Central Catholic Raiders Softball '08

Courtesy Photo

Close cousins are fierce rivals on the field

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Tuesday, May, 20 By Dave Dyer
Staff writer

Life will be much simpler for Josephine Guselli next spring. It may not be anywhere near as much fun, however.

For the last few years, she has been a gung-ho fan of both the Central Catholic and Methuen softball teams, avidly following her granddaughters, Chelsey, a senior for the Raiders, and Becca, a junior for the Rangers.

"I like softball and I like watching each girl," said the matriarch, who tries to attend all games. "I've been watching them since they were little. I've been lucky that there haven't been too many games when they play at the same time, but sometimes I have to pick."

Sometimes, as has happened twice in the last two weeks, Guselli will have tougher choices, when Central Catholic plays Methuen.

Which side should she sit on? Which team should she cheer for?

The girls, who live on opposite sides of Methuen, make a case for their respective teams.

"I always joke around with her, saying 'Nana, come with us and put on some red (for Central),'" said Chelsey. "I try to get her on our side."

For the most part, the pleas go unheeded, although Mrs. Guselli admits that Chelsey can be awfully persuasive.

"Chelsey really comes on strong, but that's OK," she said. "I just sit wherever there's an available seat and root for both sides. That makes it a little hard."

Next year, when Chelsey is at Emmanuel College studying graphic design, Mrs. Guselli can zero in on the Methuen schedule and be more vocal when the Merrimack Valley Conference rivals meet.

"That will make it easier," she admitted.

On the other hand, one of the area's biggest rivalries will have less charm. The first cousins, standout infielders who played on the same youth team for years and are close friends in constant contact, have made the softball matchup particularly intriguing.

"We really look forward to playing each other," said Becca, who is in her third year as the Rangers' starting second baseman. "We go back and forth, joking around. She says she'll get me out at third (base) and I say I'll get her out at second."

Echoes Chelsey, who plays third for the Raiders: "Playing against Methuen gives me something to really look forward to. It's always a big game, but it's extremely fun. We'll antagonize each other the week before and text message stuff all the time."

With both clubs enjoying considerable success the last two years, the games themselves have been among the most competitive in the region. Prior to this year, the Rangers had won four straight, 3-2 and 4-3 in 2007 and 3-0 and 3-2 in 2006. But Central won both games this year, 2-1 and 15-0.

The Guselli cousins have definitely played major roles in the success of both teams.

Becca, who is nicknamed "Goose" and has started every game since her freshman year, is batting .306, has an on-base percentage of .410 this spring. She is rock-solid defensively and is a natural leader.

"She is so conscientious and intelligent both on and off the field, and the positive way she goes about her business every day earns her the trust and respect of both her teammates and coaches," said Rangers coach Jason Smith. "She is a true role model for young girls in Methuen to look up to whether they play softball or not."

For the volleyball players, she is also a standout in that sport, earning MVC Division 2 All-Star honors in the fall.

Chelsey, who nearly joined her cousin at Methuen before making a last-minute decision to attend Central, has been just as successful. She is a tremendous fielder at the hot corner, is hitting .420 and is a tremendous bunter. She's also a tri-captain.

"She does everything well and her leadership is outstanding," said Central coach Stacy Ciccolo.

With Chelsey graduating, it will be left for Becca to complete a near decade-long Guselli softball tradition in the MVC. Her older sisters, Nicole and Lindsey, were both pitchers for the Rangers.

"It's a tremendous family of great kids," said Smith. "And I count Chelsey in there with them. She has a great sense of humor and a positive attitude like no other opposing player. The (Methuen-Central) rivalry is so strong ... people like Chelsey and her parents make it even better."

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