Western Mass. Summer Field Hockey League continues growing in 3rd year

  • Hopkins Academy sophomore Alexis Selig, left, challenges Hampshire Regional sophomore Jaiden Kudeska in a Western Mass Summer Field Hockey League 7-v-7 game held at South Hadley Memorial Field on Wednesday, July 28, 2021. Selig was filling in a spot on the West Springfield team in its match against players from Hampshire Regional. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Marisa Coviello, left, of Southwick, playing on the Westfield squad, cuts in on Hopkins Academy sophomore Alexis Selig, playing for Belchertown, in a Western Mass Summer Field Hockey League 7-v-7 game held at South Hadley Memorial Field on Wednesday, July 28, 2021. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Marisa Coviello, left, of Southwick and Bella Cebula of Belchertown vie for control in a Western Mass Summer Field Hockey League 7-v-7 game held at South Hadley Memorial Field on Wednesday. Coviello was playing on the Westfield squad during its match against Belchertown. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Belchertown goalie Eliza Rothstein, backed up by A.J. Terry, center, defends a shot by Westfield in a Western Mass Summer Field Hockey League 7-v-7 game held at South Hadley Memorial Field on Wednesday, July 28, 2021. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Bella Cebula, left, of Belchertown and Marisa Coviello of Southwick, playing on the Westfield squad, vie for control in a Western Mass Summer Field Hockey League 7-v-7 game held at South Hadley Memorial Field on Wednesday, July 28, 2021. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Marisa Coviello, left, of Southwick and Natalie Haluch of Belchertown chase down a loose ball in a Western Mass Summer Field Hockey League 7-v-7 game held at South Hadley Memorial Field on Wednesday, July 28, 2021. Coviello was playing on the Westfield squad during its match against Belchertown. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

Staff Writer
Published: 7/29/2021 6:54:21 PM
Modified: 7/30/2021 11:32:51 AM

SOUTH HADLEY — If you build it, they will come.

Cheesy sports flick quote aside, that’s certainly been the case for the Western Mass. Summer League. Now in its third year of existence, the 7-v-7 high school field hockey league has exploded with over 200 players involved this summer spread across 16 teams. The league, which operates on the turf field at South Hadley High School, takes place Wednesday nights over seven weeks, with the final session of playoff games set for Aug. 11.

“We just want to help keep field hockey alive here in Western Mass. and give a low pressure opportunity for kids to get together and play during the summer,” offered South Hadley High School varsity coach Tara Cole, who is the co-founder of the league along with local field hockey official Katie Hopp.

Cole said the duo noticed a lack of options for field hockey players during the summer months a few years back. Players can attend clinics and camps throughout New England, but there lacked a consistent, fun option for players of all skill levels to prepare for the impending high school field hockey season.

“You can spend hundreds of dollars on camps or elite indoor and outdoor teams, but there wasn’t necessarily something for the players who just want to play hockey in the summer,” Cole explained. “And it’s really spread.”

For $50, players get two games per week over seven weeks, as well as a league pinnie. This year’s league, which has grown from about 75 the first year in 2019 to over 200 this summer, has 16 teams, up from 12 a year ago. Teams are separated geographically and placed into different pods, so that there isn’t much time spent waiting on the sidelines to get back into a game.

“We wanted to make an affordable option for kids, because it is really about them getting out and playing over the course of the summer and getting themselves ready for the fall,” Hopp said.

This summer’s league features two teams from Longmeadow and Agawam, in addition to rosters from Belchertown, South Hadley, Smith Academy, Hampshire Regional, Frontier, Greenfield, Turners Falls/Pioneer, Holyoke, West Springfield, Southwick, Westfield and East Longmeadow.

South Hadley rising junior Meghan Carey has played in the league all three summers of its existence.

“I’ve seen a big difference with the amount of competition and more and more teams coming here,” said Carey. “It’s just a good way to play together before the high school season, work on communication and stick work and all the other things we need to do.”

Planning for year three was far different compared to last year, when the league still operated despite strict COVID-19 restrictions. That required much more detail on the logistical side of things for Cole and Hopp.

“A lot of this year has been such a relief for everyone because it’s more just playing hockey, with people in the stands,” Hopp said. “It’s a great way to get back into it, especially leading into the fall high school season. Last year with mask-wearing on the field and all that, I think this is a great opportunity for players to reacclimate themselves before preseason begins.”

The league has relied on social media (Instagram: @westernmasssummer) for scheduling updates, and they’ve opened up a Sunday make-up date feature if Wednesday games are postponed due to weather.

“Every year we're fine-tuning our process,” Cole explained. “We’re always trying to find ways to improve the experience for the kids.”

In a summer where many leagues and clinics found participation numbers scarce throughout the region, that certainly has not been the case in the field hockey world.


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