By HockomockSports.com Staff
Sharon senior Emma Eberhardt has been selected as the HockomockSports.com Player of the Week, presented by Morse Insurance, for April 7 through April 13. Eberhardt is the 25th player chosen as Player of the Week for the 2018-19 school year and the second player in the spring season.
Eberhardt, a senior midfielder, was the primary offensive threat for the Eagles during a two-win week, which included Sharon’s first league win of the season. The Lehigh University-commit scored 12 goals, assisted on three others, snagged 13 draw controls, and scooped 13 ground balls, providing the Eagles with an all-around game to push their record to 3-1 this season.
“Emma is a fantastic leader, she has an ability to focus our team, to share her insight on the game, and to get our team pumped up,” said Sharon coach Shara Ginthwain. “She works hard to not only make herself better but to also help younger players improve their games as well. Her lacrosse IQ allows her to read plays anticipate passes, and get to the ball before her opponent. She really can do it all and our team is lucky to have her!”
Eberhardt started the week by helping Sharon beat Canton for its first league win. She was a factor in all eight of Sharon’s goals, scoring five times and assisting on the other three. Two days later the Eagles beat North Attleboro in a non-league game and Eberhardt was once again in the middle of everything Sharon had going on offense. She scored seven of the team’s 15 goals to extend the team’s win streak to three games since the season-opening loss to King Philip.
The Player of the Week, presented by Morse Insurance, is selected by the HockomockSports.com staff. Nominations can be submitted throughout the week up until Saturday night at midnight. There may be a poll posted on every Sunday with the nominations. The results of the poll influence the selection but do not strictly dictate the decision.
Until the middle of her sophomore year of college, Hana Caster had defined her lacrosse career by scoring and setting up goals. She scored more than 100 points her senior year of high school alone, but her coaches at UMass Lowell saw something more in her game and moved her into a new, defensive role. She is no longer counted on to score goals but to try and prevent them.
It was admittedly not an easy transition for the former North Attleboro star and 2016 HockomockSports.com Player of the Year, but with time Caster has grown into her new position and earlier this season was named America East Defensive Player of the Week, a sign of her growing comfort level and confidence in defense.
“Yep, I’m a defender,” Caster said with a chuckle during a phone conversation following the team’s loss to the University of Albany in March. Right before practice at the midpoint of last season, the UMass Lowell coaches told Caster they had a surprise. She was no longer going to be in the River Hawks midfield but be the backer in their zone defense.
“I was not very confident on my defensive skills,” she admitted. “I wasn’t 100 percent confident that that’s where I was going to best help my team but, you know, got through it the last eight games. I wasn’t great at it, but I got through it.”
Although she suffered a ligament injury in her foot that kept her out of fall ball, Caster was able to watch the game from the sideline, studying her new position, and came into this spring determined to be better and more comfortable in front of her own goal.
“This season, I was just like, alright wherever they put me I’m going to do the best I can and I’m really enjoying the position,” she explained. “I’ve tried to use my offensive mindset on defense because at first I was like this is boring, I don’t want to just stop the ball, but now I’m thinking, okay I’m going to get the ball back so we can get back on offense. I never realized how fun low defense could be.”
As a former attacker, Caster uses her experience on offense to help anticipate what opponents are going to be doing. She can read the hips of a driving attacker, realize what she would have done with the ball, and jump the play to prevent the ball getting to goal. She can also use her new vantage point to give advice to the River Hawks attackers about what might work best.
Caster’s speed was one of her biggest assets, both in lacrosse and on the soccer pitch, and she got most of her 34 career goals in transition. Playing defense could lead to some chances to convert a turnover into a fast break, when she has the energy to burst forward. “Defense is tiring,” she said with a laugh. “Sometimes I’m like, I don’t know if I can run this ball up. More often than not I run it over to the attackers and let them do their thing.”
UMass Lowell coach Carissa Medeiros noted that Caster wasn’t originally on the recruiting radar but drew the attention of the coaching staff at a summer clinic that Caster attended the summer before her senior season at North. After the three-day clinic, Medeiros said it was imperative that Caster come back in for an official visit. The coach had no idea at that point she would be moving Caster from midfield to defense.
“We had to convince her to trust us that her value is much more dynamic than that, and quite honestly, focusing on just that aspect of her game had been holding her back,” Medeiros said.
Medeiros added that there were several “teary-eyed meetings” as Caster learned her new position, but that there has been definite growth from her first game at defense to now. She said, “It’s a spot that allows all of her strengths to shine, while also allowing her to spend some time working on fine-tuning the rest of her skills.”
