Girls Soccer Player of the Year: Natalie Caney of Belchertown
Natalie Caney has been named the Daily Hampshire Gazette Girls Soccer Player of the Year for her combination of offensive production and leadership qualities for Belchertown. Purchase photo reprints »
With the overwhelming abundance of talent on the 2012 Belchertown girls soccer team, it’s difficult to pinpoint one specific player for individual accolades.
But even the most physically gifted teams need leaders to pull everyone together. The combination of offensive production and leadership qualities makes forward Natalie Caney the choice as the Daily Hampshire Gazette Girls Soccer Player of the Year.
The senior co-captain was one of four Orioles to be named to the Division 2 All-State team, along with twin junior midfielders Breanne and Brittany Moreau as well as junior forward Jackie Soucia. Caney also earned all-region honors for the first time.
“All four of us are really good players and we all enjoyed great seasons,” Caney said. “No matter who won it, we’d all be happy for that person. I feel honored to be chosen (as Player of the Year), to be rewarded for working hard. I was very excited to get all-New England because I’d never been recognized on such a level before. Breanne got it too, and it’s a tremendous honor for both of us.”
Belchertown (20-1-2) completed an undefeated regular season, then won its third consecutive Western Massachusetts Division 2 championship and reached its first state final since 2004. Through the state semifinal round, the Orioles outscored their playoff opponents 21-1 before losing the state championship to Medfield 2-1.
“It’s amazing how far we went, especially looking back on the early parts of the season, the way we clicked as a team right away,” Caney said. “I’ll never forget anything about my last season. It was great to play with the girls.”
Throughout all the team’s success during her four-year varsity career, Caney’s senior season was different in one important aspect — she was voted a captain by her teammates along with fellow senior Abbey Norden.
“I looked forward to that opportunity since I was a freshman,” said Caney. “In games where we weren’t playing well and the others were getting down, I would say something positive to get everyone’s spirits back into the game.”
Throughout the season, coach Chris Mogavero noted Caney’s work ethic and overall example during practice and games.
“She grew as a player this year and also grew as a person, maturing on and off the field,” he said. “Her leadership qualities certainly shined through this season. She was always a fast player and a skilled player, but her mental and physical toughness as well as her confidence level all increased.”
Certainly a notable aspect of Caney’s senior year is the explosion in productivity. After leading Belchertown with 13 goals in 2011, she scored 22 times in 2012. She also had 19 assists, the most of any player in western Massachusetts.
“Everyone wants to score, but I love setting other players up,” she said. “If I don’t have a good shot, why wouldn’t I pass it off to someone else with a better opportunity? I’m proud of the fact that my numbers went up, because it shows how I improved as a player.”
She also displayed a remarkable consistency throughout the campaign, notching at least one point in 19 of 23 games and scoring a goal in four of five playoff contests.
“Her freshman and sophomore years, we had other scoring options,” Mogavero said. “But those players didn’t finish as well as the players we had this season. So she picked up extra assists this season that she didn’t in previous seasons. The whole team around her helped the numbers. Her maturing and becoming more unselfish helped her assist numbers. And she always knew how to score goals.”
The Orioles scored 114 goals as a team, more than double their output of a year ago.
“We had four dynamic options in the attack,” Mogavero said. “That opens up the field for everyone. Natalie got much stronger on the ball as she got older. Her first couple seasons, at times she could be intimidated. With her speed and one-on-one ability on the outside, it creates space, and our defense did a great job pushing the ball up and creating additional opportunities.”
While natural abilities earned Caney a spot on the varsity since her freshman year, it was the mental aspects that allowed her to thrive.
“I doubted myself a lot the first few years, but as I got more experience my confidence grew more and more,” she said. “I saw that I could make plays on the field so I went for it, I tooke more risks.”
When asked about Caney’s place among forwards he’s coached in 13 years at Belchertown, Mogavero said she’s easily in the top three.
“It makes me happy he said that, it means a lot,” Caney said. “Coach helped me develop my game so much. I improved in terms of moving without the ball, creating space for other players and also taking defenders one-on-one.”
Caney hasn’t decided on a college, but her top choice is the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts. She’s also consdering Westfield State and American International.
