TYNGSBORO – Ever since she started playing competitive club soccer at the age of 11, Molly McHugh has had a dream to play for a Division 1 college program.
Between her freshman and sophomore years at Tyngsboro High School, McHugh made a verbal commitment to play at the University of New Hampshire, taking a step toward fulfilling that dream. And on Nov. 11, she cemented that commitment, signing her National Letter of Intent with UNH.
Shortly after that, the good news continued as she was named to the United Soccer Coaches Fall All-New England team. According to McHugh, the All-New England and signing with UNH came courtesy of her work with the FC Stars of Massachusetts club team.
“I would not be where I am today without the Stars,” she said. “They made me such a competitive player. I’ve learned how to play better under pressure and they have helped me with my foot and ball movement, both on and off the ball. I would not be going to UNH had it not been for FC Stars.”
For the Stars, McHugh plays left back, but for Tyngsboro she is an attacker who popped in 16 goals in an abbreviated fall season.
“I first coached Molly when she was 10,” said first-year Tyngsboro coach Ettore Demari. “At such a young age, I knew she was going to be something special and had so much potential. She was so quick with and without the ball, aggressive, excellent passer, strong kicker and a good defender. She was good at any position you put her in.”
While she alternated between defense and forward epending on her team, McHugh’s position all of last year was on her couch. During an early season non-league game against Dracut, she tore her ACL in her left knee.
“There were two defenders on Dracut who were passing the ball back and forth, and one of the girls was making a pass to the outside back. I went to pivot to go get the ball and I stepped in a hole and I heard a pop. My knee gave out and I fell to the ground in so much pain,” McHugh said. “I thought I was fine because I walked it off afterwards.”
She had surgery a week later and was off of soccer fields for the next nine months.
“It was so bad. I was just itching to play,” said McHugh. “I would walk from our house to the elementary school and I would run around that field and go through cones. I would jump with the ball, but I really missed actually playing with someone. I didn’t have anyone to pass the ball to. I just missed it a lot and it was really hard.
“I started lifting weights and stuff like that to stay fit, so I felt better but I missed running around. I love defending and my favorite thing to do is slide tackle. It’s just such a thrill. I couldn’t do that. I just missed soccer so much.”
McHugh – whose parents Fred and Michelle competed in track and field hockey, respectively during high school and whose younger brother Luke is a three-sport athlete at THS – recovered from those dark days and helped the Tigers finish 6-3-2 overall record.
UNH head coach Steve Welham is hoping she continues to find success, but on defense.
“We are very excited about the arrival of Molly for this upcoming season,” he said. “She is an exceptional one-on-one defender that is very strong in tackle and possesses great recovery speed. She is dynamic, technical and we think she will be an attacking asset for us coming from deeper positions as well.
“We are looking forward to Molly positively impacting our team right away.”