By David Willis
---- — Mae Hunt fancies herself an aggressive player on the pitch.
She has to be. After all, at 5-foot-2 “maybe,” it’s either hold her ground or end up being run over.
And she isn’t about to be pushed around.
“Physically, a lot of the time,I am smaller than every player on the other team,” Hunt said. “Last year against Lincoln-Sudbury, I was defending someone that was about a foot taller than me. Because of that, I have to be aggressive and quick on the field so I can take the ball away.”
That mind-set has been extremely productive for Hunt over the last four seasons.
Now a senior in her third varsity season, the diminutive Hunt has stepped up as one of the top defenders for the Andover High soccer team, which opened its season with a 2-0 victory over North Andover last Saturday.
“She is a hard-working type that has really come on strong for us this season,” Golden Warrior coach Meghan Matson said. “She is small, but she is feisty and physical. She will knock a player on the ground and will attack the ball when she needs to. She brings a lot to the team.”
While she is comfortable taking on larger opponents now, Hunt admits it was rather frightening when she first earned her starting position on the varsity team as a sophomore.
“I would definitely say I was intimidated back then facing bigger players who really knew what they were doing,” she said. “I was only about 5 feet and not nearly as strong. Now I am definitely more confident, and I try to make the game less intimidating to the younger players on my team. I want them to walk on the field and not feel nervous.”
As a senior, Hunt has taken on a crucial role on the field as a sweeper and quarterback of the defense.
“I’m taking on a bigger role than ever,” he said. “It’s really Sarah Van Antwerp and I back there with the underclassmen. We had to step up. I switch between outside defender and sweeper. We are the last line of defense. There is no room for mistakes. I also try to push the ball up and create as much offense as possible.
“The thing is I am actually a quieter person. But when I get on the field, I try to talk a lot more. I have to be loud out there. I am taking on a leadership role on and off the field and trying to set a good example.”
Matson said that Hunt has stepped up in fine fashion.
“She has been a starter for three years, but she has really stepped up on the field and in team meetings,” her coach said. “She has always been a very knowledgeable player, but now I see her directing the team and stepping up, which is exactly what we needed.”
And when all else fails, Matson also knows that Hunt will always be there to settle the situation.
“She understands how the game is meant to be played,” Matson said. “She plays calm even when play is chaotic. She calms us down and gets everyone to play calm around her. She is a student of the game who plays all the time.”
A standout student who is currently enrolled in Advanced Placement English and Latin, Hunt — who is considering playing at a Division 3 college — is unsure exactly where her soccer career will go after high school. So she hopes to make the best of her final high school season.
“At the beginning of every season, we make a list of goals we want to reach every season,” she said. “Last year, there were 50 goals. We want to beat Central Catholic and Westford Academy. Winning the MVC title is also something we always strive for. Then, we want to go as far as we can in states.”
No relation, just friends
Hunt may share a name and athletic success with former Andover High and current Northeastern University baseball pitcher Dustin Hunt and his sister, former Golden Warrior and now Brooks School softball pitcher Cassandra Hunt, but that’s where the connection ends. Mae is not related to the siblings
They are, however, close friends.
2012 record: 9-5-4, lost in Division 1 North preliminaries
Returning starters (8): Emily Van Antwerp, Sr., midfield; Sarah Van Antwerp, Sr., defense; Sophie Draper, Sr., defense; Emily Wilson, Sr., keeper; Mae Hunt, Sr., defense; Courtney Grygiel, Jr., forward; Lily Puccia, Jr., midfield; Veronica Alois, Soph., forward
Returning lettermen: Emily Masterson, Sr., keeper; Maddy Pollack, Sr., midfield; Sara Rehman, Sr., forward; Julia Manty, Jr., midfield; Caitlin Patten, Jr., defense; Carissa Reming, Jr., defense; Meredith Van Antwerp, Soph., midfield
Promising newcomers: Jackie Drew, Sr., defense; Laura McNaughton, Sr., forward; Hannah Ameen, Jr., midfield; Kailey Cullen, Jr., midfield; Jillian Gamache, Jr., forward; Emily O’Hara, Soph., forward; Brianna Knight, Soph., defense; Isabelle Russo, Soph., midfield
Captains: Emily Van Antwerp, Sarah Van Antwerp, Lily Puccia, Courtney Grygiel
Returning goal leaders: Veronica Alois, 7; Sara Rehman, 3
Returning honorees: Lily Puccia, All-MVC; Sara Rehman, Emily Van Antwerp, Sarah Van Antwerp and Veronica Alois, MVC All-Stars
Head coach: Meghan Matson (10th year, 107-43-32)
Assistants: Julia Paone; Jen Hagopian, JV; Stacey Consiglio, Freshmen
Odds and ends: Courtney Grygiel returns this season after missing all of last year with a torn ACL. ... Emily, Sarah and Meredith Van Antwerp are sisters.