Caster’s progress was confirmed earlier this season when she was named the America East Defensive Player of the Week. “I didn’t know that I could be noticed for playing good defense because I don’t notice that,” Caster joked. “It is gratifying to just know that I am in a good place and my hard work is paying off.” The River Hawks went 1-1 that week, and Caster recorded seven draw controls, six ground balls, and eight caused turnovers.
While UMass Lowell is a relatively young lacrosse program, having only started in 2015, Caster entered this season in the top 10 all-time in career goals, assists, points, ground balls, draw controls, and caused turnovers. She has found success no matter where the River Hawks have lined her up, but Caster said that it took time to get her footing at the collegiate level.
“It’s definitely a humbling experience to play a college sport,” she explained. “The first half of my freshman season, every time I got the ball I would just pass it because I was almost scared to make mistakes. I did eventually get it but it was a tough transition.”
Caster continued, “I think I have learned more about the game of lacrosse in the past three years than I did my entire career…You learn so much so quickly and I think it’s stressful as a freshman but now as a junior I finally feel like a seasoned player.”
Medeiros appreciates the willingness of an upperclassman to take on a new role and the positive message that it sends to her teammates. “Hana is definitely amongst those rare players that can put their own thoughts aside for the betterment of the team,” Medeiros explained. “And in doing so, she has developed into one of the most valuable players on our roster.”
The River Hawks have struggled during their first few seasons, having only won 12 games all-time coming into 2019. Having top 20 teams like Stony Brook and Albany in the conference certainly doesn’t help the growing pains of a new program, but Caster appreciates the challenge of building a new legacy in Lowell.
She had a similar experience in North Attleboro. Her senior season, in which she scored 61 goals and led the Hockomock League with 46 assists, was the first time that North hosted a playoff game. The Rocketeers opened the playoffs with a win before losing to eventual state finalist Walpole. That season helped change the expectations around the program and Caster wants to do the same in college.
“That’s one of the biggest why I came here to play,” she said. “I like being the underdog and I loved my high school career and loved leaving the field for the last time and feel like we started something here.
“If that were to happen again, which I’m fully confident that it will, it would be like repeating history and I’d love to end my career knowing that I was part of building two programs.”
By HockomockSports.com Staff
2019 Hockomock Girls Lacrosse Preview
2018 Record: 3-15
2018 Finish: Missed Playoffs
Coach: Chrissy Quinn
Attleboro is a relatively young program that is looking to build on a talented group of returning players, particularly in the attacking end of the field. New head coach Chrissy Quinn has a dynamic group of attackers that she is hoping will build on last season’s 113 goals, which was the second-lowest goals tally in the league.
The key player in the midfield and attack is senior Kyra Lyons, who accounted for nearly half of the team’s goals last spring despite drawing the attention of opposing defenders. Lyons will be joined by senior midfielder Rylee Fontes, a Worcester State-commit, who adds a secondary playmaker around the opponent’s goal. Junior attackers Sydney DiLiddo, Kelly Johnson, Rylee Turnes, and Ashley Piazza will get helped by sophomore Hannah Webster, Campbell Compton, and Isabella Salviati.
On the defensive side of the ball, seniors Sam Fasoldt and Sydney Viera will be the leaders of the back line, trying to protect sophomore Maggie Porreca and junior Dee Graham, who will both see time in goal this season. Juniors Julia Willis, C.J. Westwater, and Lynn McDonald will also be jumping into the defensive unit to add depth at the back for the Bombardiers.
2018 Record: 4-13
2018 Finish: Missed Playoffs
Coach: Laurie Chabot
Like many of the teams in the Davenport division, Canton comes into the spring eyeing a return to the state tournament. The Bulldogs last made it in 2016 after finishing in a three-way tie for second behind Foxboro in the Davenport division. With a mix of new faces and experienced returning players, second-year coach Laurie Chabot is hopeful that this season with see Canton make a run up the standings.
Canton will have a lot of experience in the defensive unit even after graduating a few key pieces. Senior Molly Cummings will be the leader at the back and will be joined by classmate Devyn McGrann and freshman Sydney Gallery, whose twin sister Fay will jump into the midfield this season. Junior Alexa Maffeo and seniors Maggie Connolly and Leah McLellan will also be critical for the Bulldogs to take control of the middle of the field and transition from defense into attack. Communication at the back will be key. There are several new faces in the attacking unit but Chabot is already seeing that chemistry is building. She was pleased with results in the preseason and is hoping that confidence will carry over into the games that count.
