WHS junior goalkeeper has been a stellar performer in the Winthrop net
Polixeni Maria Tsiotos has pretty much been preparing for this job her whole life.
She became a goalkeeper at a young age in Winthrop Youth Soccer, continued to develop her skills at the elite club soccer level, and was a part-time starter for the varsity her first two years of high school.
Now a junior, Poli, as she is better known, is front and center as the No. 1 goalkeeper for the Winthrop High School varsity and she’s more than lived up to the huge responsibility of being the last line of defense between an opponent and the net.
Tsiotos has helped lead the Vikings to six victories (five via shutouts), and two ties and a berth in the State Tournament. Winthrop has also been involved in a number of close games, allowing only one goal in competitive losses to Peabody and Marblehead.
The 5-feet-7-inch scholar-athlete is averaging double digits in saves per game. Poli’s superb net-minding and leadership is much appreciated by her teammates, including her twin sister, Niki.
“Poli is a great inspiration to the team,” said Niki, the Vikings’ starting center forward. “She’s one of the reasons we try so hard. She always keeps us in games.”
Teammate Maura Lanza, a defender, also appreciates the hustle and skill of the Winthrop goalkeeper.
“I think Poli is really reliable and makes me want to work harder and be a better player,” said Lanza.
Poli plays soccer in the spring for Club Azzurri coached by Rich Sena. According to Winthrop coach Tracey Martucci, Poli has also made tremendous strides working with a private goaltending coach, Julius Pertillar, a classmate of Martucci’s at Salem State University.
“Poli is having a very good year,” said Martucci, the Vikings’ second all-time leading scorer behind current WHS assistant coach Julie Dowson. “She’s kept us in games with her tremendous play. She’s out there 80 minutes a game making so many saves for us. Poli has been huge for us. She didn’t get a lot of playing time last year but having Poli here for this year and next year is so great for our program. She’s a huge backbone of our team this year.”
Martucci said that Tsiotos leads by example with her hard work and hustle on the field and her excellent grades in the classroom.
“I absolutely think she can be a captain for us – she’s a quiet leader who is not very loud and vocal, but she has a strong presence on and off the field,” said Martucci. “It’s great to have the [Tsiotos] twins in our program. I love them. They’re like night and day, but they’re a lot of fun. Niki is a great player, too.”
Asked is she herself – a WHS Hall of Famer and four-year Salem State Viking – could get the ball past Poli, Martucci replied, “I don’t know. I used to take shots at her cousin Rina, but I’ll have to test Poli one day in practice.”
Poli said the combination of working with Martucci in practice and Pertillar in private 1-on-1 sessions has helped make her a better and more confident player.
“I know Tracey was a wicked good player,” said Poli. “She’s been very helpful to me in practice. She’s great with our team and we all like her a lot. It was Tracey who brought Julius in during double sessions to help me with my goaltending. Ever since then, I’ve been training with him. It’s really helped me to advance my skills and improve.”
An honor roll student, Poli is starting to look ahead to playing soccer in college, listing Brandeis, Babson, and Stonehill as potential opportunities after graduation.
She will be a valuable contributor this winter to a WHS girls varsity basketball team that will be a realistic contender for a state championship. That’s the sport that made her father, Attorney Chris Tsiotos, a 6-feet, 5-inch Winthrop High and Suffolk University basketball legend who played professionally.
“My father thinks he knows soccer but he never played,” said Poli, smiling when asked about her famous dad. “He tries to give me advice. My parents are at all our games and I appreciate that.”
Poli’s cousin, Katerina Mallios, preceded her by a few years as the goalkeeper for the WHS girls varsity team.
“I used to watch Rina play for Winthrop so I wanted to play one day,” said Poli. “She’s a really good athlete.”
But now Poli and Niki Tsiotos are carrying on the family’s grand athletic tradition and there remains instilled in them a team-first attitude that their teammates respect and adhere to as well.
“I hope we can go far in the State Tournament,” said Poli. “I think we’re having a really good season and it’s fun being around this team.”