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Stonehill the one for Pioneer star

NORTHFIELD — After leading the area in scoring this past fall, Pioneer Valley Regional School field hockey player Shea Healy made her college of choice official on Wednesday’s National Signing Day.

Healy received athletic and academic scholarships to attend Division II Stonehill College in Easton this fall.

The Greenfield native finished with 34 goals for the 2012 Panthers and 106 career goals in five years. She now brings her scoring touch to a Skyhawks team that plays in the Northeast-10 Conference. The decision comes after looking at both Division I and Division II schools.

“It’s a good fit,” Healy said. “I was leaning more toward Division II because it’s a happy medium between school and athletics.”

Healy first began playing field hockey in second grade when mother Gail Healy coached the Greenfield Middle School team and needed extra practice bodies. She put the sport on the back burner until eighth grade, when she tried out for and made the Pioneer varsity team under coach Colleen Bannister. Bannister said that the shy little eighth-grader used to stick around after practice along with teammate Marte Johannessen to improve her game. That continued every season and led to her registering over 150 career points.

“Literally every year they would find something they wanted to work on,” Bannister said of the duo. “It just kept going from there.”

Bannister also talked about her roles as teammate and eventually leader.

“Shea showed leadership by being a great role model,” she said. “Lions don’t need to roar. That was Shea. She led by example.”

Healy didn’t stop playing when the season ended. Beginning in ninth grade, she played year round as part of former IAS director of field hockey and current Element Athletics owner Lynn Hoeppner’s club programs. Hoeppner agreed that it was Healy’s hard work and willingness to do anything it took to improve that have helped her grow to the player she is today.

“She can score, and she can score on the move,” Hoeppner said. “She’s just so fluid, she really has a nose for the goal. It’s amazing how quickly she grew into a complete player. She came in a blue-collar worker, getting those hard points in front of the goal. She’s not afraid to do what it takes to get to the next level. And she’s grown into a complete player very quickly. She’s going to go right in and help Stonehill out. And I can’t tell you enough how pleasant of a person she is.”

Being a Division II school, Stonehill is afforded athletic scholarships, something that Division III schools are not allowed to award to students. Because so few athletes actually are able to play at the Division I or II level, Hoeppner said receiving an athletic scholarship is rare.

“I tell every player the first day they walk through the door, ‘If you think you are here to get an athletic scholarship, walk right back out the door,’” she explained. “‘It’s going to help you a ton more to have a good grade-point average. Stonehill only has 12 athletic scholarships.”

That’s where Healy’s 3.86 GPA came into play, allowing the college to also offer money because of her academics. Healy is undecided as to what her major will be at the liberal-arts school.

Hoeppner said that Stonehill offers a top field hockey program in the Northeast-10. The team is coming off a 9-10 campaign this past fall and is 19-20 over the past two seasons, but played in the conference championship game in 2010, when it lost to UMass-Lowell. The Skyhawks won the 2009 NE-10 regular-season title, losing in the conference-title game to Bentley College. Stonehill was named co-champion in 2006 along with UMass-Lowell, and played in the NCAA Division II Field Hockey Tournament. According to Hoeppner, UMass-Lowell, which has long been the powerhouse in the NE-10, may make the move to Division I, leaving the conference even more wide open.

Healy’s scoring touch will certainly be missed by a Pioneer team that has gone 31-20-2 in the regular season the past three years and made the postseason each season. She said she will miss her high school team but that she is ready to try the sport at the next level.

“I’m excited to move on but also nervous,” she concluded. “But I know this is a good fit for me because they have been so welcoming. It will be a new experience for me and I’m excited for the opportunity.”

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