Miss Hall's girls soccer benefiting from big-time coaching addition

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PITTSFIELD — It has been a year of rebuilding for the girls soccer program at Miss Hall's School this fall. As the team has moved away from some high-profile talents of years past a crew of young players has taken hold.

While wins have been hard to come by, the Hurricanes scored a big one before the regular season commenced. The name Carrie Holland carries a lot of weight on soccer fields throughout Berkshire County, and now the former local star has returned across town from her old Saint Joseph's Central High School to help out on the pitch at the prep school on Holmes Road.

Holland joined head coach Monica Kirschmann's staff this fall and has been offering an additional set of eyes and occasionally feet to the Hurricanes growth.

"She's incredibly experienced and an incredibly decorated player. It's great to have that set of eyes, with different training and experience than the rest of us," said Kirschmann. "She is super positive all the time and has a great eye for what's going well."

"We make a great team. She has their personalities and the teaching aspect down pat," said Holland of her head coach. "She allows me to bring in new ideas and a fresh perspective and gives me a lot of leverage in practices and games as to what we're doing."

During some Miss Hall's practices, Holland will suit up and hit the field, providing an elite-level foe for the young high schoolers to counter and absorb. The Hurricanes have also started watching game film.

"We've gotten so much better since she came. She's an excellent coach and brings so much experience. She's such a great field player, and she'll play with us at practice," said junior goalie Merriam Lrhazi, a Lee local. "That helps teach us things in a different way."

After setting school records in goals (78) and points (170) while with the Crusaders, Holland went on to play collegiate soccer at the University of Richmond for four years, but got an extra year of eligibility when a torn ACL ended her junior season. She opted for a season at the University of Oregon, where she earned her Master's Degree and got to play in the then PAC-10. She came back to her hometown in the Berkshires and joined the staff at Williams College for parts of the last two years. Holland went to St. Joe with Miss Hall's Athletic Director Brad Horth. In the wake of their alma mater closing its doors, Horth brought up the idea of her coming to help out the Hurricanes over dinner.

"I wouldn't have found my way to Hall's without Brad. When I moved back to the area and started catching up with everything and every one, he mentioned coming to help out there," said Holland, who moved back two years ago to work at General Dynamics and now Mill Town Capital. "After spending a couple seasons with Williams where the program is unbelievable, I thought maybe I could have more of an impact at the high school level and make more of a difference in the development of kids at a younger age. The girls here are an awesome group, very respectful. It's a cool opportunity."

The Hurricanes have made great strides over the course of this season, but got caught in the second half Wednesday afternoon by a solid team from The Gunnery and lost 4-0.

The halftime scoreboard could very well have read straight zeroes, if not for a lucky break earned by the visiting side. Early in the half, Syd Fydenkevez sent a crossing pass directed at a teammate that caught some wind and some English and spun in on a bounce for the 1-0 Gunnery lead.

"Obviously it was a disappointing result. We were in really good shape going into halftime. They're first goal was a lucky shot and we had great possessions in the first half," said Kirschmann. "We had good opportunities, got shots on net, girls in position, corner kicks falling just shy of where you want it to be."

The two sides played evenly for the remaining 31:30 until halftime, with Lrhazi and senior captain Emily Hunter leading the way defensively. The back line has been the core for Hall's this fall. Lrhazi tallied 14 saves in the game, and when she was unable to get to a rebound chance early in the second half another captain, Madison Bellemare, was there to boot it away.

"We were communicating really well on defense in the first half," said Lrhazi. "Emily and I have been playing since I was a freshman and started at goalie and we have good communication in the back and play well together. We've just got to find the back of the net on offense now."

The Hurricanes had some good offensive chances throughout the second half, with Aysha Vadukul and Mia Murawski pressuring the Gunnery keeper, and Bellemare jump-starting some set plays. Fellow captains Tyra Price and Libby Tagliaferro helped control the midfield as Hall's got off 17 shots during the contest.

"Offensively they lost a lot of the strength from last year," said Holland. "We're young up top, but moved some speed there with Aysha and Raven [Matias]. We work on finishing at practice and knowing techniques on how to score. You can't just blast it, sometimes a more finesse, well-timed run is called for."

Unfortunately, some missed assignments on the back end gifted the opposition a few good looks and left Lrhazi on an island. The Gunnery responded to a Raven Matias chance that just cleared the crossbar with a furious run and goal at the other end. The visitors scored again a few minutes later, getting in tight and pounding a shot off the inside post. Vadukul had two good runs in a short span looking to get her team on the board, but the Gunnery put a third goal into the back of the net in a 10-minute span.

"We had a few defensive breakdowns, a man open that we just didn't see. When you're that close to the net, a little breakdown is the difference between an even game and an uneven one," said Kirschmann.

Tagliaferro had what looked like a goal late, but pushed it just wide after Hunter and Matias stonewalled a Gunnery push. Murawski made a great play in the closing minutes to get a feed into Jackie Moseley in the corner, but Catherine Lawrence was equal to the task in net.

"We've got some great ninth and 10th-graders, but they're ninth and 10th-graders," said Kirschmann. "There is a really high learning curve in a small program; you're getting playing time, which is a great thing, but there is a lot of player development that needs to happen early and very fast. We've come a long way from the beginning of the year."

———

The Gunnery     1     3          4

Miss Hall's     0     0          0

First Half

G — Syd Fydenkevez (unassisted), 8:30.

Second Half

G — Nemo Neubaverova (Jolie Kaplan), 53:34.

G — Katie Broccoli (UA), 57:05.

G — Keely McGann (UA), 62:11.

Saves — G: Catherine Lawrence, 12. MH: Merriam Lrhazi, 14.

Reach sports writer Mike Walsh at 413-496-6240 or @CLNS_Walsh.


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