“We are off to a great start this spring,” Chabot said. “This year we not only have a strong team with both skill and speed, but we have size on our side. The team is coming together, starting with a win against Norwood in our scrimmage. We have strong players in all areas it’s hard to pinpoint just one.”
2018 Record: 14-6
2018 Finish: Reached D2 East Quarterfinal
Coach: Brittany Sherry
Expectations may be as high for this year’s Foxboro team as any under head coach Brittany Sherry because the Warriors have a roster filled with talent and experience (14 returning seniors). Foxboro will be looking to clinch an eighth straight league title but also will have its sights set on bringing home the program’s first sectional title as well. With the weapons at the Warriors disposal, there is the potential for plenty of silverware to come their way this spring.
It all starts with two-time reigning Hockomock League MVP (and reigning HockomockSports.com Player of the Year) Sophia DiCenso. The senior midfielder has spent the off-season playing with the youth national team and will be the cog on which the Warriors build their attacks. She is joined in the midfield by classmate Molly Murphy, who is closing in on 100 goals in her career, juniors Abby Hassman and Jamie Notarangelo and sophomore Ella Waryas, who each provide Foxboro with solid two-way play. In attack, seniors Meghan Curran and Caroline McGeary have consistently provided goals in big games and sophomore Lilly Vey is a newcomer to watch this spring. The loss of Alex Stamatos to injury will be tough on defense, but senior Carlie Stern will provide the leadership for an experienced group that includes seniors Mary Spillane and Jenna Stamatov and junior Grace Boudreau. Of course, if anyone gets through then University of Louisville-commit Sara Addeche will be waiting in goal.
“This year our main goal is to take it game by game,” Sherry said. “We’re putting whatever has happened these last few years, as far as previous wins/losses and playoffs go, and putting it in our past. We need to continue to work hard every day, play as a team and have fun while doing it. We all have a common goal and know what it’s going to take to get there.”
2018 Record: 14-6
2018 Finish: Reached D1 East Semifinal
Coach: Kristin Igoe Guarino
It is a sign of just how far the Franklin program has come that being knocked out in last season’s East semifinal could almost be considered a disappointment. After winning the East title in 2016 and 2017, the Panthers come into the spring with another roster loaded with talent and experience and a schedule loaded with the top teams in the state to prep for a deep tournament run as well as trying to make it eight straight league titles.
Senior Annie Walsh will be the focal point for the Panthers again this year and the player that the offense typically runs through. Her sister Erin, a junior attacker, is one of the best finishers in the league and gives Franklin a dynamic one-two punch on offense. Junior Kelsey MacCallum adds another talented attacker to the forward line, while senior Hailey Toolin adds versatility as either a midfielder or defender and junior Alex Field will be a key piece of a defensive unit that was by far the best in the Hock last season. Junior goalie Gianna Cameron is another reason for the Panthers having such a strong defensive record after two straight seasons on the HockomockSports.com First Team. The Panthers haven’t lost a league game since 2012 (more than 70 straight wins) and have added an exciting freshman class with loads of potential, including six players making the instant jump to varsity.
“We have a ton of versatility where a lot of different players can play all positions. I am excited about the athleticism and skill level of our team,” said Franklin coach Kristin Igoe Guarino. “We have a ton of players with high level stick work and IQ that are capable of scoring and feeding. I am looking forward to us becoming a team with a high powered offense!”
2018 Record: 14-6
2018 Finish: Reached D1 East Quarterfinal
Coach: Kourtnie Wilder
Under first-year head coach Kourtnie Wilder, King Philip built on the momentum of its run to the 2017 East semifinal to put together a 14-win season and finish comfortably in second place in the Kelley-Rex division. The Warriors took Franklin to triple-overtime, coming as close as anyone has in recent years to ending the Panthers’ long league win streak, and battled with Lincoln-Sudbury in the East quarterfinal. Now, KP is hoping to use that experience to make a run at ending Franklin’s dominance in the division.
The key for KP may be the attack, which returns a lot of goals from last season. Senior Caroline Klim is back and will be a player that opposing defenses will have to watch out for after leading the league with 73 goals last season, including nine against Sharon in the playoffs. Klim will be joined up top by classmate Dana Truini and junior Jessica Sullivan. Defensively, Wilder points to the team’s aggressiveness and communications as being the keys to building on a season in which the Warriors only allowed 153 goals, which was second-best in the Hock. Senior Victoria Tormey, a HockomockSports.com First Team defender last season and Boston University-commit, will be the leader at the back and will have classmate Caroline Watson back in goal behind her to make a formidable group for opponents to break down.
