College soccer: Orange’s Delaney Parker thriving at Westfield State

  • Westfield State's Delaney Parker dribbles the ball against Framingham State in a game earlier this season. Courtesy Westfield State Athletics

  • Westfield State's Delaney Parker celebrates with teammates in a game against Framingham State earlier this season. Courtesy Westfield State Athletics

Staff Writer
Published: 10/15/2021 5:45:57 PM

For most, the shift from high school to college athletics is drastic. The skill level is higher, players are older and stronger. The competition and intensity are heightened, making it a tough transition. 

That hasn’t been the case for Delaney Parker. Far from it, actually. The Mahar Regional School graduate opened her soccer career at Westfield State University this fall with a hat trick and has kept her foot on the gas since. Parker has been a big reason for the Owls’ torrid start, which has them sitting in first place in the MASCAC standings.

“I was a little nervous for the shift from high school to college,” Parker said, “but it’s not really that different. It’s more competitive and it’s more like club level. I clicked with everyone on my team quickly and once I started on a successful run, it’s been rolling since. It feels good to continue to have success. I wouldn’t feel as good if I didn't get off to the start I did.” 

Defenders and goalies who played against Parker while she was a Senator wouldn’t be surprised she’s dominating at the collegiate level. Parker was nearly unstoppable at Mahar, finishing with over 200 points in her high school career despite having a shortened senior season due to COVID-19. 

Her scoring prowess has carried over to Westfield State, where she is currently second in NCAA Division 3 scoring with 19 goals in 13 games. She leads Div. 3 in points with 44 and is atop the leaderboard with a whopping 3.38 point-per-game average. 

Recording a pair of hat tricks in her first five games helped grow the confidence. 

“That was a huge confidence boost,” Parker said. “Going into the first game I was so scared. That’s always been a thing for me, I just have to get over my initial nerves. Once I do and calm down, I’m fine so getting off to a good start helped. It was motivating.”

Having a player who can provide instant offense is a gift for Westfield State head coach Todd Ditmar. 

“She’s done even better than I could have hoped for,” Ditmar said. “She’s done great for us. She came in scoring big goals for us and it’s one of those things were she can score in so many different ways. We’re playing Bridgewater [Saturday] and they have a top defense. Knowing if we can get Delaney the ball a few times, she can score and that’s a big advantage.” 

Defenses have quickly had to adjust their scheme to defend Parker. She’s received extra attention from opposing teams and after scoring a pair of goals in each of her last three games, that focus won't be ending any time soon.

“I’m getting a lot of defensive focus,” Parker said. “I’ve been man-marked a couple times already. Having a good team to support me and have my back and having people who can match my level of play is a big weight taken off.” 

How did Parker hit the ground running in her freshman year? It started with putting in the work over the offseason.

She showed up to Westfield in great shape, ready to go and continue the success she had in the Fall II season at Mahar this past spring. 

“My main thing was trying to keep a high level of intensity and stay in good shape,” Parker said. “I knew the shift from high school to college would be different. I didn’t want to walk in out of shape, I wanted to be able to get good touches and be able to shoot the ball well while staying in shape. I made sure to keep up with my workouts throughout the summer and came in in good shape.” 

Parker has been exactly the type of player Ditmar thought he was getting. 

“She’s been more than advertised,” Ditmar said. “Playing at her level in high school, sometimes you wonder if they’ll be as creative and talented playing at the college level. I was able to see her play a number of different times and she played a couple games at Westfield State in the [Western Mass.] tournament as a younger player so I saw her there. Seeing the way that she grew throughout high school and got even better and better is impressive. She’s talented and she has a very competitive attitude. She’s only going to get better.”

The biggest shift for Parker hasn’t been on the field. As an athletic training major, her homework load is much heavier than it was in high school. Finding that balance has been one of her biggest focuses, and so far it’s been going well. 

Currently 4-0 in the MASCAC and 8-4-1 overall, the goal is to keep the momentum rolling and make a run at a conference title. If Parker continues to play at a high level and keeps finding ways to put the ball in the back of the net, Westfield State should be in a great position for the next four seasons. 

“I love the team,” Parker said. “We mesh really well together and there’s a lot of team bonding. Right now we're looking to win the MASCAC, we’re undefeated in the league so we have to keep that going. Individually, my goal is to not get down on myself. I want to keep my motivation and confidence level high and continue to find success.”

Westfield State takes its undefeated MASCAC mark on the road to Bridgewater for a noon game on Saturday.

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