A look back at Wave’s past titles

  • Above, former Greenfield coach Donna Woodcock speaks to her team at halftime during the 1989 state championship victory over Danvers. Below, from left to right, Sarah Marchefka, Kelly Doton and Jenna Luippold celebrate the 1999 state crown. file photos/paul franz

  • Above, the Greenfield field hockey team celebrates its state title in 1999. Below, the 1989 field hockey team’s picture, including Erin Thayer (10) at center of second row from back. FILE PHOTOS/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 11/15/2018 9:20:59 PM

State championships do not grow on trees.

Sure, there are teams in the area such as Turners Falls softball and Frontier volleyball that seem to bring state championship trophies back to Franklin County each and every year, but for most teams, winning a state title does not happen very often.

Greenfield High School has a long and proud sporting history, but that does not equal state titles. So when the Greenfield field hockey team takes the field at Worcester Polytechnic Institute Saturday 1:30 to face South sectional champion Dennis-Yarmouth, it could accomplish something done by very few Green Wave athletes prior.

The list of state titles by Greenfield teams is short. In 1964, Pete Conway helped lead the Greenfield boys cross country team to the school’s first-ever state title. That held up for 25 years until 1989, when the Green Wave field hockey team captured the state crown. Ten years later Greenfield again won a state title in field hockey, and in 2003 the Greenfield golf team captured state gold.

As this year’s group of girls prepares to try and win the third state crown in program history, let’s take a look back at the two title-winning teams that have come before. 

There is a common thread between each of the title-winning teams and this year’s squad, which comes in the form of coach Erin (Suchanek) Thayer. As a student in 1989, Suchanek was a midfielder on the state title-winni  ng team, and in 1999 she was an assistant coach under Donna Woodcock. Now, she gets a crack to add a title as head coach.

Another thing that both state championships have in common is the final score, 2-1 in overtime.

The 1989 Green Wave team was fraught with talent en route to winning the Division I state crown (there was only one division in the sport back then). The offense was led by Ann Brissette and Tara Jelley, two of the top female athletes to ever come out of Greenfield. Brissette entered the 1989 state final as the leading scorer that season for the Wave and added two goals and four assists during the postseason run up to the finals, but suffered a slight hamstring injury and was not 100 percent for the finals. Jelley, who went on to play at UMass and for the U.S. national team (making 89 international appearances from 1998 through 2005, just finished off her ninth year as the head coach of Stanford University. There were plenty of other big names on that team such as Melanie Conant, a junior midfielder who scored both goals in Greenfield’s 2-0 state semifinal win over Wachusett, as well as goalie Cheryl Canuel, who pitched three straight shutouts in the games leading up to the state finals.

There was only one division in the sport that season so Greenfield’s run to the title began with a 3-1 win over Northampton in the quarterfinals and followed with a 1-0 victory over Smith Academy in the semifinals. Just like this season, Greenfield met Frontier in the championship game and the teams went into overtime tied at 0-0 after they combined for just three shots on goal apiece in regulation. Greenfield won just 2 minutes, 47 seconds into the extra frame when Jessica Wakeley moved the ball up the right sideline and sent it into the circle to Brissette, which set off a scramble. Brissette managed to find Shannon Carley on the left side of the net and Carley flicked the ball over the goal line for the game-winner, which gave the Green Wave its first-ever western Mass. crown in the sport.

That sent the Wave on to face previously unbeaten Wachusett (19-0) in the state semifinals after Wachusett defeated Oakmont (ring any bells?) in the central Mass. finals, 1-0. The Wave was far from content with winning western Mass., as it went to Tantasqua Regional High School (the same site from this season’s semifinal) and jumped on Wachusett less than 12 minutes into the game when Conant scored her first of the night off a penalty corner. Oddly, Conant’s shot went through the netting of the goal and set off a delay as officials tried to determine if it was in fact a goal. Several holes were located in the net, and the ball retriever confirmed it went in, and Greenfield was awarded the 1-0 lead. Conant struck again with just under five minutes to play in the first half, again on a penalty corner that saw Wakeley pass to Carrie Charboneau, who sent the ball to Conant for the goal.

That sent the Wave to the finals where it met Danvers, who’s coach admitted she had never heard of Greenfield prior to the game, which also took place at WPI. Danvers took a 1-0 lead late in the first half, but Jelley, one of 13 Greenfield seniors playing in the game, tied it just 2:30 into the second half. The Green Wave defense did not allow another shot for the rest of the second half, but the offense was blanked the rest of the way, setting up overtime. Danvers got the first chance to win the game, as Canuel made a pair of pad saves two minutes into OT. That resulted in the Wave transitioning up the field where Conant carried it along the sideline before crossing it to Jelley, who fired it home from 10 yards away, giving the program its first-ever state title.

Ten years later the Green Wave fielded another memorable team for the fall of 1999. Just like this year’s team, the 1999 squad featured several players who were hungry for a title. Doton and senior Jenna Luippold were both part of the 1997 team that lost to Watertown, 2-1, in double overtime, and many of the players that season were part of the 1998 team that was upset in the western Mass. tournament. 

The 1999 Green Wave team defeated Palmer 2-1 in the WMass Division 2 semifinals and then faced Smith Academy in the finals, which nearly resulted in the Wave’s season coming to an end. Smith Academy came out against the previously unbeaten Wave and outshot Greenfield 11-2 in the opening half to take a 1-0 lead. That score held until the game’s final 13 minutes, when the Green Wave scored twice in a 67-second span off a pair of corners. Kelly Spofford tied the game at 1-1 on the first corner, and Kate Mansur put Greenfield ahead 2-1, but the Falcons came back and with 6:21 to play and tied the game. Doton rescued the Wave with 3:32 to play as she deflected a shot by Sarah Marchefka into the Smith goal for the eventual game-winner.

That sent the Wave off to the state semifinals where it left little to chance as it beat Uxbridge, 3-0. Doton scored in the first half, Luippold scored twice in the second, and the Wave moved on to the finals to face Watertown, which has been a powerhouse in the sport for years. In fact, Watertown had won seven of the previous 13 state titles back when it faced Greenfield in 1999, a similar streak that the school had going into Tuesday night’s state semifinal when it fell to Dennis-Yarmouth, 1-0. Watertown had a 49-game postseason winning streak that dated back to 2008, when it lost to Hopkinton in the state semifinals. Hopkinton went on to be Mohawk in the state finals that year, which marked the last time a team from Franklin County made the state finals in field hockey. Watertown had won every state title since then, but failed to get back to the big game this season.

In the 1999 final, the game went into the second half with the teams tied at 0-0, but Doton broke through with 12:40 to play after dribbling through the Watertown defense and nearly deking the Watertown goalie out of her pads. That lead lasted just 1 minute, 19 seconds before Christy Falco tied it for Watertown. That sent the game into overtime and with 1:46 left in the 15-minute frame, Doton put a back-handed shot into the net to give the Wave the title. The defense of Jen Mascavage, Heather Creek, Mindy Pearson and Katie Vitello came up big in front of goalie Kelly Wade, holding a dangerous Watertown offense at bay. Greenfield held a 11-9 edge in shots in regulation, and then had a 13-0 edge during the overtime.

Now, 19 years later, Raegan Hickey, Audrey Bresciano and Samantha Smith look to lead another memorable Greenfield squad to a state title and etch their names in program lore.

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