Girls’ Varsity Soccer suffers loss at game dedicated to former coach Jeff Haight

Srinithi Raj and Anushka Patil

On Saturday, September 28, Girls’ Varsity Soccer dedicated its game to former varsity coach Jeff Haight, and was ultimately defeated 2-1 by Newton South.

Haight passed away in August, after having coached the girls’ varsity soccer team for 34 years. He is considered to be the “founding father of the Girls’ Soccer Program at WA,” by Head Coach Kathryn Andjus. 

Prior to the game, WABC director Mark Miller delivered a speech written by Coach Andjus about how Haight had impacted not only the girls’ soccer teams but the sports community in general.

“[Haight] is largely responsible for the family culture and success of the program to this day. Many of the traditions he began 35 years ago remain mainstays every season. Coach Haight coached with passion and lead by example with his dedication and commitment to his players […] He taught his players to train hard, compete with class, and achieve their goals while at the same time having fun,” Miller said.

Miller then presented flowers to Haight’s wife, and the audience stood in a moment of silence as the varsity soccer team released balloons to honor their former coach. 

Soon after, the much-awaited game ensued: the bleachers were nearly full, and crowds of exhilarated spectators filed onto the field to witness the game.

The Grey Ghosts dominated early in the game. Senior Isabella Hillman headed the ball into the net within the first ten minutes of the game, scoring the first goal of the evening.

But after the initial goal, WA missed some chances at scoring, prevented further by Newton South’s strong defense. Sophomore Carly Davey, and juniors Dominique Paglia and Ava Coulliard created many of these chances, with their interceptions and forward drives.

“I thought that Domique Paglia worked really hard in midfield, and Ava was strong in the back — she was aggressive in a good way, and they were some standouts” Coach Andjus said.

During the second portion of the first half, NS stepped up its offensive play. The team’s breakthrough came when a small group of players surrounded the net and constantly tried scoring, securing a goal at the end.

Following a similar method, Davey and sophomore Grace Carroll worked together to try to score at the end of the first half, but the NS keeper managed to block the pair’s attempt.

“We could have passed the ball more […] As a team, more communication could have helped, and personally, I could have been more aggressive winning the ball and more relaxed while having the ball,” co-captain Isabella Hillman said.

At the end of the first half, the score was tied at 1-1.

During halftime, some parent volunteers collected money to donate to the Jeff Haight scholarship foundation; started by Coach Andjus, the foundation helps to fund WA soccer students pay for college tuition. Students also sold t-shirts on the sidelines to raise money for the cause.

After half-time, both teams and the audience were reinvigorated for the second half of the game.

WA tried to bolster its defense. NS came close to scoring twice in the first portion of the second half, which were all saved by Barnard-Pratt. The Ghosts also prevented NS from scoring with their use of corner kicks as a defensive play.

Barnard-Pratt, however, felt as though the team needed to work on more defensive tactics for future games.

“We definitely need to work on defense-related things and passes, because we were mostly just kicking the ball down the field, and [NS] got through us a bunch of times between passes,”  Barnard-Pratt said.

One of NS’s players was chided by the referee for a “dangerous action,”. The player was spared with a warning, yet, another NS player committed a similar foul and was given a yellow card about five minutes after the first incident.

With only ten minutes left, NS managed to score another goal and pull in the lead. Unable to gain more points in the remaining time, WA was ultimately defeated 2-1, their first loss in eleven games.

“It was a physical and intense game. The questionable no-call on their second victory after [the “dangerous foul incident”] led to their victory,” spectator David Barnard said.

“I think that we’ve been playing really well all season but it definitely wasn’t one of our best performances [..] It was a tough one, especially since we were honoring Mr.Haight, but I think the girls still worked really hard even though we didn’t play to our top potential,” Coach Andjus said.

Despite the loss, the girls have already qualified for the MIA Championships, and will face Chelmsford next Saturday at 4 P.M.