Team Chemistry Big Key for More Millis Success in Girls Soccer

Ken Hamwey, Staff Sports Writer
Millis girls’ soccer coach Steve Bailen might have a slightly different team from the one that won the Division 4 State Championship last year, but his approach to create camaraderie and build on strength will remain the same.
Issue Date: 
September, 2018
Article Body: 

Coach Steve Bailen and the Millis High girls’ soccer team know they’ll get their opponents’ best effort every time they step onto a soccer field this season. They’ll be targeted, because that’s what usually happens after winning a state championship.
Last year, the Mohawks posted a regular-season record of 12-2-2, then rolled to the Sectional crown by downing Rising Tide, Cohasset and Coyle-Cassidy. The State Tournament awaited and Millis’ composure took center stage in victories over Amesbury and Millbury. When the dust settled, the Mohawks ended the 2017 campaign with a 17-2-2 record and the Division 4 State championship.
“It was special,’’ Bailen said, reflecting on the title run. “We had great team chemistry and spirit. We worked hard at practice, we valued our learning experiences, we adjusted, and we responded.’’
As a new season approaches, Bailen isn’t talking about repeats or what’s needed to win another crown. He’s relying on a basic, consistent approach.
“Winning a State title was a goal for the team, the school and the town,’’ he said. “For me, all I wanted was to create a fantastic environment for the players and for them to be enriched by learning experiences. It all led to a State championship. We won’t be changing our approach. The goals are to build team chemistry and that means building trust. And, we’ll strive to improve daily.’’
In pre-season practices, the theme was to get into soccer shape and to bond, trust and respect each other. In spite of losing nine seniors to graduation, Bailen has 13 returnees and, along with some newcomers, the Mohawks have a number of specific strengths.
“The returnees and the new players have positive attitudes, and they’re very coachable,’’ Bailen noted. “We’re experienced and we’ve got players with high soccer IQs while others are still developing in that area. Our defense looks solid, and although we’re deep in some spots, my primary concern is that we need to improve our overall depth.’’
The 54-year-old Bailen doesn’t have any worries when his senior captains are in the conversation. Ciara Moynihan (defender), Jess Krauss (midfield/striker) and Riley Donovan (defender) are top-notch leaders. “They lead by example, and they’re good mentors for our younger players,’’ he said.
Bailen also likes what each captain brings to the table. “Ciara is skilled, mentally tough, physical and instinctive on defense,’’ he noted. “Jess has good speed and skills, her ball-control is excellent, and she’s got a high soccer IQ. Riley has terrific field awareness, she’s a fine communicator, and she’s an effective read-and-react defender. She’s also tuned in to any concerns her teammates have.’’
Two other experienced seniors will be key contributors. Cheyenne Whelan will play either striker or be in the midfield and Brooke Moriarty will be a midfielder.
“Cheyenne is physical, hustles constantly, is coachable and has speed,’’ Bailen said. “Brooke’s field awareness is a plus, and she’s a hard-worker who’s coachable and physical.’’
Three juniors will be highly visible in major roles. They include Caileen Adams in goal, Erin Mundy in midfield and Alexi Vaillencourt on defense. “Caileen is a tough competitor,’’ Bailen said. “She’s really developed into a capable goaltender. She’s instinctive, a fine athlete and her footwork and speed are very good. Erin has speed, skills, an accurate shot and she’s solid in transition. Alexi, who scored the game-winning goal in the State semifinal against Amesbury, has all-around skills. She steps up in transition and her shot is accurate.’’
Another junior, midfielder Sydney Bailen, unfortunately will be sidelined for her second straight year because of a torn ACL. Sydney, however, will be the team manager and will lend lots of support, especially working with younger prospects and assisting in drills.
Three sophomores — midfielder Grace Jewett, defender Bethany Steiner and midfielder Jordyn Ferrantino — will be counted on after displaying composure as freshmen last year.
“Grace gets good touches on the ball,’’ Bailen said. “She’s got speed, and she’s a good shooter. Bethany is solid overall, has an accurate shot, her speed is fantastic and she’s got composure. Jordyn handles the ball effectively, has a high soccer IQ, good field awareness, and she shoots accurately.’’
Now in his fourth year as the girls’ coach after spending five campaigns as Millis’ boys varsity coach, Bailen is delighted with his staff of assistants who’ll be laboring again at the jayvee, freshman and middle-school levels and also the support from his athletic director.
Millis will open its season at Bellingham on Sept. 5, and it’ll be obvious that Bailen’s prime objective that day will be to see his Mohawks’ desire and dedication dominate. Those ingredients are the keys to team chemistry, and Steve Bailen is acutely aware that State championships are won when team chemistry is developed and sustained.