Holliston’s Girls Soccer Captains Focus on Tournament Success

KEN HAMWEY, Staff Sports Writer
Alex Panaggio, left, and Melanie Colman are captains of the Holliston girls soccer team. Both have been integral to the team’s success this year.
Issue Date: 
November, 2018
Article Body: 

Melanie Colman and Alex Panaggio know what to expect when the Holliston girls’ soccer team starts tournament action this month.
As senior captains, they’ve played key roles on both sides of the ball for the Panthers, who’ve had a successful 2018 campaign that includes a 9-1 record at Local Town Pages deadline.
Both are small but that’s deceptive because the tandem has been dynamic. Colman is a 5-foot-1 goalie and Panaggio is a 5-foot striker and each has a telling statistic that defines them. Colman has a goals-against average of 0.35 and Panaggio has eight goals and nine assists.
But, put statistics and records aside, because the duo is intensely focused on helping the Panthers advance farther than last year when they bowed to Medway in the second round of the playoffs.
“We’ve got to focus on what’s on our plate,’’ said Panaggio, who was the team’s MVP and offensive player of the year as a freshman. “And, we can’t be overconfident. We’ve got experience (12 seniors) and we’ve added some key freshmen. We can be successful because we have talented and skilled players and some of them have been underestimated.’’
Colman, who was Holliston’s MVP last season, is a firm believer that playing within one’s ability is paramount. “We can’t try to do too much,’’ she emphasized. “We’ve got to focus on what we can control. It’s realistic to think we can advance deep into the tourney but we must all be on the same page and play one half at a time.’’
Colman and Panaggio know the keys for success — on the field and in the classroom. They’re honor students who will attend top-notch colleges and one will play on scholarship and the other with an attractive financial aid package. Panaggio committed to Division 1 Syracuse as a freshman to play soccer and Colman will attend Simmons College, a Division 3 school, where she’ll play basketball. Panaggio earned a scholarship and Colman will receive financial aid.
What makes the senior captains so dynamic are their athletic strengths. And, coach Brielle Chadsey is acutely aware of those attributes.
“Melanie is a natural athlete who’s quick, has great hands, and lots of grit and toughness,’’ Chadsey said. “She’s also agile and can jump. Alex is a natural goal-scorer who wants the ball in key situations. She’s got a high soccer IQ, reads the play well and is mentally tough. Both are excellent captains who lead by example and by being vocal.’’
Panaggio has been a four-year starter and Colman has been the starting goalie for the last two years. “I like playing striker, because scoring is fun,’’ Panaggio said. “I rely on a hard, fast shot, especially from the corner.’’ Colman likes her position because she doesn’t have to rely on foot skills. “I chose to be a goalie because my foot skills aren’t anything special,’’ she said. “However, it’s an exciting position because you see the entire field, and you’ve got to know where everyone is. There’s pressure, but I thrive on it. It doesn’t faze me.’’
Panaggio’s best game was her first appearance as a freshman. Rival Medway was the opponent in a night game and the outcome couldn’t have been better. “I assisted on a goal by Emma Guccione late in the second half and we won, 1-0,’’ Panaggio recalled. “That was also my top thrill in soccer. Medway’s been the Tri Valley League champ for the last three years.’’
Colman’s best game also has a Medway flavor. It occurred last year when she shut out the Mustangs, 2-0. “I had 10 shutouts last year and that was one of them,’’ she noted. “I made a lot of saves in that game and to beat a rival like Medway was a big achievement.’’
Both captains know that tourney success depends on major contributions from all of their teammates and the coaching staff. Panaggio and Colman, who are also encouraging leaders, are bullish on Holliston’s other three captains — Emily Clapper, Gabby Ramirez-Brodeur, and Elisabeth Maki — and junior Sidney Brucato.
“Emily is such a consistent defender,’’ Panaggio said. “She’s like a brick wall, preventing a lot of goals. Gabby sets up plays and is solid in transition in midfield, and Sidney is versatile, able to play forward or fullback. She’s aggressive to the ball.’’
Colman concurs and likes the way Maki plays center back: “Elisabeth is a TVL all-star who has lots of ability and talent. She’s a great defender.’’
Colman and Panaggio, who’ll be competing in her fourth straight tourney, also have confidence in their coach. “Coach Chadsey is motivating, adjusts well and is a strong strategic planner,’’ Panaggio noted. Colman agrees. “Coach Chadsey is easy to talk with, and she knows the sport so well. And, she does a great job motivating players.’’
Colman, who also is a captain in basketball, averaged eight points last year as the Panthers’ point guard. Panaggio has made soccer her only sport. She started playing it at age seven and she’s been competing at the club level for 10 years.
Both captains, whose competitive philosophies focus on reaching their potential and enjoying their athletic endeavors, believe that winning will follow if hard work enters the formula. They also have learned some valuable life lessons from soccer.
“I was told I was too short to play sports,’’ Colman noted. “Well, I’ve played basketball and soccer, so I don’t listen to those who say I can’t do something. I’ve learned that hard work is important, and that good things happen if you strive to be your best. Few thought I could start in goal and post 10 shutouts in my first year as a starter.’’
Panaggio says she’s matured by playing sports. “I organize my time better, and I’ve developed some quality relationships,’’ she emphasized.
Now, the time has arrived for both girls and for Holliston’s squad to battle in the playoffs. As Panaggio says: “We’ll see teams that we have no idea about. But, many of the players, especially the seniors, have tourney experience and we’ll know what to expect.’’
Melanie Colman and Alex Panaggio have been outstanding competitors and they’re solid representatives of what makes the Holliston girls soccer team an exceptional group.