Bishop Fenwick Crusaders Girls Soccer '07

Left, Melissa Garabedian 17 and Maddie Bissaillon 17, are a strong defensive force on Bishop Fenwick's girls varsity soccer team. "It is a bittersweet season, " said Garabedian. "We are sad for it to end but excited to play in college." » Heather Mancini, Staff Photographer

Garabedian and Bissaillon are Fenwick cornerstones

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Tuesday, September, 25 By Bill Kipouras
Staff writer

It was not easy for Michelle Garabedian to pass up going to Salem High School.

Her grandfather Harry, a retired Salem firefighter, has been inducted into the Salem High Athletic Hall of Fame as one of the school's best-ever basketball guards. Her father, Scott, was a Salem High football captain.

"I always thought I'd go to Salem High," Garabedian admitted.

"But I also figured since I had gone to parochial school for kindergarten and elementary school, I'd check out the open house at Bishop Fenwick. I knew it was for me as soon as I walked in. I loved it."

Before she went there, however, Garabedian got a former teammate to join her.

It's not well-known, but Garabedian and her mother, Cheech, took a trip to the Merrimac home of Maddy Bissaillon, who played with Garabedian on The Force club soccer team for several years. Set to go to her hometown school at Pentucket Regional, Bissaillon decided instead to join her friend two weeks before school began in 2004.

"I remember doing the paperwork for Pentucket. I'm glad Mrs. Garabedian spoke to me. She and Melissa sold me on Fenwick," said Bissaillon. "Fenwick has been fun. Melissa and I have been close friends forever and we both benefitted playing for Alvie (Ibanez) on The Force. He made a big impact on both of us."

"My mom told Maddy about the strong academics and athletics at Fenwick," added Garabedian. "Maddy was worried about the commute (40-45 minutes), but we told her she could do her homework and have supper at our home in Salem after late practices."

Garabedian and Bissaillon are now the cornerstones of the Fenwick girls soccer program.

They probably haven't received the notoriety of some high-profile soccer athletes on the North Shore like in Peabody, Danvers, and Masconomet, but the inner circle knows about their considerable skills.

"I'm sure if you checked these other towns they'd tell you both Michelle and Maddy are truly outstanding players. I've coached in college, and they're both college material," Fenwick coach Karen Guillemette assured. "At the same time, I don't believe they've had the publicity they deserve." That lack of recognition will happen when a top performer is a defender; the goal scorers and keepers tend to get the headlines. The sweeper, stopper and fullbacks are akin to football's offensive linemen; they're only appreciated within the team.

But the fact is that Garabedian and Bissaillon have been heavily recruited. The college fraternity is well documented on their credentials, since club soccer has opened a large window for them. Their resumes emphasize the classroom potential of their student-athlete possibilities at the next level.

Garabedian, a two-time class president, carries a 4.2 grade-point average and earned the prestigious Ralph Leduc Award at Fenwick, awarded a junior for academic, leadership and athletic achievement by the faculty and Board of Trustees. She was a finalist for the Verizon Scholarship (over 200 candidates) at the Bay State Games as well.

She's heard from over 30 schools and narrowed her choices to Assumption, Bates, Bowdoin, Stonehill and Bryant.

Bissaillon has a 3.7 GPA, is a co-captain with Garabedian of both soccer and basketball, and has had some Division 1 and 2 coaches calling, including ones from Providence, St. Rose of New York, UMass Lowell, and Springfield.

Some of those schools are also recruiting her for track; after all, she's a two-time Class C EMass discus champion. She's only 5-foot-5, but has a personal best throw of 120 feet 1 inch in the discus and has done 33-8 in the shot put. The two pals are National Honor Society members and have been on the honor roll every quarter of their high school careers. Bissaillon is All-Catholic Central League in soccer and track; Garabedian is all-league in soccer. They've also been Bay State Games soccer captains.

They are the only remaining starters from Fenwick's Division 2 state semifinalists in 2005.

Bissaillon, a four-year varsity defender, has collected only two goals in her career, but one resulted in a 1-0 victory over North Andover in the 2005 state playoffs.

Garabedian was a defender for 2<1/2> years before moving up to center midfield "to spruce up the middle," as Guillemette put it. She has had two game-winning goals this season, with one coming against previously unbeaten Arlington.

Most of her club activity had her as an outside or center middie.

"I never worried about being a defender. Someone has to do the dirty work," Garabedian chuckled. "I've always played where the team needed me.

"I've never envied the goal scorers and about getting my name in the paper. As long as we win and do well, that's all that counts."

Those were also the sentiments echoed by Bissaillon, whose parents are Springfield College grads.

"You're not going to get much recognition on defense. That doesn't bother me," she said. "I'm happy for the kids who do get publicized. Our teammates know about the stuff we do on defense. We have friends like Erika Digiacomo and Alyssa Manoogian in Peabody and Kaitlyn Hartnett, Chris Barrows and Ashley Sullivan in Danvers, kids we've played with, and we all know each other's abilities."

Guillemette praised Bissaillon as the most consistent performer on the team and said her ability to shut down Arlington's best forward keyed that shutout win. Arlington was a Division 2 state finalist in 2005.

The decision of Garabedian's brother, Doug, to attend Fenwick was significant. He's become the boys' varsity starting center midfielder as a freshman.

"He's doing well | but I taught him everything he knows," Melissa said, tongue-in-cheek.

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