Wilder said, “We are excited for the season and have a great group of returners. This season will be competitive as we are playing some strong teams, but we are up for the challenge! We are looking to build off of our success from last season and continuing to work hard and improve each day at practice.”
2018 Record: 9-10
2018 Finish: Reached D1 East First Round
Coach: Lauryn Wilkie
New coach Lauryn Wilkie takes over the program this spring, looking to push an experienced Mansfield roster up the league standings, challenge Franklin at the top of the division, and make another run at a state tournament berth. The Hornets will be counting on its 11 returning seniors to keep things heading in the right direction this spring.
Senior attacker Katie Garvin will lead the forward line again this season after being among the league’s top scorers in 2018. Seniors Lauren Whitman and Maggie Danehy bring verve, energy, and experience to the Mansfield midfield, covering on draw controls and the transition game. Seniors Emily Vigeant and Kylie Tryder will cover the back line just in front of senior goalie Katie McCarthy, all of whom have multiple years of experience on varsity and should be a strength of the team. There are some underclassmen who will contribute right away for the Hornets, including sophomore midfielders Annemarie McCoy, Abby Varricchione, and Grace Fernandez and sophomore defender Melissa Shanteler.
“We are coming back this year with a brand new coaching staff looking to make some changes to the program,” said Wilkie. “We are breaking down the sport back to the basics and building it back up. Once this team finds their groove, I expect big things.”
2018 Record: 2-16
2018 Finish: Missed Playoffs
Coach: Nicole Serra
Milford has a number of players back and a new head coach, Nicole Serra, looking to make a quick turnaround from last season in which the Hawks won only twice overall. With an athletic group back, Serra is working on building chemistry and putting the players in position to take advantage of their speed in transition. After scoring a league-low 82 goals last season, the attack will be a primary area of focus this spring.
Seniors Emily Haley, Katie Drysdale, and Sophia Bucal will give the Hawks leadership on the field, with Bucal providing a vocal presence in the attack. Senior Briana Maietta will join Bucal up front and they will be helped by junior midfielders Annie Flanagan and Elena Bon Tempo, who add athleticism whether in the attack or tracking back to help out on defense. Junior Hannah Bangert will be the leader at the back, controlling the defensive zone, along with sophomores Katie Maietta, Jillian Michelson, and Eva Parson.
“I am hoping to see the team really push themselves to improve every day and treat each practice like a game,” said Serra. “We are working on improving our speed, adding to our repertoire of offensive plays, and beating our record from previous years. I am looking forward to a great season.”
2018 Record: 7-11
2018 Finish: Missed Playoffs
Coach: Colleen Carchedi
While North Attleboro finished below .500 last season, the Rocketeers only missed a postseason berth by a single game, ending up one game behind Sharon and in third-place in the Davenport division. Second-year coach Colleen Carchedi, who came over from Sharon last spring, is counting on the team’s young core (and the new turf at Beaupre Field) to help North get back into the postseason hunt and even challenge Foxboro’s reign at the top of the division.
Senior attacker Alexa Sinacola and senior defender Lauren Pezzi will be leaders on either end of the field, but North also has a strong junior class that will be counted on to produce this season, especially after the graduation of perennial all-star Kenzi Rosenberg. Junior Katie Lindstrom will be the focus of attention in the midfield after committing to UMass Lowell in the off-season, but she will have help from classmates Kathryn Kayata, Regan Fein, Lily Cameron, and Lindsay Spratt. Junior Faith Graveline will step into goal to try and help Pezzi lock down the defense along with sophomore starters Camryn Gonrdell and Aimee Baiungo. Sophomore Maggie O’Brien will add a spark to the attack.
Carchedi said, “We are young, but we are fresh. We are full of potential and certainly have the ability to compete at a high level of lacrosse. It is going to be a great season for us. Having the turf will be crucial in creating success for the program. I am very excited for this season and the future looks bright.”
2018 Record: 8-12
2018 Finish: Missed Playoffs
Coach: Nicole Lang
Oliver Ames continues to build the depth within its program to try and get that elusive berth in the state tournament. The Tigers have won eight games in each of the past three seasons, making the postseason in 2016 and narrowly missing out by two wins each of the last two years. This spring, OA will send out a relatively young squad that will look to get the Tigers over the hump and into the playoffs.
