H.S. Field Hockey Preview: Modifications abound as new season approaches

  • Charlotte Cavanaugh, right, of Smith Academy, looks for a shot against Turners Falls goalkeeper Haleigh Greene and defender Taryn Thayer during postseason action in Hatfield last year. The Thunder are loaded with veterans for the upcoming field hockey season, which begins this week throughout Franklin County. STAFF FILE PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Franklin Tech goalkeeper Kyleigh Baleno charges out to block a shot from Pioneer’s Sofia Walker during action in Northfield last year. Both players return for their respective teams this season STAFF FILE PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Staff Writer
Published: 9/29/2020 5:25:43 PM

Prepare yourself for perhaps the most bizarre high school field hockey season in area history.

Players wearing masks, full games featuring 7 on 7 action, no penalty corners? It’s all in play this fall, as Franklin County schools prepare for a seven-game schedule that will see all eight area programs play each other once. With regionalized scheduling, the Franklin County bubble begins this week and runs through the end of October.

The most notable difference on the field comes with fewer players. Instead of the normal 11 players per side, teams will play 7 on 7 (six field players and one goalie) for the entirety of the game due to MIAA modifications that aim to limit contact while allowing more room for social distancing on the field. While programs have some experience playing 7 on 7 – the format is currently used for overtime situations in the postseason – doing so for an entire game will significantly alter the product on the field.

“The strategies are different, lineups and matchups are different,” explained Greenfield head coach Erin Thayer. “You can’t hide anybody. Teams are going to need a lot better communication because not only are you going to be spread farther out, you have to be able to communicate with a mask and a mouth guard.”

No league or sectional championships awarded this fall means that defending WMass Div. 2 champ Frontier Regional School won’t get the opportunity to repeat. But the Red Hawks, like the rest of Franklin County, will still be playing to win this fall.

Oh, and they’ll still be plenty talented.

“I think the approach is to go out there and compete,” Frontier coach Missy Mahar offered. “It might look different in terms of formation and the number of players on the field, but you can’t take away the drive that’s in these kids. They long for the opportunity to compete, so even if there’s no championship, they want to be out there.”

Here’s a closer look at the rest of the teams in the area entering the fall:

Athol

COACH: Emily Hall, 4th season

LAST YEAR’S RECORD: 3-14-0, fifth in Tri-County League

ROSTER: Seniors — Madelyn Robertson, Tatum Fox; Juniors — Sadey Lehtomaki, Ashley Rouleau, Abigail Kirwin, Reily Polana, Samantha Keniff, Christa Cucchi, Avah York, Kassidy Swan; Freshmen — Lilly Rathburn; Eighth-graders — Allison Robertson; Seventh-graders — Hailey Kennedy, Lilyann Goodsell.

OUTLOOK: A veteran roster features a deep and talented junior class, as the Red Raiders look to compete in 2020.

“I’m really looking forward to this year,” head coach Emily Hall said. “We have some new faces and new challenges.”

Junior goalkeeper Samantha Keniff sets the table from the back, while tri-captains Tatum Fox, Christa Cucchi and Reily Polana will look to guide Athol into a new world with 7 on 7 action the name of the game.

“Playing 7-v-7 may be to our advantage this year since we have some speed on the field,” Hall offered. “This season will be different but I’m looking forward to seeing how my team will step up.”

Franklin Tech

COACH: Rian Lovett, 3rd season

LAST YEAR’S RECORD: 3-12-1, fourth in Tri-County League

ROSTER: Seniors — Addison Stacy, Kristen Verdieck, Kyleigh Baleno; Juniors — Emmy Thurston, Emma Paulin, Emily Eastman, Lauren Ross; Sophomores — Holly Hicks, Keira Stevens, Kendra Campbell; Freshmen — Hayden Woods, Krista Uzdavinis, Meredith Bistrek, Skylar Alamed, Kiera Baleno, Jordan Anderson, Kaitlin Trudeau, Lily Ross.

