H.S. Field Hockey: What to expect from the 2021 season

  • Frontier’s Emily DeMaio, left, and Franklin Tech’s Kaitlin Trudeau battle for possession during a field hockey game played last season. Both players returns as key cogs for their respective teams this fall. Staff FILE Photo/Paul Franz

Staff Writer
Published: 9/5/2021 1:17:42 PM
Modified: 9/5/2021 3:42:51 PM

We’ve got new leagues and new faces, but thankfully, the sport of field hockey returns to relative normality after an atypical 2020 season.

Local teams played 7 against 7 a year ago, instead of the normal 11 versus 11. Penalty corners were eliminated, and masks were required at all times. That won’t be the case this time around. The rules and requirements of the sport will look like the old days when teams kick off the 2021 campaign Monday.

“I think last year the whole focus changed,” began Frontier head coach Missy Mahar. “It was really about giving those players an opportunity to get out and play, get that experience even though it was modified. We made the best of last season. In hindsight, what came out of it was the opportunity to see what those players could do moving into this season.”

Greenfield was the dominant force in the area during the shortened 2020 season, as the Green Wave didn’t lose a game. Head coach Erin Thayer, who enters her 16th season in charge of the program, said that while this year’s team may have five seniors and four juniors, there’s still quite a bit of field hockey youth involved.

“We’re not necessarily young but we’re lacking in experience at the varsity level,” Thayer offered.

The Wave have been realigned into the Suburban League, which includes perennial powerhouses like Longmeadow, Minnechaug and Agawam. Frontier, South Hadley and West Springfield are also in the seven-team league.

“I’m always of the adage that if you want to be the best, you have to play the best,” said Thayer. “I think it can be hard to compete against schools that have six times the number of girls we have in our school, but we’ll definitely do our best and try our hardest. And we’ll be stronger for it.”

After graduating 100-point scorer Katie Haselton, Greenfield will rely on senior Madyson Kuchieski to slide into that role as the team’s center midfielder.

“Katie covered a lot of ground on the field and made up for a lot of the weaknesses for us so she’s going to be a tough loss,” Thayer said. “She’s been playing that position since she was in eighth grade. It’s going to be a different mindset in that now we really have to go back to fundamentals and our layers and the structure of how we play.”

Up front, senior Heather French and junior Lillia Kachelmeyer and Brielle Widelo will be counted on to score goals, while the defense is powered by seniors Tess Rancourt and Mya Cooke. Sophomore Ainslee Flynn returns in goal, and should give Greenfield a solid presence between the pipes after playing there the past two years. Other returners include seniors Kaylah Eggsware, who will help key the midfield, and Lucy Postera, juniors Josie and Cassie Cloutier, and freshmen Amelia Keeler, Maddie Hayes and MacKenzie Paulin.

Not far away in South Deerfield, the Frontier field hockey team won the most recent Western Mass. Division 2 title contested back in 2019. This year’s Redhawks look quite different from that team, though Mahar, who is entering her 20th season as head coach, said she likes the make up of this fall’s roster.

“They’re highly motivated, very coachable, and they get along very well,” lauded Mahar. “It’s a group of kids that has pulled together. They want to work together, and they have the same goals.”

Junior Lila Roche will slot into the all important center midfield position, while seniors Emily DeMaio and Shelby Clark will handle offensive duties at forward along with junior Rebecca Wallace-West.

Senior Chelsea Camp is a defense standout in front of junior goalkeeper Ella Flanders, who returns to the mix between the pipes. Seniors Maeve Huit, Emma Clancy and Lily Markey are other experienced players who should contribute nicely.

Mahar said that Frontier will have its hands full in the new Suburban League.

“I understand realignment and why we got put there, but I think at times it can be disheartening for smaller schools who can be successful and then get put in with such bigger ones,” she said. “We’re up for competition. We’re not looking to bow down or anything”

Franklin Tech returns some strong offensive players that will hopefully keep things rolling until a young defense catches up to speed.

“This group has worked so hard,” Franklin Tech coach Rian Lovett said. “The girls are hungry to win, and they have a drive that’s different from years past.”

Sophomore Kaitlin Trudeau should be a top goal scorer, while freshman Hannah Gilbert is set to start at center midfield. Sisters Lauren (a senior) and Lilly Ross (a sophomore) are other scoring threats, while senior Emmy Thurston and freshman McKenzie Sourdiffe-Massee are also in the midfield mix. Defensively, Keira Stevens, Emily Eastman and Kendra Campbell provide a veteran core. Freshman Lilianna Inman should also see time in the back, while classmates Katy Lengieza and Harper Cutting provide depth. Goalkeeper Madison Markwell is someone to watch as the season progresses.

Athol has a roster of 11 players, though new head coach Megan Shaughnessy is hoping to add more as the season nears. The good news for the Bears is that six of those 11 players are seniors, giving the club an experienced group to work with.

“It's looking good so far,” Shaughnessy said. “We're doing well. We have a couple new girls who are catching on.”

Sadey Lehtomaki is one of those seniors and has proven to be both a goal scorer and distributor. Abby Kerwin, Christa Cucchi, Reily Polana, Ashley Rouleau and Sam Kenniff round out the senior class, and with just enough players to round out a lineup, they'll all be relied on heavily throughout the season.

Mahar lost 10 players from last year's team but has eight solid returners looking to help the Senators compete in the Valley League.

Sophia Woods will make an impact on the offensive end, Caroline Chase brings speed to the field and Sophia Whitman returns after not playing last year and should make an impact.

Kaitlyn Murray will be at the center of the defense while Bella Bacigalupo is once again the final line on defense in goal.

“I'm really happy with the enthusiasm from the girls,” Mahar coach Lauri Saisa said. “They're eager, they're positive and they're ready to go and grow as the season goes on. We're very young but our seniors have stepped up to teach the less experienced girls.”

Mohawk Trail is another young team in the area, but the club should have no shortage of offensive weapons to rely on. 

Mya Lesieur and Avery Dupree will lead the charge up front, with Stella Clark being a key player in the midfield and on defense. Addie Loomis has stood out as an eighth grader while seniors Courtney Allen, Emily Silva and Catie Silva will also have roles in the lineup.

“We have so many young girls,” new Warriors coach Ashley Walker, a former star player in Buckland, said. “Winning or losing isn't what I'm focused on as long as they're having fun. We're going to be pretty good on the offensive end.”

While Pioneer might be small in numbers — just 12 players are currently on the roster — new coach Kerry Baird said she’s seen a lot of versatility in her squad.

“We might be small in numbers but these girls are stronger than they appear,” Baird said. “They're a great group to work with.” 

Defender Kassidy DiGeorge is the lone senior on the Panthers roster while Laura Kahler, Kelseigh Sargent, Avery Sargent and Sofia Walker comprise the juniors on the team. Sophomore Kelly Baird will be in goal. 

It was a tough offseason for Turners Falls. The Thunder lost nine seniors from last year's squad, leaving them with a young roster of just 14 total players. 

Hannah Marchefka and Paige Sulda are the lone seniors on the club and both will be key cogs as Turners looks to continue the success it has had the last few seasons.

“We have a really young team,” new Turners coach Renee Tela said. “We only have two seniors and three or four kids who haven't played before. It's going to be a rebuilding year.”


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