While there is plenty of youth on the roster, OA has leadership from a core of experienced players, including senior midfielder Olivia Piazza, who was on the HockomockSports.com Second Team last year and is committed to Merrimack College. She scored 91 points last season and will be the engine at the heart of the OA midfield. Senior Maddie Kullen will be in goal this season for the Tigers and classmate Grace McCallum returns to lead the defensive unit.
OA will try to improve its defensive record and make strides up the league standings under second-year coach Nicole Lang, who said, “We have a young team this year but with a lot of determination to learn the game. We continue to work hard each day to continue to build a competitive team for this League. The girls are definitely excited for the season so we are looking forward to their hard work paying off.”
2018 Record: 11-8
2018 Finish: Reached D1 East First Round
Coach: Shara Ginthwain
Sharon has made the playoffs each of the past three seasons and has gone 7-3 in league play for the past two years. It has been an unprecedented run of success for the program and the challenge for the Eagles is to keep that momentum going even with the loss of key players to graduation. Second-year coach Shara Ginthwain will hope that new players can step in and that the team’s chemistry and effort will allow Sharon to continue battling at the top of the Davenport division standings.
Senior midfielder Emma Eberhardt is the key to the Eagles staying on track. The Lehigh University-commit scored 69 goals last year, including five against KP in the playoffs, and has been one of the top playmakers in the league the past three seasons. Eberhardt’s normal running mate in midfield, Sabrina Robbins, is now playing at the University of Colorado, so it will be important for her to build a rapport with sophomore Jenna Goldstein, who had an impressive rookie campaign, and senior Maeve Barbera. Senior goalie Rose Wald will be back between the pipes and classmate Bridget McManus is back to guide the defensive unit after being a HockomockSports.com Second Team performer last spring. Sophomore Molly McAlevey is a newcomer in defense to keep an eye on.
“Based on tryouts, practices, and scrimmages early this season, I can already tell that this team has a lot of heart, a lot of grit, and does not give up,” said Ginthwain. “I think their mental toughness is going to be a big strength for us this year!”
2018 Record: 7-10
2018 Finish: Missed Playoffs
Coach: Kerry Northup
Taunton has been on the verge of getting into the postseason in each of the past two seasons, missing out by just two wins last year, including a one-goal loss to Canton and a pair of non-league losses to New Bedford. With a young crew coming into this spring, the Tigers will be looking to improve their performance in the league (2-8 in the Hock in 2018) to push themselves into the postseason conversation.
The key for the Tigers is sophomore Alana Tavares. The three-year starter has been one of the league’s most dynamic attacking threats since jumping onto the varsity scene as an eighth grader and so much of the Taunton attack runs through her. Junior Kamryn Li is also back for the Tigers after scoring 23 goals last season. The only seniors on this year’s team are Emma Sheehan and Mabel Smith, but Taunton will have 10 sophomores, eight freshmen and an eighth-grader on this year’s roster, so the underclassmen are going to have roles to play right away this spring.
“We are a young group this year, but added some promising players to our roster,” said Taunton coach Kerry Northup. “We are excited to work with and grow the young talent we gained towards building us as a confident, strong competitor in the league.”
By HockomockSports.com Staff
Players are listed alphabetically
Gianna Cameron, Junior – Franklin
Franklin junior goalie Gianna Cameron has been a standout for each of her two seasons in net for the Panthers, earning HockomockSports.com First Team honors both years. Cameron, a University of Oregon-commit, has been a rock for the league’s top defensive unit, showing off quick hands and the ability to read the intentions of opposing attackers. She led the league in goals against average with just a little more than six per game. The Panthers only allowed 127 goals last spring, which was almost 30 goals fewer than the second-best defense in the Hock, on their way to another perfect league campaign, another Kelley-Rex division title, and another trip to the D1 East semifinal. Cameron has that knack for making the big saves in big moments and will be a key figure if Franklin wants to regain its sectional title.
Sophia DiCenso, Senior – Foxboro
It is hard to find new plaudits for the two-time reigning Hockomock League MVP, 2017 HockomockSports.com Underclassman of the Year and 2018 HockomockSports.com Player of the Year. Foxboro senior midfielder Sophia DiCenso has been one of the league’s top players since she walked onto the field her freshman year and the University of Richmond-commit is the main reason that the Warriors are considered one of the favorites in D2 East. She scored 56 goals and assisted on 27 others last season, helping the Davenport champions lead the league with 274 goals as a team. She also added 53 draw controls, showing off the all-around game that got her onto the national team radar. With her quick feet, quick hands, and vision, DiCenso can open up defenses for either her own shot or to set up her teammates and she rarely makes the wrong choice when through on goal.
