Historic start for Red Raider soccer

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MELROSE—The Melrose Red Raider soccer team is off to their best season in recent memory at 7-1 following back-to-back wins over Burlington and Wilmington last week that have them at the top of the league and currently seeded at #1 in Div. 2 in rankings posted by the MIAA on Monday.

Melrose head coach Dean Serino can’t think of the last time the team had such a strong start to the season. It’s certainly been over a decade, if not longer. That means you’re looking at a special kind of team.

That’s a sentiment coach Serino agrees with. “This is a great team made up of athletes who are improving every day and displaying toughness and hard work,” he says. “We have great senior leaders and really talented underclassmen that mix so well.”

On Monday, Melrose hosted rival Wilmington under the lights at Fred Green Field and came away with a covincing 4-1 win. Melrose senior captain Parker Thorton had two goals and teammates Amir Lahkiky and Jovan Sswbugwawo chipped in with one. Assists were by Sam O’Donnell, Thorton and Ssebugwawo.

“This was a good test for us,” Serino said after the game. “We’re happy to have the entire Freedom League behind us now as we shift to the second half of the season.”

And last Friday’s Soccer Night Melrose was an unqualifying success. The event, coordinated by Melrose Youth Soccer and Melrose’s Jim Donahue, gathered hundreds of players of all ages together to celebrate prior to the start of Melrose’s game against Burlington under the lights at Fred Green Field. A special treat for fans was the team’s 2-1 win over the Red Devils that followed. “It was a special night, and Burlington loved every minute of it too,” says Serino. The best part of this event is seeing our athletes become mentors to younger athletes. It’s what the Melrose soccer family is all about.”

During the game, Melrose took a 1-0 deficit early, despite some near-miss goals by their own attackers. “That was a first for us, to be down early a goal,” says Serino. “But our defense just turned it on, and Parker [Thorton] did the rest. He responds when the chips are down.”

Melrose had a few corner kick opportunities in the first half but didn’t strike until Thorton found the net right before halftime. But the second half was all Melrose, who nearly scored on a tremendous header towards the net by Damian Markovic (fed by Niall Gavin’s corner kick) that was thwarted by Burlington’s goalie. “I thought it was in,” says Serino. Nonethless, Melrose applied tons of pressure on Burlington and maintained posession of the ball for most of the frame until Thorton scored again with 11:05 left in the game. Defense took care of the rest, and Melrose took yet another win, their seventh straight.

It was another commanding performance by Thorton, who has nearly ten goals on the young season. What can be said of this player? At this rate, he’s likely a shoo-in for league MVP.

“Parker is a real unique player,” says Serino. “He leads by example. He has a workman effort with tremendous skill. He’s willing to play anywhere, do anything to help us win. Obviously, his many goals this season are impressive but so are his assists. He’s been this way since freshman year. Now, he’s targetted because the competition knows what he can do out there.”

Melrose’s lights-out defense this season has set the tone. “I thought all four of our backs played well. We took the ball out of their hands in the second half,” says the coach. Those defensive efforts were evident by the play of Matt Whelan, Niles Gavin, Max Farmelant and Damian Markovic. “They might life a little easier for Jay [Vogan] at the net and I thought once again Liam O’Hara just did it all. He’s just a real bright player and his composure is incredible.”

Melrose prepares to launch a tough second half of the season. For starters, Melrose travels to Reading on Friday before hosting Winchester on Monday at noon.

And while competition might increase in the second act of their season, all signs point to a strong playoff season. Melrose is ranked the highest in Div. 2 for a reason.

Says their coach, “Our seniors have been guiding our younger players though this season and together they are just a great group of kids. It’s been awesome so far.”



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