tournament championship. SUBMITTED PHOTO

Recorder Staff
Thursday, November 30, 2017

Good things were expected for the Bement School girls’ soccer team this season. The Phoenix returned some key players from a team that lost just a couple of games in 2016, meaning that hopes were high for another stellar campaign.

But the season-opener against Williston-Northampton School set the tone for what was to come. Trailing 1-0, Bement scored a pair of improbable goals on long goalkeeper punts, and the Phoenix willed themselves to a 2-1 win against a team that handed them two losses a year ago.

“I feel like that was a turning point,” offered Bement midfielder Kelly Howe, a ninth-grader from Deerfield. “We managed to get a win somehow in that game. It gave us confidence the rest of the year.”

What followed was an undefeated march through the season that culminated in a New England Junior Boarding School Girls’ Soccer Tournament championship in November. Bement, a co-ed day and boarding school for students kindergarten through ninth grade, wound up with a 12-0-1 record.

Despite being the first game of the year, that win over Williston-Northampton’s JV team was a season-defining victory. It was a source of strength and motivation in the months that followed.

“I think what we did with this team was we took a group of girls with tremendous heart and everyone did their piece,” explained Bement head coach Anthony Kandel. “They didn’t want to lose. They took such pride in that and they found a way to win throughout the year. That Williston game got it started but they stayed with it all season long.”

The numbers the Phoenix put together en route to a championship were staggering. Bement scored 99 goals in 13 games, allowing just 19 defensively. Howe was the main distributor as the center midfielder, and she finished the season with a ridiculous 36 assists to go along with 11 goals. For her efforts, Howe was elected a captain and given the Leadership Award as chosen by her teammates.

The majority of those assists were finished by eighth-grader Allie Kandel of Greenfield. The team’s leading scorer and MVP, Kandel, also a captain, scored 55 goals and notched 15 assists, including both goals in the 2-1 win over Williston.

“We definitely weren’t as skilled as most of the teams we played this year, but we always found a way,” offered Allie Kandel, who is also a top-scoring member of the school’s lacrosse team.

While Kandel and Howe created quite the 1-2 scoring punch, ninth-grader Morgan Moriarty of Deerfield was another key member in the Bement midfield. Moriarty scored nine goals and added 13 assists this fall.

“The bond and teamwork we had this year; it all came together,” explained Moriarty, a two-time player of the week for the Phoenix. “We managed to work the kinks out and everything rounded together.”

Watching his team pepper the net from the sideline made things quite enjoyable for the team’s head coach.

“We had a plethora of people who could score,” explained coach Kandel. “Allie would see a lot of double and triple teams, but if other teams keyed on her, we had Kelly, Morgan, and others who would score.”

While Bement scored in bunches this season, often taking quick 2-0 leads before their opponents had even settled into the game, the team’s defensive unit proved to be quite dominant as well. The Phoenix allowed less than two goals per game, with eighth-grader Avery Rymes of Greenfield one of the standout performers.

“We grew a lot together this year,” Rymes, who scored a goal and added an assist, said of the defense. “A lot of us had played with each other before and since we’re a small school, we’re all friends. That helps.”

Rymes transitioned into a defender this season after coming up as more of an offensive player. While there was some initial hesitation on her part, she wound up embracing the new role.

“I was really mad about (the move) at first,” she said with a laugh. “But coach promised that I’d like defensive soccer and if I didn’t, he’d move me back at the end of the season.”

While Bement dominated the majority of its opponents during the regular-season, the season culminated with a trip to play in the New England Tournament in Lakeville, Conn. in early November.

It all came down to the championship game, where the Phoenix scored the game’s only goal in a 1-0 win over tournament-host Indian Mountain School.

“It was interesting going into the tournament because we were probably the smallest school there,” admitted Allie Kandel, “but we weren’t intimidated.”

Coach Kandel said that despite having high hopes entering the season, going 12-0-1 and winning a New England title was beyond his expectations.

“I was cautiously optimistic but I honestly didn’t think a New England championship was in our grasp,” he explained. “It did become clear as the season went along that we were hard to beat. And we had a few players improve dramatically that I thought helped make the difference.”