Emma Eberhardt, Senior – Sharon
Sharon senior midfielder Emma Eberhardt displayed the full range of her game last season, leading the league in scoring and helping the Eagles make another trip to the postseason. Tall and athletic, Eberhardt has the ability to carry the ball the length of the field, split the opposition defense, and use her long reach and quick shot to score from any angle. The Lehigh University-commit scored 69 goals and dished out 56 assists in 2018 while grabbing 116 draw controls and scooping up 56 ground balls. She was a do-everything midfielder last season and might need to do even more this year with the graduation of her midfield partner Sabrina Robbins. If she can develop her relationship with promising sophomore Jenna Goldstein, then the Eagles will continue to have one of the most dynamic pairings in the league and challenge Foxboro’s hegemony in the division.
Katy Garvin, Senior – Mansfield
Mansfield senior attacker Katy Garvin was not only the Hornets’ top attacking threat in 2018 but led the Hockomock League in the regular season with 70 goals, including the 100th of her career. Coming into the new season, under new head coach Lauryn Wilkie, Garvin will be the focal point of the Mansfield attack. A quick player with the ability to shake off defenders with a drop of the shoulder and then finish in traffic, Garvin also had 40 assists and her 110 points accounted for nearly half of the goals that the Hornets scored last spring. Entering her fourth year on varsity, Garvin will be counted on to try and push Mansfield up the standings and get the Hornets back into the state tournament.
Caroline Klim, Senior – King Philip
King Philip senior Caroline Klim stepped up in a big way last season after an injury to Katie Crowther, who had led the Warriors in scoring for three seasons, went down with an injury. Klim, a UMass Lowell-commit, propelled KP into second place in the Kelley-Rex, including a three-overtime game against Franklin that nearly ended the Panthers’ long league winning streak, and into the D1 East quarterfinal. She scored 73 goals (counting the playoffs), which was the best in the league, and had 12 assists. In addition to her scoring, Klim grabbed 80 draw controls and 40 ground balls. Her tenacity and creativity in front of goal made her one of the toughest covers in the Hock and she came through in big moments, such as a nine-goal haul against Sharon in the playoffs. With Klim leading the line, KP is thinking about ending the long dominance of Franklin in the Kelley-Rex division.
Katie Lindstrom, Junior – North Attleboro
North Attleboro junior Katie Lindstrom broke out last spring, proving to be a great complement to Mackenzie Rosenberg in the North midfield and getting the Rocketeers within one league win of a return to the state tournament. Speedy and with a strong lacrosse IQ, the UMass Lowell-commit eclipsed the 100-point mark for her career as just a sophomore, scoring 43 goals and recording 21 assists for the season. Her playmaking ability, whether to open up space for her own shot or to set up teammates in good scoring positions, will be vital for the Rocketeers as they try to make a run back to the postseason and challenge Foxboro at the top of the division under second-year coach Colleen Carchedi.
Kyra Lyons, Senior – Attleboro
Attleboro senior midfielder Kyra Lyons is one of the players that flies under the radar, as the Bombardiers struggled to pick up wins last year despite Lyons having a great individual season. A HockomockSports.com Second Team performer last season, the Framingham State-commit was one of the top 10 scorers in the league last year regardless of the attention that opposing defenses were forced to give her. Lyons uses her speed and her ability to find small seams to create scoring opportunities. She scored 54 goals as a junior and assisted on 14 others, which accounted for more than half of the goals that Attleboro scored as a team. She was also the first player in program history to reach the 100-goal mark for her career. Under first-year coach Chrissy Quinn, Lyons will again be the primary weapon for Attleboro as it tries to improve on its record in 2018.
Olivia Piazza, Senior – Oliver Ames
Oliver Ames senior Olivia Piazza is another player that has had a strong career outside of the league’s perennial powers and she has gotten the Tigers on the verge of a playoff spot in each of the past two seasons. She is an all-around performer for OA, scoring goals, setting up teammates, providing defensive cover, and being a main weapon in the Tigers’ transition game. Piazza, a Merrimack College-commit, was third in the league during the regular season with 91 points, scoring 50 goals (including the 100th of her career) and assisting on 41 more. She also had 106 draw controls, 35 ground balls, and caused 32 turnovers, providing OA with just about whatever it needed every game. If the Tigers will make a run at the state tournament this season, Piazza will be right in the middle of everything again this spring.