But no matter where she continues her soccer career, it will be difficult to match her high school experience.
“The word I always come back to is fun,” she said. “We had such a diverse group of players, which made it really enjoyable to see all our individual games gel into a team effort. It’s an honor to have played with such a talented group of girls.”
Michael Wilkinson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Natalie Caney, senior, Belchertown
Gillian Cassidy-Payson, senior, Holyoke Catholic
Rachel Connell, senior, Easthampton
Claire Douglass, senior, Easthampton
Brooke Fairman, senior, Gateway Regional
Ali Fitzgerald, senior, Smith Academy
Alyssa Fugiel, sophomore, Easthampton
Nicole Gay, senior, Smith Academy
Katie Klejna, junior, Holyoke Catholic
Sarah Kober, senior, Hampshire Regional
Brooke Labrie, senior, Granby
Charlotte Maurer, sophomore, Northampton
Noelle Menard, senior, Granby
Rachel Mick, senior, Granby
Breanne Moreau, junior, Belchertown
Brittany Moreau, junior, Belchertown
Amanda Olson, senior, Hopkins Academy
Kendall Rooney, junior, Gateway Regional
Cassidy Snyder, junior, Smith Academy
Jackie Soucia, junior, Belchertown
Leah Tompkins, senior, Northampton
Alex White, senior, Granby
Angela Zhu, senior, Amherst Regional
Becca Aubrey, senior, Easthampton
Kiley Baran, junior, Granby
Camilla Baronas, sophomore, Frontier Regional
Susan Bell, senior, Northampton
Emma Biggs, senior, Amherst
Erin Bishop, junior, Hampshire Regional
Rebecca Carkhuff, junior, Amherst Regional
Jillian Cavanaugh, junior, Belchertown
Danielle Easton, sophomore, Holyoke Catholic
Mia Ellis, freshman, Smith Academy
Kate Gingras, senior, Holyoke Catholic
Meghan Ginley, junior, South Hadley
Olivia Hanson, sophomore, Smith Academy
Katie Keegan, senior, Hopkins Academy
Maya Kerstetter, junior, Northampton
Molly King, senior, Northampton
Sami King, junior, Gateway Regional
Jillian Lund, senior, Belchertown
Kyra Michalak, junior, Hopkins Academy
Syry Mitchell, senior, Amherst Regional
Michaela Momot, senior, Hopkins Academy
Alyssa Moreau, freshman, Gateway Regional
Michelle Nardi, junior, Hampshire Regional
Abbey Norden, senior, Belchertown
Alexis Ouellette, junior, Granby
Jamie Pease, senior, Gateway Regional
Marissa Pellegrino. senior, Northampton
Lucy Salwen, senior, Amherst Regional
Jen Szafir, sophomore, Easthampton
Brianna Weltlich, junior, Hampshire Regional
Lauren Aldrich, sophomore, Hampshire Regional
Tara Bainbridge, sophomore, South Hadley
Molly Cabana, senior, Easthampton
Liz Cavanaugh, junior, Holyoke Catholic
Mary Cook, sophomore, Hopkins Academy
Christina Delude, junior, Belchertown
Chelsi Derrig, junior, Gateway Regional
Brett Flaherty, senior, South Hadley
Tess Gauthier, senior, South Hadley
Anna Gelotte, senior, Smith Academy
Rachel Harrington, junior, South Hadley
Brittany Hauschild, junior, Granby
Sarah LaClair, junior, Belchertown
Sage Loomis, junior, Northampton
Lauren McGrath, junior, Northampton
Tara Mikalchus, junior, Granby
Lexi Neffinger, junior, Holyoke Catholic
Emily Silva, senior, Belchertown
Sarah Grace Spurgin, senior, Amherst Regional
Téa Spellacy, sophomore, Belchertown
Kate Sullivan, sophomore, Hopkins Academy
Bryanna Veroneau, junior, Belchertown
Kory Wagner, senior, Smith Academy
Jessie Walton, sophomore, Gateway Regional
McKenzie Wilson, sophomore, Smith Academy
Katherine Zombik, senior, Holyoke Catholic