Bay State Games: South Hadley, Hampshire Regional soccer players representing both West and Central squads (PHOTOS)

By KYLE GRABOWSKI

Staff Writer

Published: 07-07-2023 7:33 PM

FITCHBURG – The orange befits Rachel Yabra and her South Hadley teammate Kiana Ramos. The “Central” emblazoned on their back looks out of place on the pair’s Bay State Games girls soccer jerseys, especially when four fellow Tigers play in red for the West team: Lauren Marjanski, Jordyn Balint, Gwen Marion and Allison Fleury.

“They are key parts of the South Hadley team, obviously, so it has been weird playing without them. But I think it gives us kind of a different perspective, and we learn how to like play against each other, even though we have been playing with each other,” Yabra said, “It just gives us a different view on playing with each other.”

The talent dispersion also divided Hampshire Regional teammates. Maisie Bowler represents the West, while Jenessy Espada and Rylee Joseph are on the Central roster.

“It makes it kind of hard because you want to compete as hard as you can against them, but they're also your friends,” Bowler said. “It makes it a little more challenging, but it's also kind of fun.”

The Bay State Games have struggled to attract enough players to fill out a full Central girls soccer roster, and so many West players try out that the organization just filled both teams largely with players from western Massachusetts. There’s only one player who actually lives in central Mass. on the Central squad, Sutton rising freshman Madeline Dempsey. Belchertown’s Avery Cooper and Granby’s Brianna Moreno and Kalli White also made the team.

Despite mostly playing in western Mass., many of the Central players didn’t know each other before tryouts but bonded quickly.

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“It's kind of weird, but I just love playing with my friends no matter what,” Joseph said. “It's just a showcase. I get to go out and show my skills. I didn't know a lot of people are first but after like one or two practices became like a family,”

Both teams sit at 2-1 through two days of competition at Game On in Fitchburg. The West squad blew the doors off Northeast 9-1 on Thursday and housed Metro 11-2 on Friday morning before Southeast scored a late header to knock them off 2-1 Friday afternoon.

Central opened with a 6-0 win over Metro on Thursday then shut out Northeast 2-0 on Friday. Coastal defeated Central 2-0 to close Friday.

Both teams are tied at second in the standings with four points behind Coastal (3-0-1), which has seven points but has played an extra game. The West has the best goal differential in the tournament at plus-16.

They each play two games Saturday, including a 12:30 p.m. showdown that might determine who plays for gold Sunday. The top two teams in the table will face off for the championship at noon Sunday, while No. 3 and No. 4 will meet for the bronze at 10 a.m.

“I think it's gonna be competitive. I think it's gonna be high energy and whatever the outcome, we're gonna come back during the season and just play together again [at South Hadley],” Yabra said.

Kyle Grabowski can be reached at kgrabowski@gazettenet.com. Follow him on Twitter @kylegrbwsk.]]>