Alana Tavares, Sophomore – Taunton
Taunton sophomore midfielder Alana Tavares is already a seasoned veteran for the Tigers as she enters her third year on varsity. Already a 100-goal scorer in her career, Tavares has emerged as one of the league’s top attacking threats, despite garnering the attention of every defender that the Tigers face. She was one of the top 10 scorers in the Hockomock during the regular season with 53 goals (tied for eighth best in the Hock) and 21 assists (tied for ninth best) and has been the player that the Taunton offense runs through since she jumped onto varsity. Her stick skills, speed, and her ability to see the openings in a packed defense have allowed her to make an instant impact on the league and her improvement every year gives a young Taunton program the potential for pulling a surprise every game.
Annie Walsh, Senior –
Erin Walsh, Junior – Franklin
Franklin has dominated the Hockomock League for the past seven years, having not lost in 71 straight league games dating back to 2012, and the Walsh sisters have been a primary reason why the Panthers have continued that run in the past few seasons. Annie, a senior midfielder, and Erin, a junior, are both Boston College commits and have both been named HockomockSports.com Underclassman of the Year (Annie in 2017 and Erin last year). Annie has been the quarterback of the Panthers’ offense, setting things up, and getting the Panthers into the right spots. She scored 56 goals and had 15 assists last year and is an all-around threat with her ability on the defensive side of the ball and on draws. Erin is one of the league’s most creative finishers, pulling off highlight-reel shots even in the biggest moments. She was sixth in the league in scoring during the regular season with 77 points in 2018, scoring 53 goals and dishing out 24 assists. Playing against one of the state’s most difficult schedules, the Walsh sisters have continued to put up big statistics and will be key to Franklin’s run at another D1 East title this spring.
Every little kid who plays sports dreams of playing professionally and dreams of someday representing his or her country, whether it be the Olympics or the World Cup or maybe the World Lacrosse Championships (see Foxboro’s Sophia Dicenso, who was featured last week). Former Franklin star Kristi Kirshe, a former soccer state champion with the Panthers and Div. III national champion at Williams College, recently fulfilled that dream, although not in a sport she would have ever imagined.
A former standout in soccer, lacrosse, and basketball at Franklin (being named MVP in soccer and lax as a senior), and a two-time All-American at Williams, Kirshe has achieved her dream of being a professional athlete as a rising star in rugby.
Kirshe recently played with the bronze-medal-winning U.S. Women’s Eagles Sevens at the HSBC Sydney (Australia) Sevens tournament and scored five tries in three matches and is a full-time resident at the U.S. rugby base in Chula Vista, Calif., despite having not even picked up a rugby ball until one year ago this week.
“I’d say this one tops it all,” Kirshe said this week about how playing for the U.S. stacks up to all that she has achieved in sports. “I think I said when we won the state title in soccer that it was a dream come true but I’m pretty sure putting on the USA rugby jersey topped that.
“Getting to play professionally, getting to play internationally, it’s something you dream about as a little kid. I thought soccer was going to be the sport to get me there and when it didn’t happen I kind of gave up on it and it’s amazing that this opportunity is back in my life and I’m chasing the dream again.”
When Kirshe graduated from Williams, there was an immediate void. She had played competitive team sports her whole life, from youth leagues, including Pop Warner football, through high school and to one of the top DIII college programs in the country. Now, she was left working out by herself and trying to sate her competitive juices playing rec soccer once a week.
Kirshe said, “I was trying to figure out what my life was post-competitive sports and I didn’t like it too much, so I was trying to find another sport to play. I think I really missed the team environment the most, being around people that are working towards a common goal.
“Graduating college was the first time that I didn’t have a sport going on and honestly I felt pretty lost. I didn’t really know what to do with myself. It’s always been something that I did, it’s always been part of me as a person, so not having that was really hard.”
It was her former Franklin teammate Grace Conley, who played rugby at Boston University, who introduced her to the potential of a new sport. Kirshe took her friend’s advice and went to an open tryout for Boston Rugby, which was getting ready to start its spring 15s season. She made an immediate impact and her new teammates convinced her to tryout for the Northeast Academy, which is a national development program for rugby.
She made the academy team and went to play a sevens tournament in California, where she impressed enough to be named to the tournament’s Dream Team. That led to her selection as one of 12 players on the Women’s Falcons team that played in the Hokkaido Governor’s Cup in Japan. In less than seven months, Kirshe went from having never played rugby before to joining a U.S. team in an international tournament.
