High School Notebook: Winters sisters help turn Hillsboro-Deering girls’ soccer team into a threat
Building team chemistry is a top goal for any high school coach. Hillsboro-Deering girls’ soccer Coach Susan Else has that part of the job easier than most.
Morgan Winters will bring the ball up. She’ll find Madisyn Winters, who’ll take it into the offensive zone. She’ll pass it to Bridgette Winters, who has the natural finishing touch.
They’re three sisters, spanning across all grades and covering a variety of skill sets. And they’re a big reason why the Hillcats, at 7-5-1, are eyeing a Division III tournament run one year after struggling through a 6-10-1 campaign.
“Oh, (they’re) critical,” Else said. “They help make the team cohesive. They bring a sense of trust, as far as them already trusting each other, so I think it keeps the rest of the team together and trusting. If the team doesn’t trust each other to pass the ball, then you don’t have a team.”
Their fit on the field is a natural and easy one. Morgan, a senior and team captain, is the center midfielder with the vision to see the play unfold, honed by time originally spent playing stopper. Madisyn, a sophomore logging significant minutes for the first time, is the left or right midfielder, more comfortable playing down the side with a knack for controlling the ball. And Bridgette, a freshman, is the talented striker, with speed and a nose for the goal.
“We usually know where to pass, where to go, and anticipate what we’re going to do next,” Morgan said. “We know how we play.”
It’s not a three-player show, however. Else stressed that the Winters sisters, rather than work only amongst each other, involve the rest of the players and make their teammates better.
“We work together, and it’s not only us,” Madisyn said. “The whole team has pretty good chemistry together.”
Their father, Glenn, has seen to it. He coached each of the sisters in elementary and middle school on Hillsboro Youth Athletic Association teams, and while he helped them develop their roles on the field, he also coached a summer team that the Winters’s Hillcats teammates played on – allowing the team to maintain some cohesion despite losing 12 seniors in the offseason.
“We’ll talk to each other, and pretty much our whole team will,” Madisyn said. “We’ll all tell each other ‘Next time, you can look here,’ or sometimes it’ll be a keeper playing to the right, so we’ll just tell each other to look to the left next time.”
Still, there’s no denying that the sisters are at the heart of the Hillcats attack. One of the players often has a hand in an H-D goal – and sometimes, like in a 3-2 win over Pelham in September, they’ll have a hand in each one. Madisyn assisted on the first goal and Bridgette scored the final two on assists from Morgan, including the overtime winner off of a corner kick.
“They look for each other,” Else said. “They are key players in our offense.”
The addition of Madisyn and Bridgette has had a clear effect on the team, as the added scoring punch has helped the Hillcats transform into a formidable D-III squad.
“I’ll cross it in a lot, and Bridgette knows where I’ve been putting the ball, so she’ll know where to go to get that cross,” Madisyn said. “That happens a lot. … We point to where we want the other person to go.”
The three share communication on the field, but they talk off it, as well, which has helped Bridgette get the team terminology quickly after previously playing only for their father.
“I have a new coach this year and she does things in different ways,” she said. “I was kind of confused at first, but then Morgan talked to me about plays and how it connects with how my dad does stuff. It kind of helped me a lot.”
The NHIAA football committee threw a curveball with the playoffs only a few weeks away. With Division II and III teams not playing common opponents, as the Division I teams do, the committee decided it would be unfair to have the teams ranked in their conferences solely by record.
The solution? The standings will be according to a point rating system. Wins over better teams will be worth more points, and the standings will rank the teams based on the amount of points they have accrued. The two teams in each conference within Divisions II and III that have totaled the most points will play in the conference championship, with the winner advancing to the four-team playoffs.
“Obviously, no system will make everyone happy,” NHIAA Executive Director Patrick Corbin acknowledged, “and that is sure to be the case in this situation.”
Corbin also commented on the level of competition in football’s first season back in a three-division format.
“Preliminary data suggests that to this end, the system has worked fairly well although not perfect by a long shot,” he said. “It is a pilot and certainly the football committee will be reviewing the format after the season has ended.”
Games to watch
∎ The 10-2-2 Concord boys’ soccer team faces 10-4 Pinkerton at SNHU Monday night at 7 in a game that’ll have Division I standing ramifications.
∎ The Belmont girls’ soccer team, currently third in Division III at 11-2-1, faces 9-4-1 White Mountains Friday at 3:30 p.m.
∎ The Belmont (11-3) and Winnisquam (11-2) volleyball teams face each other in their season finales Friday at 6:30 p.m.
(Drew Bonifant can be reached at 369-3340 or firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @dbonifant.)