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Lewis Mills soccer stars, Berry and Murdick sign National Letters of Intent to play Division I.

POSTED February 04, 2016
BY Timothy W. Gaffney
Twitter: @TimothyGaffney

BURLINGTON: They are the perfect blend of passion, strength, intelligence and skill and it’s why they are both heading out in September to play soccer at the next level.

Ailene Berry (Bryant) and Maddie Murdick (University of New Hampshire) signed their National Letters of Intent on Wednesday at Lewis Mills High School, a place that has sent their fair share of talent to next level pitches around the country.

What made this day even more special was the fact that two Spartans were going on to major colleges from the same Berkshire League School and were celebrated in front of a packed Media Room filled with family, friends and teachers.

“This is truly an incredible moment for the young ladies sitting in front of us,” head coach Dennis Fowler said, “But a very rare one for our program. Over the past 15-years of great Lewis Mills girls soccer, with more than 450 players wearing the MGSC blue and white, Ailene Berry and Maddie Murdick are only the second and third players to sit here like this and sign National Letters of Intent to play at Division I schools. The first one, your assistant coach, who texted me today to say good luck, the last two years, Alexis Veith who signed and played at the University of Rhode Island.”

On a day when Letters of Intent Signings with one athlete at any school committing would be a huge deal, the fact that the Spartans had two tremendous athletes from the same sport is a tribute to the work the young ladies put in.

“Ailene and Maddie,” Fowler continued, “This special moment is something you earned. It did not just happen. You created this moment through years of dedication to the game. Through countless hours of practice and training on your own with your club that I’m sure mom and dad brought you to many, many times with CFC and here with your best friends on the field at Lewis Mills. Most importantly, you have earned this by competing and succeeding and winning most of the times that you stepped on the pitch.”

Mills, Fowler and outstanding soccer kind of go together and the head coach, who knows talent when he sees it, had nothing but praise for what they had accomplished.

What makes it even more remarkable in the case of Berry is that she had her career at Mills cut short earlier this year when she tore her ACL but had the kind of junior year that overwhelmed anyone who was looking from the next level.

“Ailene,” Fowler said, “You had one of the best individual seasons in MFSC history in 2014 when you were named a Class M All-Stater. You used your dominant speed and special skills to score 21 goals and helped lead our team to a perfect 16-0 regular season and an 18-1 overall record that included a tremendous game in our overtime loss in the Class M semifinal game. What I will remember the most is your playmaking ability and your 18 assists that season which is far and away the most any player has dished out in my 11-years here.”

Murdick was a foundation piece throughout her career and leaves a lasting legacy.

“Maddie,” Folwer said, “You will be remembered as one of the MGSC all-time greats. You were a varsity starter since day one as a freshman. You won 67 games and four Berkshire league Championships in your career including two trips to the Class M semi-finals. You were one of the top ranked players in the Berkshire League and in the State the last two years earning All-Berkshire League First Team and Class M All-State honors twice. I’ll always remember you for your all around toughness and your tremendous ability to win in the air.”

For their part, the ladies who were honored spoke with a maturity beyond their years about what attracted them to their schools of choice and what made being a Spartan so special.

“What made me chose Bryant,” Berry said, “Was that the head coach was very interested in me and I was very interested in the school. The way he presented the school and when I visited the school, I just fell in love with it. Yes, I get to play at the Division I level but my main reason is that it had academically, all that I am looking for in my majors. It has a good biology program and a pre-physician’s assistant program which I plan to go into.”

What will she take from her time in Burlington and this day?

“I am just amazed that they planned something like this,” Berry said, “I amazed that they are here for me every step of the way. I have learned a lot about how to be a good teammate and Coach Fowler does so many great things for us. We are more like family than anything else.”

Murdick will play in the American East with the Wildcats and believes the lessons learned with her Spartan family will serve her well down the line, after see gets over this day.

“Unreal would be the word,” Murdick said, “It’s something I had dreamed of my entire life so it’s awesome that our hard work finally paid off and it just feels so surreal. I chose New Hampshire for so many reasons. New Hampshire could provide me with the academics and athletics that I was looking for. It was always a dream of mine to play Division I and when UNH contacted me to come see the campus, I immediately fell in love with it. It was gorgeous, it was the perfect size I was looking for, not too big and not too small.”

What is playing for Fowler all about?

“Passion is the word I would use” Murdick said, “He’s the most passionate coach I’ve ever had and he wants everyone to excel in so many ways. Not only does he care about your athletics, he cares about your academics just as much. He just pushed me to be the best player I could be.”

Murdick started her career as a center defender but was asked to switch to center midfield as a junior, the change from defense to offense took some getting used to but she had plenty of help.

“I had to get that offensive mindset,” Murdick said, “He (Fowler) helped me in way that I thought were not possible and helped me become an attacking midfielder.”

“Girls,” Fowler finished, “You have made your school, your families and the entire Lewis Mills girls’ soccer program very proud.”

No matter what these young ladies do with their respective futures, expect great things from them. They are that kind of special.

…..Berry’s statistics and honors shine with a 2014 Class M All-State selection, a 2014 All-Berkshire League First Team honor that was fitting after she tore up the league to the tune of 21 goals and 18 assists. In 2015, her season was cut short due to a torn ACL but she still managed to find the back of the net six times to go along with eight assists.

…..Murdick made the Class M All-State squad both her junior and senior years, was a four year starter and a member (like Berry) of the ’14 Mills team that made a run to the Class M semifinals with an outstanding 18-1 record.

In her four year career with the Spartans, her teams posted a 67-5-1 mark.

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