TEWKSBURY – Even though she wasn’t coaching “her sport”, Brooke Pacheco hoped that someday she would get that opportunity. On Friday, Tewksbury Memorial High School Athletic Director helped her achieve her dream of becoming the girls’ varsity soccer coach.
Before last summer, Pacheco, a physical education teacher at the high school, spent the previous three years as a sub-varsity coach. Although she grew up playing soccer, she spent two years as the JV Field Hockey coach, before switching gears to coach JV Girls Soccer for one year. After Jordan Russell resigned as the head field hockey coach, Drouin asked Pacheco if she could fill the void and take that spot, and she was obliged. She took over a young and inexperienced team and finished 4-10-2, while showing great signs of overall improvement, while bringing a lot of energy, and she was certainly respected by her Merrimack Valley Conference coaching peers.
Several months ago, Samantha Tavantzis resigned as the head coach of the girls soccer team and Pacheco jumped at the chance.
“When I had heard that Sam was going to step down, I knew it was something that I intended to put in for regardless of who else was also going to go for it,” she said. “I had a feeling it was going to be a popular position to fill, so I anticipated having to go through the interview process and all of that stuff. It was always my intention even out of college and grad school to hopefully someday coach, especially in soccer.
“I was grateful enough to get the field hockey position when I first started four years ago as a JV coach and I knew that would kind of help me move my way into the soccer program eventually, so when this opportunity opened, I knew it was the right time to make the switch. Unfortunately I had to leave the field hockey program, which I really enjoy that team a lot, but I knew that if I wanted to move forward in my own career, I needed to make the switch now. ”
Pacheco will become the program’s seventh coach, following in reverse order, Tavantzis, Mike Dobbs, Jeff Keefe, Kelly Barrio, Jack O’Brien and Bob Manzi. In her six seasons behind the bench, Tavantzis ended with an overall record of 49-42-14, which included competing in the MVC Division 1 Conference in each of the past four seasons.
During her time she led the 2016 team to a program record 12 wins, while, she’s the only coach to take a team to the state tournament four consecutive seasons, the only coach to reel off three straight winning seasons, and the only one to coach two All-State players in Haley Mignon (2018) and Daniela Almeida (2021).
She finished with seasonal records of 12-6-2, 9-8-2, 9-8-2, 6-7-6, 7-2-1 in the abbreviated COVID-19 season and then 6-11-1 this past year. Her teams qualified for the Division 3 state tournament her first year losing to North Reading, 2-0, and then were bumped up to D2 and made it three straight including losses to Arlington (4-0), Danvers (3-1) and Billerica (1-0).
Besides Barrio, who was there for one year and finished with 11 wins, none of the other four coaches had career records over the .500 mark.
Drouin, who hired Tavantzis and watched her have success in terms of wins and losses, is hoping Pacheco can keep that trend going, fully knowing that she deserves this opportunity.
“We received some interest from some good applicants and Brooke did a great job (with her interview process),” he said. “She is a coach in the system. (Last year) we needed (a varsity) coach in field hockey and I asked her to go over and take that spot (for the time being) because I needed a leader over there. She did a good job with that program, but her background is clearly in soccer and it’s something that she is passionate about. She went through the process like all of the other candidates did and did the best.
“We’re comfortable with her and very excited about moving forward with Brooke Pacheco as our new girls soccer coach. She’s in the building, she’s an excellent teacher, she’s an excellent communicator, she’s super organized and I’m excited about this. ”
Pacheco grew up in Bristol, Rhode Island and graduated from Mount Hope Regional High School in 2012. She was named to the Providence Journal’s All-State (first or second team) in all three sports. From there, she attended Bridgewater State University, where she played soccer for four years and was a member of the women’s swim-and-dive team for three years, being a captain in both programs. She earned a BA in Physical Education, took a year off, before earning her Master’s from BU in 2018.
Pacheco said this past fall helped her get acquainted as a varsity coach, since there’s so many layers to the position besides the X’s and O’s.
“It definitely helped with running a program, having to talk to other coaches and athletic directors and coordinate schedules, head up the buses, both teams and work with your JV coach, so it definitely prepared me to take on all of that now with the soccer program. All of that experience will hopefully transfer into my new position with the soccer program, ”she said.
She leaves the field hockey program, which will lose 14 seniors from the roster, leaving four players with varsity experience, which will be a tall order for Pacheco’s replacement.
“It was definitely one of those years where I had a strong relationship with the seniors especially,” said Pacheco. “I started with those kids when they were freshmen and now they played this past year as seniors and were my captains, and not that I don’t have that same type of relationships with the underclassmen, who are coming up next year, but those seniors girls are also graduating, so they are moving out of the program as I am as well. ”
She’s moving onto a program that not only has lost quite a bit of talent with the likes of Almeida, Jordan Sheehan and Kati Polimeno, but competes in the MVC Division 1 Conference. Pacheco, who has also been the JV Lacrosse coach for the past few years, was asked about her X’s and O’s, and what formations she uses, starting with the defense.
“I always play a ‘Flatback-4’ but in terms of training, it always depends on the talent of the group of athletes that we have. Some formations link better to if we have speed, or if we have size, or if we have a team that has real good control of possession, so it all depends on that, ”she said. “I am more defensive minded. I was a defensive player myself and so going into it as a coaching style, I definitely think more defensive-minded, but I do have experience with what the offense needs as well. That’s another area of where having an assistant coach would help. I know when I was coaching with Coach Tavantzis, she was definitely offensive minded and I was defensive minded, so we worked really well together and blending the two and having two different perspectives. The same happens now with the lacrosse program. Coach (Erin) Murphy is definitely a defensive-minded coach and I’m a little more offensive minded when it comes to lacrosse, so we work well together to bring it all together. ”
Pacheco is hoping to add a varsity assistant and Drouin said that the Varsity Field Hockey position has been posted.