By Nick Curcuru
---- — Gloucester’s Bianca Giacalone and Manchester Essex’s Nicole Bradley have been dominant on their respective athletic fields this school year.
On Wednesday, the Gloucester soccer and track star and the Manchester Essex field hockey star made it official that they will be taking their games to the next level signing their letters of intent to play collegiate sports at Merrimack College on National Signing Day. Giacalone will be playing both soccer and track at the Division 2 school while Bradley will play on the field hockey team.
Given the prowess of both Giacalone and Bradley on the field this school year, both are amongst the best players in their respective leagues in their respective sports, it’s easy to see how each is a coveted Division 2 prospect.
Bradley was a force for the Manchester Essex field hockey team this fall as she was the top player on a team that finished up the season with an 18-2-1 record and reached the Division 2 North Final for the fifth time in the last six seasons.
Bradley was named the Cape Ann League Small’s Most Valuable Player and named to the Best of 60 Field Hockey All Star Team, which features the top field hockey stars in New England, this fall and she brings a balanced and versatile game to Merrimack College this coming fall.
The senior captain, who also won a gold medal playing in the Bay State Games last summer, can put the ball in the net for Manchester Essex, as is evident in her 22 career goals and 15 career assists, but this season she was called upon to play a different role in the team’s midfield. As a result Bradley was the team’s facilitator in the middle of the field, transitioning from offense to defense and helping out on both ends of the field.
Whether it was setting up a teammate for a scoring opportunity or thwarting an opponents drive up field, Bradley was making plays for Manchester Essex
“She’s the whole package,” Manchester Essex head coach Andrea Slaven said of Bradley. “She’s very internally motivated so she knows how to motivate her teammates. She’s great leader on the field and a class act. She took on a much different role this year and her stats don’t tell the story of how important she is to the team. She’s definitely somebody you need on the field to have the type of season we had.”
Giacalone has been a staple on the score sheet and medal podium for Gloucester soccer and track over the last four years, as her presence was felt on both rosters as soon as she burst onto the scene as a freshman.
On the soccer field she was apart of the most successful Gloucester girls team in 2011 making it all the way to the Division 2 North Semifinals. As a senior this fall she was the team’s leading scorer helping to team to another tournament berth and another win in the postseason. She is a multiple time Northeastern Conference All Star striker.
On the track Giacalone is building a legacy for herself as she continues to build on her school record in the 300m. Last Thursday at the Northeastern Conference Championship meet Giacalone topped her own school record with a time of 42.56. She also flirted with the school’s long jump record last spring and will be competing in the Class B state meet later this month.
Giacalone was looking at several local Division 2 schools, but after a recruiting trip to Merrimack last summer her decision was made.
“I was looking at a few schools but Merrimack stood out from the beginning,” Giacalone said to the Gloucester Times in August after she verbally committed to the school. “I liked the coaching staff a lot and I really liked the girls on the team. It is important to me to play with a team that I’m comfortable around and get along with. Right away I clicked with the team, it was just like it is at Gloucester High. Once they made me a good offer the decision was made.”