EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

September 24, 2013

Saving face

Methuen's Altavesta helps out Rangers after recovery from brutal face injury

High School Soccer
Chris Smith

---- — “I broke a couple of bones in the left side of my face. I broke my jaw, the orbital bone, my nose and the top of my skull right above my eyebrow.”


Methuen’s Avery Altavesta did quite a number to his face last year during his senior season while playing goalkeeper for the Rangers. His injury happened during the second game against Chemlsford on a free kick.

“I came out for a ball and I got blinded-sided,” Altavesta said. “Somebody headbutted me in the side of the face. I stood up thinking it was a concussion and fell down. I stood up again and then I passed out. I woke up on the sideline with one of the trainers from Chelmsford telling me that they needed to call an ambulance because my face was broken.”

After a nine-hour surgery in which metal screws and plates were placed in his face and then an eight-month recovery before not feeling any pain in his face, Atlavesta is back on the soccer field as Methuen’s goalkeeper coach this fall.

The 2013 Methuen graduate is enjoying his time in that role until he leaves for basic training in November or December. He has signed up for the Marine Corps and is waiting to hear when exactly he will attend boot camp.

“The athletic director was kind of like, ‘If you’re going to be around, you should definitely help out the team, working with their goalies,’” Altavesta said.

Altavesta asked Methuen head coach Jeff Lamy who was glad to have his former keeper join the coaching staff.

“It’s a totally new experience for me after being a player,” Altavesta said. “I help the girls varsity goalie, too. It’s a totally new experience but I love it. It’s so much fun training these keepers.”

Altavesta certainly wasn’t left in good shape but neither was his Chelmsford opponent who had been attempting to head the soccer ball past Altavesta.

“I broke everything in my face — he broke his forehead and had a really bad concussion,” said Atlavesta who since has talked with the Chelmsford player.

“I had an unbelievable surgeon who did a really, really good job considering my cheek bone was completely destroyed — my orbital bone was completely destroyed,” he added. “My face was all dented. My nose was crooked. My jaw was a shattered mess.”

Altavesta certainly is a trooper. He took pain medication for only about a week.

“I’m not a big fan of pain medication,” said Atlavesta, who added that he is accustomed to pain because he broke the third vertebrae of his neck during the eighth grade.

Altavesta missed two months (September, October) of school during his senior year. He had work sent home to him and he did all he could to keep up. “And then most of November I was in and out of school,” he said.

“Pain doesn’t really bother me much so I was up and about,” he added. “I did what I could. But my left eye was severely damaged. I had a lot of nerve damage in the back of my eye. So I couldn’t see well. And when finally the swelling did go down, I had really intense headaches from trying to use the left eye because it would be so blurry.”

He visited an eye specialist who told him he could either have surgery or wait to see if the damage would heal on its own. Altavesta chose the latter.

“And over the course of like five, six months, it slowly started to come back and now it’s 100 percent,” he said.

Before his injury, Altavesta had been seriously considering trying to play college soccer.

“And when that happened, I kind of took a step back and was wondering what I want to do with my life,” he said. “And I have an uncle who was a Marine in the artillery unit and I talked to him a little bit about it. And I decided that was the best choice for me. It’s something I want to do. I’m not somebody who likes to sit around at a desk. I don’t have the attention to sit around all day. I need to be up. I need to be active.”

Although he still is waiting to hear when he will leave for boot camp, Altavesta does know it will be at Parris Island in South Carolina.

“I’ve got the basic jitters,” Altavesta admitted. “It’s going to be three months away from family, friends and loved ones. So I’m nervous about that because I’m a part of a huge Italian family and we see each other often. So not being able to see them all the time, (will be tough). But I’m excited. I’m looking forward to going down.”

Salem’s surge

Salem boy soccer is off to an impressive 5-1 start behind talented brothers Darren (defensive midfielder) and Todd Righini (attacking midfielder).

“Everyone’s stepping up, doing their job,” Darren said about the team’s early season success.

About playing with his brother, Darren said, “It’s great playing with Todd. We’ve been playing with each other for pretty much our whole lives. So we know each other. We have an idea of what’s going on in each other’s head. We work off each other, cover each other all the time. It’s nice. And experiencing the whole undefeated streak (until Saturday) with your brother, it just makes it that much more special.”

Darren said he and Todd are constantly competing against each other whether it’s side-yard soccer or video games.

“We’re constantly pushing each other to make each other better,” Darren said.

The Righinis come from a soccer family. Their mother played at Brandeis. Their older sister is Tayllar Righini, a former Salem star who now plays at Emerson. Occasionally when the kids were younger, mom and Tayllar would play two-against-two games vs. Darren and Todd.

“My brother really motivates me,” Todd said. “This is his senior year and I really want to give him a great last year and I think the rest of the team knows that Darren and Charlie (Peters), our two captains, have really worked hard. Darren’s a four-year varsity player. Charlie’s a three. We’ve all discussed just to try to get that home field (first) playoff game.”

Salem’s first loss came Saturday, a 2-0 defeat to Pinkerton.

“We panicked at times with the ball,” Darren said. “We played more of like a kick-and-run game. We didn’t play our game, which is passing and moving. Every time we’d get the ball we’d boot it up the field and that didn’t work for us. They had a really organized defense and really talented central midfielder. So they caught us off guard with that.”

Rivals clash today

Central Catholic girls improved to 5-0 with a 2-0 victory over Bishop Fenwick on Friday. The Raiders will play rival Andover today. The Golden Warriors are off to a strong 4-0-1 start. Game time is 5 p.m. at Central.

Boys Player of Week

Sanborn’s Micah Peterson netted two goals, including the game-winner, to lead Sanborn 3-2 in overtime over Farmington on Saturday.

Girls Player of Week

Haverhill keeper Marlayna Buco had a sensational week. She stopped 18 shots in a 0-0 tie against Chelmsford last Tuesday, saved six shots in another scoreless tie against Tewksbury on Thursday and then made 10 saves in a 6-2 victory over Malden on Saturday.