OUTLOOK: Count Franklin Tech among the programs who have seen an uptick in players this fall.

The Eagles have 18 members on their roster under third-year head coach Rian Lovett, and the consensus is that this fall will serve as a valuable experience as she looks to build a program with long-term success in mind.

“This is the first time in my coaching career here that I’ve had enough players to be able to do offense and defense drills and have people in their correct positions,” Lovett offered. “This group really wants to learn and do well. It’s a different atmosphere this year. The desire to win is there.”

Franklin Tech’s roster skews very young, though Lovett said that’s not necessarily a bad thing as she tries to sustain numbers past just this fall. There are still three seniors and four juniors to provide a bit of a veteran punch.

“I think for us, we have a lot to prove,” Lovett began. “This is one of those years that I think we can come out and surprise some people. I think it’s going to be a really good building year for us. Yeah, it’s not perfect, but for us, I think this is going to be a year to learn and gel as a team. Then when the leagues come back (next year), hopefully we’ll be able to compete.”

Junior Emmy Thurston should be one of the top players for the Eagles this fall, while Pioneer transfer Kaitlin Trudeau comes in with varsity experience already despite being just a freshman. Kendra Campbell is another player who has stood out early on, and Lovett said she also expects key contributions from Lauren Ross and Keira Stevens.

Senior Kyleigh Baleno returns with experience in the goal, and Lovett said Stevens will also see time there.

Frontier

COACH: Missy Mahar, 19th season

LAST YEAR’S RECORD: 16-3-1, first in Valley League; defeated Greenfield in WMass Div. 2 final, lost to Hopedale in state semifinal

ROSTER: Seniors — Alyson Barnes, Savannah Upton, Devyn Prusak, Brooke Flanders, Maddy Lustenberger; Juniors — Emily DeMaio, Maeve Huit, Chelsea Camp, Shelby Clark, Emily Plasse, Emma Clancy, Lily Markey, Malak Ibarhim; Sophomores — Ella Flanders, Lila Roche, Rebecca Wallace-West, Summer Sobieski; Freshmen — Madison McKemmie, Hailey Hutkoski, Brianna Strozuk. Eighth-grader – Kyra Richards.

OUTLOOK: The Red Hawks won their first sectional title since 2015, knocking off rival Greenfield in the final before falling in overtime to Hopedale in the state semifinals. It was an outstanding year for the program, which graduated eight seniors from its roster including the likes of Olivia Vecellio, Lily Spencer and Grace Wesoloski.

Mahar said that while there are some familiar faces on this year’s roster, she’ll be calling on a handful of newcomers to fill vacated roles.

“It’s gonna look different in the sense that we lost a group of seniors who had been a part of the program for a long time,” the Frontier coach offered.

The good news is that a solid chunk of the Frontier offense returns. Senior Alyson Barnes is an experienced scorer up top, while sophomore Lila Roche seemed to have a knack for scoring big goals throughout her freshman campaign. Junior Emily DeMaio is another top scorer who returns, giving the Red Hawks plenty of depth offensively.

Frontier’s defense will look significantly different, and Mahar admitted she’s still working through lineup combinations to find what works best in the back.

One thing that’s for certain is sophomore Ella Flanders takes over the starting goalkeeping role. In front of her, Mahar pointed to junior Chelsea Camp as someone to figure prominently into the defensive rotation after providing quality minutes during the postseason run a year ago.

“We lost a lot defensively so it’s going to be a different look there,” Mahar said. “It’s going to be a good year to get a bunch of players some experience in the back and hopefully we’ll find something that works.”

Greenfield

COACH: Erin Thayer, 15th season

LAST YEAR’S RECORD: 14-6-1, second in Valley League; lost to Frontier in WMass Div. 2 final

ROSTER: Seniors — Katie Haselton, Jenna Elwell, Amber Taylor, Eva Pruitt-Dahl; Juniors — Madyson Kuchieski, Kaylah Eggsware, Heather French, Lucy Postera, Mya Cooke, Tess Rancourt; Sophomores — Brielle Widelo, Lillia Kachelmeyer, Cassie Cloutier, Josie Cloutier; Freshmen — Ainslee Flynn; Eighth-graders — Mackenzie Paulin.

