LYNN — Saturday afternoon’s Lynn English girls soccer alumni game at Manning Field was an event Bulldogs coach Ed McNeil looked forward to, and with good reason. Despite the rainy weather, a group of 22 players, ranging from a 1982 graduate to a pair of current Bulldogs, played in the game.
“They had a great time, they really did,” McNeil said. “We took a couple team pictures at halftime. They had a blast. I think if the weather had been better we would’ve had a few more girls. We started a little late but it went well. This was the sixth one and we’re trying to do it every year.
“I owe a big ‘thank you’ to (Manning/Fraser Field Facilities Manager) Rich Avery,” McNeil said. “He had everything set up for us, the locker rooms, the benches. He’s been great to me.”
McNeil split his 22 players into two teams for an hour of 11-on-11 play. Among those who were on the field Saturday were Megan Forti, Briana Moreno, Grace Gately, Tommi Hill, Sharon Clement, Emma Trahant and Karla Ross. Current players Julianna Perry and Brooke Zahine also played in Saturday’s game.
Fellow coaches Chris Coviello of Saugus and Tim Phelan of Austin Prep were the referees.
“It went very well,” McNeil said. “The girls that were there were very enthusiastic. If the weather was nice we would’ve had 10-15 more girls. Some of them might’ve thought we weren’t playing.”
The two teams were split by age group with the “older girls” claiming a 6-1 victory over the “younger girls.” Goals were scored by Forti and Moreno for the winning side, while Gately scored a goal to help the “younger girls” avoid a shutout.
“It was a well played game. Everyone looked in pretty good shape for the older girls. Sharon Clement, she graduated in 1982 and she played the whole game on defense for the winning team. She played terrific.
“Megan and Briana were two of the best offensive players I’ve ever had,” McNeil said. “If I could do things all over again, I’d probably split them and put them on different teams. We sort of rushed to get the game started and did things quickly.”
Former English player Nikky Kidney also attended the game. Kidney was unable to step out on the field but supported her fellow English alum on the sidelines.
“Nikky’s due to deliver a baby in a few days,” McNeil said. “What a trouper to show up and be there for the entire game. She was a captain for us in the past and it was great that she came down for the game.”
McNeil added that watching a group of his former players come together in the same setting was a special occasion for him. Many of them have done well in their post-English High endeavors and that, McNeil said, is what’s most important.
“The amount of girls that have done well is amazing,” McNeil said. “We have girls in college, college graduates and girls that are working great jobs. That’s what’s most gratifying, really. They’re student-athletes, not just athletes.”
McNeil said he hopes to continue the alumni game in coming years but he’s looking to make a change. Instead of playing a game with two teams of English alumni battling against one another, next year’s edition might be the first where a cross-city rivalry is renewed.
“Next year we’re looking to arrange a game with the Classical girls,” McNeil said. “I’ll reach out to (Classical) coach Mark Ierardi. It’ll be Classical alumni versus English alumni. We think it’ll be great.
“I’d love to play Classical,” McNeil said. “I think we’ll get more girls. I think it’ll be a blast. I’ll reach out to Mark Ierardi and we’ll get the idea moving.”
Up next for McNeil is the start of the upcoming fall season. English begins preseason practices/tryouts Thursday, Aug. 23. McNeil said English will field a junior varsity team this fall, which it hasn’t done in recent seasons. Madison Molea, a teacher at English and daughter of assistant principal Gary Molea, will coach the junior varsity team.
“The season starts the 23rd. Our first practice is at 9 a.m. that day at Manning Field,” McNeil said. “I’m anticipating 35-40 girls trying out, which is good.”