Wladkowski Wants Back-To-Back
By Christopher Tremblay
Last year, for the first time in 11 years, the Norwood girls’ soccer team qualified for the Division 2 Tournament; junior Mustang goalie, Trisha Wladkowski, doesn’t want the school to have to wait another decade before they once again venture into the post-season.
“We just squeezed into the tournament last fall,” the junior keeper said. “I feel that the new ranking system is beneficial for our team as we play a very difficult regular season schedule. I want to help this team get back and improve upon last year’s performance.”
Last fall, after qualifying for the Division 2 State Championship, Norwood, the number 32 seed, fell to Billerica on 1-0 on penalty kicks. Although the loss was not Wladkowski’s fault, she wants to improve while guiding the team further this year.
“Going to penalty kicks was really a tough situation and I took it hard that we lost the game as the team was depending on me,” Wladksowski said. “It was terrifying and I would never want to do that again. Eleven years to get to the tournament and we lost. Originally I felt terrible that I let the team down, but my teammates were supportive and uplifting. They told me that they wouldn’t want anyone else in the net.”
Norwood Coach Kim Brinklow doesn’t bat an eye when asked about her goalie in the penalty kick situation.
“Penalty kicks are designed for shooters to score, it’s tough on the goalie,” the Mustang coach said. “She should learn from this, although it was definitely not her fault that we lost. The good news is that she has experienced this and it’s now in her back pocket if the situation ever arises again.”
The now Norwood junior has been kicking the soccer ball around as long as she can remember as Norwood Youth Soccer is a big event in town. A lot of her friends were playing soccer in the fall for fun, and they got her to start playing with them at the striker position, but it didn’t last all that long.
“I think it was around fourth or fifth grade when I got moved out of the striker position,” Wladksowski said. “Honestly, I think that I got stuck in goal, although I had never played the position before, was because I was the biggest on the team. Goalie was a change of pace and I’ve grown to love the position; I really don’t care where I’m playing as long as I’m playing.”
Prior to entering high school, Wladkowski just played Norwood Youth and Travel Soccer, she never joined a club team. However, once she made the varsity team, Coach Brinklow would have different coaches come in to help her keeper. Wladkowski would also take part in clinics to gain the knowledge of the position that she lacked at the young age.
After making the varsity team, following a grueling and nerve-racking tryout, the incoming freshman was hit with a bombshell – Covid 19. That year went from the highest emotion to making the team to the lowest with the pandemic. Instead of playing 18 regular season games, the Mustangs were forced to play only 10 games on the weekends, a home and away series against the same team, all the time while wearing face masks as required by the CDC.
“It was not the season that I was hoping to experience in my first year of high school soccer,” Wladkowski said. “Luckily, we had a close-knit team and made the best of it while doing what we could to get through it.”
After playing an abbreviated season with no possibility for tournament play, no one knew what was going to become of last year. According to Wladkowski, she remembers being all nervous as the season got closer as they really didn’t know what was going to happen. They were all hoping that they would have a regular season. Eventually, the MIAA announced there would be a season much like the ones they had been used to in the past and when the CDC announced masks did not have to been worn while outside, the girls were elated.
Making the trip to the playoffs for the first time in over a decade, Brinklow knew that her goalie was one of the main reasons the Mustangs did so.
Trisha was pivotal in our success last year,” Brinklow said. “She’s a natural in net and also plays basketball so she doesn’t give up a lot of rebounds. She has also worked hard on her punting and kicking.”
Coming into this, her junior campaign, Wladkowski knows that the squad lost a lot of senior leadership from last year’s team, but she remains optimistic about this year’s performance with the talented freshman coming out in addition to the junior varsity players that will be moving up.
When it comes to All-Star recognition, the junior doesn’t really mind if she’s named to the team or not; the status is nothing that she craves. When high school is over in two years, she also believes that her career as a soccer goalie will come to an end.
“When I graduate from high school, my soccer career is most likely done, but who knows what is going to happen over the next two years,” she said. “I do want to play basketball in college though, especially after the season we had last year [Norwood went undefeated and eventually lost in the State Championship game]. Last year was insane and something of a lifetime – it was awesome!”
Coach Brinklow noted that she would love to give Wladkowski a chance to get out of her net and once again play in the field.
“I’ve told her that if we were up three goals I’d let her play the field,” the Norwood Coach said. “During her summer league, her coach let her do just that and she actually scored a goal. When that happened, I thought to myself, I am never getting her back in the goal now that she has had a taste of playing the field and scoring.”
While Brinklow may be worried about her keeper wanting to play the field, Wladkowski plans on keeping herself planted between the pipes as the Mustangs make a magnificent run through the regular season and into the playoffs.