OUTLOOK: With no seniors on last year’s roster, 2020 was expected to be another big season for the Green Wave. Thayer admitted that not getting to play for a WMass and potential state title is a disappointment for her squad.

“From the time that game ended (against Frontier) last year, the girls have been focused on this season,” Thayer explained. “They were so hungry for another chance so it’s a huge disappointment that they won’t be able to compete for (a title).”

Senior midfielder Katie Haselton enters this fall needing 24 points to reach 100 for her career, and she headlines a returning core that includes juniors Kaylah Eggsware and Madyson Kuchieski, as well as sophomore sniper Lillia Kachelmeyer.

The senior class is plenty experienced with Jenna Elwell and Amber Taylor back, while newcomer Eva Pruitt-Dahl comes over from the soccer team.

“I’m gonna give my seniors as much (playing) time as they need because this is it for them,” Thayer said. “But we do have some younger kids that can handle the pace of the game and they’ll be able to get some time. We should be able to mix in some players who might not have had the opportunity before.”

Freshman goalkeeper Ainslee Flynn returns after a strong eighth-grade year as the starter between the pipes.

Mahar

COACH: Laurie Saisa, 16th season

LAST YEAR’S RECORD: 7-9-2, fourth place in Bi-County League

ROSTER: Seniors — Hannah Dupont, Abby Henne, Gracie Marsh, Mattie Budine, Jasmine Vezina, Morgan Barnes, Chelsea Vezina; Juniors — Caroline Chase, Robyn Bousquet, Lacee Boutell, Dezzary Murray, Kaitlyn Murray, Hannah North, Cadence Spencer, Sophia Whitman, Natalie Apteker; Sophomores — Isabella Bisceglia, Sophia Woods, Brooklyn Kennedy, Astha Bernard; Freshmen – Laura McGinnis.

OUTLOOK: Having graduated no seniors from last year’s team that fell just shy of a postseason berth, expect the Senators to cause problems for teams throughout Franklin County this fall.

While there are new rules and modifications to follow, Mahar coach Laurie Saisa said the fact that the sport of field hockey is still playing games this fall is a big positive.

“I think the biggest piece is trying to keep everybody positive,” Saisa said. “We’re playing, and that’s tremendous. So that’s been my number one priority, reminding them that we’re here and we get to have some form of a season.”

No penalty corners is a big change, particularly for the way Saisa teaches and coaches defensively. She said she expects the game to look quite different with all the new modifications in place.

“It’s going to be more possession, more passing,” she said. “Some are familiar with that concept; we’ve played overtime in the (postseason) a couple of times so we’ve run 7-v-7. It’s just a reprogramming and looking at things a little differently.”

Seniors Mattie Budine (defense), Gracie Marsh (forward), Jasmine Vezine (defense) and Hannah Dupont (midfield) will serve as captains for the Senators. Goalkeeper Isabella Bisceglia returns and Saisa expects a strong season from the sophomore. Both Natalie Apteker and Astha Bernard came over from the girls’ soccer team and should contribute due to their athleticism.

“The kids are playing hard, working hard in practice,” Saisa offered. “I think they’re excited to get going.”

Mohawk Trail

COACHES: Taylor Shippee, Kelsey Scranton, 2nd season

LAST YEAR’S RECORD: 4-10-4, fifth in Bi-County League

ROSTER: Seniors — Sarah Herzig, Abby Sinistore, Lexi Williams; Juniors — Courtney Allen, Stella Clark, Avery DuPree, Kordaryl Kendall, Mya Lesieur, Catie Silva, Emily Silva; Sophomores — Paige King; Freshmen — Rachel Pease, Emily Sisum, Ellie Snape; Eighth-graders — Hannah Gilbert, Sofiya Slocik-Gritzner, McKayla Tatro; Seventh-graders — Addie Loomis, Kate Walker.

