The Final Whistle


by Sarah Wei, Managing Editor

photo contributed by Regulus

After 24 years leading the girls varsity soccer team together, head coach Doug McCarthy and assistant coach Owen Pennant-Jones announced their departure from the program in January. During their reign, the coaches led the team to an impressive record, winning or tying 356 of their 469 games and qualifying for the state tournament 20 times. 

In the past seven years, the program ranked third best in the division, won four of the last six DCL Championships and reached the state semifinals in 2021. McCarthy, who began coaching at South in 1994, was named Massachusetts State Coach of the Year in 2018 and was inducted into the Massachusetts Soccer Hall of Fame in 2020.

McCarthy said that he credits these achievements and successes to the hard-working mindset and intensity he has tried to instill in the team.

“Our mantra has been ‘Strive for excellence.’ We asked these girls to have the heart of a lion and take that to the field each day,” he said. “If they do that, over the years, they’re going to be successful, and the wins and losses [will take] care of themselves.”

Sophomore Jacquie Ginsburg said that this environment fostered collaboration and improved her game.

“The atmosphere that they made and the mindset that everybody had helped me get better,” she said. “All the girls supporting and trying to help each other get better was probably the best thing.”

Junior and next year’s captain Sienna Masood said that the coaches prioritized team community.

“Doug and Owen made us focus on how to be the best as a team working together. Even though practices and games were tough, we always had great coaches on our side telling us how to be better,” she said.

Senior Lily Paltrowitz said that the coaches’ message was clear as they led by example.

“They set a standard for practice every day that they were holding everybody to the highest level. It was very motivating to come to practice and want to do my best and want to be the best,” she said. “And while they expected that of us as players, they also definitely held up to those standards as coaches.”

McCarthy and Pennant-Jones’s commitment to coaching motivated the team to try their hardest and succeed, captain senior Jessie Lee said.

“They truly believed in us, and they gave us all the resources we needed to succeed. They [didn’t] just give 100% on the field for us — they would leave practice immediately, and they would go scout other teams, they would go watch games,” she said. “Because they sacrificed so much to coach the team, it made us want to work harder.” 

Her mother, Jennifer, whose two older daughters also played under McCarthy and Pennant-Jones,  said that the coaches’ dedication meant that they took the time to appreciate each individual player.

“[I had] three different girls in the program, and they’re all different, and their soccer’s different. I really felt like Doug and Owen really understood them all as very different people and appreciated [their different] skills and personalities,” she said.

For McCarthy and Pennant-Jones, the program has always been about more than soccer; they’ve hoped to teach players life lessons that extend beyond the field. 

“For me it’s always been about more than just the soccer — it’s been [about] trying to prepare girls for the next step,” McCarthy said. “Hopefully the program would help them to be leaders and to overcome obstacles that they may encounter.” 

Pennant-Jones said that he hopes these skills will help players face future obstacles.

“They really learned [that] the hard work and practice they put in really ended up paying off,” he said. “They’re going to have a sense of confidence, a sense of belief in themselves — when adversity comes in whatever form it is that they will have a strength in their soul to say ‘Okay, how do I go about handling this? What help do I need? Who can help me and how do I go forward?’”

‘09 graduate, former freshman team coach and varsity captain Nicole Jacobs said that her time in the program did just that. 14 years later, she said her experiences on the team continue to inform her ability to respond to challenges.

“I can say 100% that this program taught me what it means to work in a team and push through hard challenges to the end — learning how to hone in on your skills and push through any …  feeling of ‘I can’t’, and just blasting the door down. I have used those lessons and memories to get through a lot in my life,” she said.

As she wraps up her time on the team, Paltrowitz said she’s already seen her perseverance strengthen.

“It taught me a lot about work ethic and what it means to really show up every day and to have something that you really want and be willing to put in the effort, even if you don’t see [immediate] results,” she said.

Pennant-Jones said that it has been gratifying to witness players graduate from the program and pursue their own paths.

“We’ve been able to set really strong, confident young women out into the world. We were coaching soccer, but there was a lot of life stuff going on in there,” he said. “They’re prepared to sweat to sacrifice for each other, and it’s been tremendous being able to see them as they become older and end up getting married and having families.”

Jacobs said that McCarthy and Pennant-Jones have become life-long friends of hers, continuing to support her as she moves forward in her journey. 

“To a certain point, they became family. Having them at my wedding and meeting my children was something that was just second nature,” she said. “I am forever grateful to them for the time and passion they put into the program because it made me the strong woman I am today. I can’t imagine the program without them, but [I am] happy they had just as amazing of an experience as I know so many of us have.”

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