English girls soccer receives MIAA sportsmanship award

The English girls soccer team receives the MIAA Sportmanship Award Tuesday night at Manning Field in the middle of a state semifinal doubleheader. Presenting the team and coach Ed McNeil with the award was MIAA North Soccer Director Jeff Newhall, far left, MIAA assistant director Phil Vaccaro, far right, English principal Thomas Strangie, third from right, and English athletic director Dick Newton, second from right. (Katie Morrison)

LYNN — We’ve all heard that old cliche, it’s not if you win or lose, it’s how you play the game.

The Lynn English girls soccer team took that creed to heart this season, and its efforts were rewarded Tuesday evening as it received the MIAA Sportsmanship Award, presented in between two girls state semifinal games being played at Manning Field.

It was the first time coach Ed McNeil and company received the award. The team was nominated by a referee who was impressed with how the players handled themselves.

“It’s an honor to these girls who play hard and are very competitive, but don’t ever argue about anything and just play the game the right way,” McNeil said. “They’re great student-athletes. We have a number of girls who are in the National Honor Society. They’re just nice, nice kids. It’s an honor not just for Lynn English, but for them, their parents, and the city of Lynn. It shows we have a lot of good kids in the city. “

The Bulldogs finished with four wins this season, missing the tournament. But it was a competitive season for English, with the team in just about every game. However, the team’s record didn’t make a difference when it came to how the girls acted on and off the field.

“We can get on a bus at the end of a game, and the bus driver won’t know if we won or lost,” McNeil said. “We have the music playing, we bring snacks on the bus…it’s the way it should be. They’re student-athletes and just good kids. There’s no in-fighting during the season, everyone gets along, it’s great.”

McNeil set the tone at the top in his 13th season at the helm of the program.

“He’s a great role model for the girls all the time,” English athletic director Dick Newton said. “He’s been doing this for years, and (English principal) Mr. (Thomas) Strangie and I both think Ed does a great job. The girls are a great group, all nice girls, some Honor Roll students. It’s a great thing for the school.”

McNeil also had a group of five captains, Sydney Denham, Grace Gately, Alexa Zayas, Tora Ueland and Tommi Hill, to help keep the vibe positive around the team.

“I had three captains elected by the girls, Grace Gately, Sydney Denham and Alexa Zayas,” McNeil said. “Three or four games into the season, Tora Ueland and Tommi Hill, they were just perfect role models for captains, so I approached the other three and they loved the idea. There’s no resentment, they get along great. They set the tone, they’re five wonderful kids. Great kids on and off the field.”

The award, presented in front of packed stands after Archbishop Williams’ nail-biter of a win over Newburyport in the Division 3 girls soccer state semifinal, holds a special place for McNeil and his squad.

“I just love this team. It’s the first time we’ve won this, but I think we could have won it a lot of years. They’re very special kids, and I’m just so pleased to coach them, it’s so much fun,” McNeil said. “I’m the oldest coach in the league by a mile, but I enjoy it more and more. I hate when the season ends. I’m very lucky.”

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