OUTLOOK: A lot of familiar faces return to the fray for the Warriors, as the team welcomes back the bulk of their roster from a year ago when they played better than their record indicates.

Co-coaches Taylor Shippee and Kelsey Scranton hope that a veteran senior contingent, combined with a talented junior class, will enable their team to have some success this fall.

“We are returning the same group of core players from last season and will be looking to continue to build on the foundation that they started to establish at the end of last year,” offered Shippee. “All of the seniors are four-year varsity members and we will be looking to them to lead as we navigate this modified style of play.”

Mohawk Trail opens its schedule Friday at home against Frontier.

Pioneer

COACH: Marty Mulvihill, 1st season

LAST YEAR’S RECORD: 7-8-2, third place in Tri-County League

ROSTER: Seniors — Charlotte Kahler; Juniors — Kassidy DiGeorge; Sophomores — Sofia Walker, Kelseigh Sargent, Avery Sargent, Laura Kahler, Freshmen — Hailey Haughey, Kelly Baird; Eighth-graders — Riley Thayer, Harper Cutting, Mercedez Selivanoff; Seventh-graders — Lauryn Kolonowski.

OUTLOOK: The Panthers missed a postseason berth a year ago by just one point, and while they graduated some key contributors from that squad, a young 2020 team is eager to test its mettle against the rest of Franklin County.

Marty Mulvihill takes over the program this fall, and he’ll be joined by assistant coaches Robert Haughey and Ella Potee, the latter a former player at Pioneer. Mulvihill, who stepped to the plate when the program was in need of a coach, is relatively new to the sport but his daughter previously played at Pioneer.

“This is a new experience for me, and learning more about the sport to keep the program going is what’s most important,” he explained. “I have coached many of these kids in high school, recreation and suburban league softball so it’s just learning to transition to a new game with familiar faces.”

Senior Charlotte Kahler comes over from the soccer team and she’ll handle the goalkeeping duties after the Panthers lost veteran Athena Fowler-Shaw to graduation. Defensively, Laura Kahler will occupy the sweeper slot while eighth-graders Harper Cutting and Mercedes Selivanoff represent a youthful fullback unit.

“We have a young team but some of these players come with experience,” Mulvihill said.

Up front, underclassmen Riley Thayer and Hailey Haughey are penciled in at forward, while the midfield core consists of Kassidy DiGeorge, Sofia Walker, Kelseigh Sargent, Avery Sargent, Kelly Baird and Lauryn Kolonowski.

Turners Falls

COACH: Becky Zukowski, 4th season

LAST YEAR’S RECORD: 8-6-5, third place in Bi-County League; lost to Smith Academy in WMass Div. 2 quarterfinals

ROSTER: Seniors — Taryn Thayer, Jade Tyler, Olivia Whittier, Brynn Tela, Kaylin Voudren, Audrey O’Keefe, Juliana Rode, Haleigh Greene, Taylor Murphy; Juniors — Paige Sulda, Hannah Marchefka; Sophomores — Brooke Thayer, Morgan Dobias, Logan Addison, Cady Wozniak; Freshmen — Avery Tela, Holly Myers; Eighth-graders — Ella Guidaboni; Seventh-graders — Kailey Steiner, Laken Chessie.

OUTLOOK: There’s a lot to like about the Thunder roster this fall.

Turners has a sizable and talented senior class at the helm, and the squad showed well during summer league action in South Hadley in preparation for this season. It’s a roster full of returning players except for senior Taylor Murphy, who comes over from the volleyball team, and sophomore Logan Addison, who transferred back from Franklin Tech.

Defensive standout Aly Murphy graduated, though there is still a lot of experience back on that side of the field in Taryn Thayer and Jade Tyler. Senior Brynn Tela should provide a scoring punch, and goalkeeper Haleigh Greene is plenty experienced between the pipes.




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