High school notebook: Athol boys, girls soccer programs remain unbeaten

  • A design of the new logo and mascot at Athol High School.

Staff Writer
Published: 9/20/2023 6:35:26 PM

It’s been quite the turnaround for the Athol soccer programs this fall.

On the boys side, the Bears went just 1-14-3 a season ago and were outscored 95-20 on the year, while the girls finished the season with a 7-10-1 record. In the two years since the MIAA went to a statewide postseason format, neither team has qualified.

With the way both squads have started the 2023 slate, those lost seasons feel like distant memories. After Wednesday’s slate the Athol boys hold an unblemished 6-0 record on the season and have done it behind an offense that has already surpassed their 2022 output with 41 goals scored in those six wins. The girls are closing in on matching their win total from a season ago, sitting at 5-0 on the season with a dominant 17-2 goal differential.

What’s led to the turnaround? For the Bear boys, it’s been an infusion of talent. Athol gained four displaced students to its roster before the season and each has had an impact. Those players also helped the Bears have a season altogether, as numbers within the program weren’t high. Throw in some talented players on a roster that has six seniors and three juniors with varsity experience, and the results speak for themselves.

Athol also moved from the Schmid League to the Tri-County League in an attempt to be more competitive and that has worked, as it currently sits in first place in the league.

For the Bear girls, the turnaround has also revolved around an offense that continues to find the back of the net.  

Athol was shut out in eight of its 10 losses last fall, but scoring goals hasn’t been an issue to date this season. The Bears put up three goals against both Franklin Tech and Gateway, tallied seven times against Pathfinder before putting in a pair of goals in wins over Mahar and Greenfield to build their 5-0 record. 

Athol also has plenty of returning experience on its roster, led by five seniors and four juniors. Liz Mailloux, Sam Mailloux and Kylah Blundon have led the offensive charge thus far this year and have the Bears sitting atop the Bi-County League standings.

Frontier leads Moriarty League

The last two MIAA Div. 4 boys soccer state champions have come out of the Moriarty League. Will Frontier be the next? 

The Redhawks have been knocking on the door of a state title the last two years, falling to Easthampton in the 2021 Div. 4 state title game before falling to South Hadley in the semifinals last year. The Tigers went on to win the championship. 

With the way Frontier has opened this season, another run at a state title wouldn’t be a shock. The Redhawks have opened the season with four games in the league and went 4-0 with victories over Lenox (6-1), Southwick (7-0), South Hadley (4-0) and Mahar (1-0). 

The Redhawks have had seven different players — Nico Fasulo, Rosco Palmer, Aidan Valderrama, Chanhee Son, Wyatt Finch, Grayson Bishop and Diego Frazier — find the back of the net in those four wins, showing the diversity of attacking options coach Evan Horton has to work with. 

With plenty of postseason experience, the Redhawks know what it will take to raise hardware at the end of the season. Mix that with the talent on the team and the sky is the limit for this Frontier squad. 

Remaining unbeatens

Who else was yet to suffer a loss heading into the Wednesday slate? There are five other Recorder area schools with an unblemished record nearly three weeks into the fall season. 

The Athol football team has opened its season with a pair of wins, knocking off Murdock (34-6) and Pathfinder (20-7). The Bears will have a tough test on Friday when it travels out to the Berkshires to take on Lee. 

Both the Frontier boys and girls cross country teams have quickly raced out to 5-0 starts to the season, looking to put together yet another impressive campaign on the trails. 

The Franklin Tech field hockey team, which has won the Western Mass. Class D championship each of the last two seasons, has roared out to a 4-0 start to this season and did so in emphatic fashion with wins over Turners (6-1), Hampshire (8-1), Mahar (7-0) and Amherst (6-0). It isn’t the only unbeaten left in its school, as the Eagles golf team is also 4-0 on the young season. 

Franklin Tech’s crosstown rival is also unbeaten on the course, as Turners Falls has opened its season with a 5-0 record. 

New golf format

Speaking of the links, the new match play format Western Mass. has adopted looks to be a success. 

In years past, each team would fill out a lineup of six players, seeded one-through-six, who would then square off in a one-on-one battle with the individual opponent in the same ranking. Points were given during each individual match to produce a team score. 

This year teams are allowed to have up to eight golfers compete in matches, with the top four scores added together to produce the team score. One benefit of this scoring system is that more players are able to compete each day. Another is that it doesn’t penalize teams who are short on numbers and might not have been able to fill out the six-player lineup a season ago, meaning they’d go into matches facing a major uphill battle to earn a win. 

Based on the early feedback, it seems these rule changes have been appreciated by coaches in the area. 


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