She’s a ‘Wall’ on defense for an undefeated team


WESTFORD — Katherine Arnold has never experienced the adulation that comes with being a frequent goal scorer.

For as long as she can remember, her time on a soccer field has been spent as a defender — a selfless position that requires skill, intelligence and dependability. The duties performed by a back — clearing the ball out of potentially dangerous situations, making smart passes, seeing the field and making sure opposing players are marked — don’t necessarily attract the attention of the common viewer.

But if you ask Westford Academy head coach Tracy Capone about Arnold, a senior four-year starter at center-back, she’ll tell you the Grey Ghosts certainly would not be the owners of an 8-0-1 record this fall without the services of Arnold, whom teammates commonly refer to as “The Wall.”

“She goes unrecognized, but she’s been the backbone of the defense for four years,” said Capone.

“She’s like the general out there, but she does it in such a nice way. She doesn’t get on people, she’ll just say ‘hey, your mark is open’ or ‘swing’ or ‘shift’ and they’ll all follow her direction. She’s a very smart player, she’s a smart kid. She keeps the girls motivated and together and tight. She is the leader of the team.

“Last year she was voted by coaches as one of the top 10 players in the Dual County League, which as a defender is pretty hard to do.”

Yes, coaches, teammates and opponents are quite familiar with just how valuable Arnold is to Westford. She is a major reason that WA has climbed to the top of the talent-rich DCL and already had six shutouts on the season entering Saturday night’s clash with rival Acton-Boxboro (the only team to tie Westford).

Arnold is a two-year captain, and was named team MVP, a DCL All-Star, a Sun All-Star and a Second Team Eastern Mass. All-Star as a junior.

“I embrace what I do,” said Arnold, who carries a 3.8 grade point average in the classroom. “What comes with a lot of attention is also a lot of pressure. I’m not saying that I don’t have any pressure, but it’s kind of nice to be more of an unsung hero. When people do notice you, it’s nice.”

Arnold, who is also an avid skier, truly is a coach’s dream. She’s humble, consistent, an exemplary practice player and well-respected by her peers.

“She’s able to find that fine balance between being fiercely competitive, while at the same time demonstrating sportsmanship towards opponents, referees, coaches and teammates,” said Capone. “She’s a fantastic role model on and off the field. Always has a positive attitude and very supportive and encouraging of her teammates.”

Coming off a 9-6-2 campaign last year, in which Westford lost to A-B in penalty kicks in the Division 1 North first round, Arnold and her fellow seniors decided they wanted to make this season as successful as they possibly could.

Arnold said one of the keys to making that happen was the ability to fill the leadership hole left by Rose Awada, a midfielder who graduated last spring. Arnold took on much of that responsibility herself, both by being vocal and by the example she sets.

“My role is just stepping up to the ball and always putting an effort towards anything,” said Arnold. “Even if I make a mistake, I always try to recover, and I think that allows people to see that even if I make a mistake, it’s not a problem.”

With Arnold and goalie Emma O’Sullivan anchoring the defense, and numerous capable scorers, this fall has the makings to be a special season for the Grey Ghosts. They are in prime position to capture the DCL Large title and parlay that into a deep postseason run.

It would be a fitting conclusion to Arnold’s stellar four-year career.