Increase in women coaching soccer giving girls strong role models to follow – The Boston Globe

When Lisa Rasanen reflects on her own high school playing career at North Andover, the only female coach she can remember encountering is Wilmington’s Sue Hendee, who is currently in her 33rd year with Wildcat girls’ program. At the time, every other girls’ soccer coach in the area was male.
A three-sport athlete at North Andover, Rasanen, graduated in 1996, and after playing four years at Merrimack, returned to town as the junior varsity coach in 2001. Like many female coaches in the area, she returned with the goal of becoming a role model for the younger generation.
“It’s a positive experience for both the coaches and for players,” Rasanen said. “And I think that’s one of the biggest draws right now, especially in the [Merrimack Valley Conference] … I think that has been an important transition.”
June 23, 2022 will mark the 50th anniversary of Title IX, and though the landmark decision never explicitly mentioned its role in high school athletics, it opened the door for women to enter high school athletics in exponential numbers.
Still, as a player more than 20 years after Title IX’s enactment, Rasanen and countless other high school players didn’t have female coaches to look up to. Fast forward 30 years and the case could not be more different.
“That’s brought a lot of us back, you know, giving kids an experience we did not have as players,” Rasanen said.
She’s far from alone, as even in the MVC, the majority of current head coaches are women. Many of them also hail from EMass, including Meghan Matson (Andover), Krystyna Callagy (Haverhill), and Jami Hayden (Central Catholic).
Jodi Klein, the interim coach at Franklin, took a similar path. After veteran coach Tom Geyson (36 years) was involved in an accident last spring Klein, formerly the JV coach, stepped in.

“I had a goal of trying to put together an all-female coaching staff for this program, and I was able to do that,” Klein said. “I really like our athletes to have female role models who were college players and club players and played at a high level.”
Though Klein isn’t a graduate of Franklin, the Framingham product returned to EMass 10 years after graduating from Stony Brook University. After having kids, her main motivation was to be closer to family, but an initially unintended consequence of the move is a greater female presence on the Franklin coaching staff.
“The coaches and the players have really good relationships, and I was really happy that I was able to do that,” Klein said.
Devon McKay, North Quincy’s second-year coach, had the opposite experience, however. Her male coaches growing up pushed her to work harder, which is an attitude she has folded into her coaching philosophy.
“Sometimes I do think there’s a difference between having a male coach and having a female coach, but I think I want to change that,” McKay said. “I want to make sure that female coaches, not just myself but other female coaches, can feel that they can give just as much as a male coach can.”
After graduating from North Quincy in 2010 and playing four years at the University of Southern Maine, McKay moved around for a few years before settling back in Eastern Mass. as an assistant coach at Curry College and Bristol Community College.
Though providing a female voice on the coaching staff isn’t as central an aspect of her philosophy as Klein and Rasanen’s, her position as a role model for her players is no less important.
“Every day is another day to get better, and I think that’s kind of the mentality and our philosophy right now. “Especially in the girls’ program, every day there’s an improvement.”
Differing coaching philosophies aside, each female coach returning to her EMass roots provides players with an experience that wouldn’t have been possible 50 — or even perhaps 30 — years ago. “It was all dads and men, and that wasn’t necessarily a terrible thing,” Rasanen said. “But I think it’s another positive trend that we’re seeing.”
Rob Sprague and his sixth-ranked Brookline team have found a common denominator for winning games: score one goal and then defend.
The Warriors (6-0) have netted the go-ahead goal in the second half four times, using their level of fitness and defensive-oriented tactics to frustrate opponents. Once they take the lead, everything changes.
“Once we get a one-goal lead, we know how to lock it down,” Spraguesaid. “We have had more than enough practice in that situation. We’re really good at it at this point.”
With the lead, the Warriors shift a forward back and make personnel changes, giving more time to defensively-oriented players. Center backs Cece Wager (junior) and Sydney Freese (freshman), teaming up with outside backs Zoey Fagnan (senior captain) and Maddie Moore (junior) have stifled opponents, not allowing a goal this season.
“There is a certain degree of enjoyment in locking up opponents,” Sprague said. “We look forward to being in that situation. Once we get the lead, we aren’t giving it up.”
▪ Danvers senior midfielder Arianna Bezanson collected her 100th career point after scoring seven minutes into a Northeastern Conference match against Winthrop. Two games later, the Colgate commit scored the lone goal in a 1-0 win for the third-ranked Falcons (7-0-1) against Swampscott. After racking up 28 points (22 goals, six assists) in 11 games last season, Bezanson has scored nine goals this season.
▪ Newton South coach Doug McCarthy had the less-than-enviable task of replacing his entire backline, including goalie Olivia Dubin, now starting at Holy Cross. The new back-four have suffocated the opposition, as the eighth-ranked Tigers (6-0-2) have allowed only six goals.
“They’ve gained experience under fire,” McCarthy said. “They haven’t been surrendering goals and they have great communication. They have been awesome.”
Sophomore Mandy Cosgrove is the new starter in goal. Sophomores Nadia Mustafa and Hailey Smith occupy the center-back positions. The two have exemplified exceptional maturity as the last line of defense, despite being underclassmen.
Junior Amelia Everett, the reigning state mile champion in outdoor track & field who ran at Outdoor Nationals in Eugene, Ore., starts at outside back. Speedy senior Tess Ertel, a former wing who also played striker, transitioned to outside-back due to her experience and well-rounded skill set.
“No one is beating us with speed on the outside, I can tell you that,” said McCarthy.
Thursday, No. 19 Oliver Ames at No. 16 Foxborough, 4 p.m. –– The top two teams in the Hockomock League Davenport Division collide for the first time this season.
Thursday, No. 15 Nauset at Bridgewater-Raynham, 5 p.m. –– Nauset (7-0) put its undefeated record to the test in its first non-league game against a strong Trojans squad.
Friday, No. 13 Bishop Fenwick at No. 1 Bishop Feehan, 4 p.m. –– Bishop Fenwick travels to face Catholic Central League rival Bishop Feehan, which has scored 48 goals and conceded just one.
Monday, No. 19 Oliver Ames at No. 4 King Philip, 4 p.m. –– The Tigers battle both of the other ranked Hockomock League teams this week, traveling to Wrentham to take on the Warriors.
Tuesday, Concord-Carlisle at No. 17 Acton-Boxborough, 4 p.m. –– Two teams at the top of the Dual County League Large Division meet for the first time.
Correspondent Cam Kerry also contributed to this story.
Emma Healy can be reached at
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