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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.

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 mwilkinson@gazettenet.com.

First team

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

Second team

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

Honorable mention

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

I've watched this girl play since freshman year - this is well deserved.

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