Franklin basketball coach John Leighton said of Kirshe, who was the point guard on teams that made back-to-back Div. 1 South finals, “Her motor is just set different. Just the most competitive kid I’ve ever met. I had to change my rule on drills because she was so competitive she would do anything to win the drill.”
He showed no surprise that Kirshe was an instant success in her new sport. “If we started a ping pong team,” Leighton joked, “she’d be my first pick because she’d push herself to be the best.”
Having the eye-hand coordination of basketball and lacrosse and the tactical awareness of soccer and the physicality of all the sport she has played going all way back to Pop Warner, rugby has turned out to be a natural fit. From the culture of the sport to the rapid learning curve to being back on the field as part of a team, Kirshe is enjoying every part of this experience.
“I just think it’s one of the ultimate team sports,” she explained. “You’re going into contact so you have to always be willing to put yourself on the line for everyone around you. Whether it’s be the first person there in support when someone gets tackled or just knowing when you get tackled that someone else is going to be there to support you, you just have to each other’s back at all times, which I think is really cool.”
That experience was taken to a new level this month when she joined the official U.S. team (the Falcons are part of the U.S. developmental program) in Australia for one leg of the HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series, which builds up to the 2020 Olympics.
“It definitely felt different wearing [a U.S. jersey] on the world series stage,” Kirshe said. It’s pretty surreal honestly. I was thinking about it a lot when I was there that I couldn’t have imagined I’d be here a year ago…I definitely took a few minutes with it before I put it on, just kind of stared at for a bit.”
On her debut against China, Kirshe, who came on as a substitute, found a seam and outran the opposition for her first of five tries in the tournament. “Everyone around me did everything perfectly and I saw a little gap and instinct just kind of kicked in,” she said. “It was definitely nerve-wracking but the second that I got the ball in my hand it felt like every other game that I’ve played. Instinct kicked in and I thought, okay avoid getting tackled and keep running.”
After experiencing the world stage, Kirshe returns to Chula Vista and the residency program to prepare with the Women’s Falcons for a tournament in Las Vegas in March. The next world series stop is in Japan in April and Kirshe hopes to be part of that team as well. It is hard to believe that this time last year, she was being pushed to give rugby a try for the first time.
“Thinking about where I was in my first practice last year,” she reflected, “I knew nothing, not a single thing. It’s just been a rapid learning curve and I feel like in every single game I play in I’m learning something new and every day at practice I’m figuring something out or something is starting to click.”
It obviously clicked enough for Kirshe to score five times against international competition and get pegged as a rising newcomer on the U.S. team. She admits that being on the U.S. team is a different level of nerves, but also that having played on the biggest stages since high school has prepared her for taking this opportunity when it presented itself.
“Playing in a national championship,” she said, “playing in high school championships, helped me be ready for big games, but still just focus on the little things and getting the little things right and being able to stay calm despite the nerves and the excitement.
“In all sports and no matter what stage you’re on, the second the whistle blows you’re just playing and I think that is kind of where I thrive.”
It all started with an application back in May. Out of the several hundred female lacrosse players from around the country that put their names in the U-19 national team pool, Foxboro senior midfielder Sophia DiCenso was one of 100 that were picked for a three-day tryout in August at U.S. Lacrosse headquarters in Sparks, Md.
From that tryout, 36 women were selected to join the training team for a weekend in October in Maryland to scrimmage Navy and the women’s senior national team. Thirty-four were then invited to California last weekend for another round of scrimmages, against Japan, England, and Stanford University.
DiCenso impressed head coach Kelly Amonte Hiller enough that she has made the cut again and is one of 23 players (from college and high school) that will be invited to training camps in June and July in preparation for the U-19 World Championships, which are being held in August in Peterborough, Canada. There are still a few cuts to make before the roster of 18 will be finalized, but DiCenso is enjoying the experience as long as it lasts.
“It was really crazy,” the University of Richmond-commit said about being chosen for the final 23. “When I got the phone call, it literally felt like a dream because this has been everything I was working for the entire winter. Every day it was the only thing I was thinking about and for it to finally be real and to continue moving forward in the next round was the most rewarding feeling.”
Amonte Hiller said in a press release, “This was the toughest decision ever. We literally could have taken any kid on the roster. A lot of times it came down to the smallest thing – the versatility between offense and defense, if they could play mid if we needed them. I’m very proud of every player and how they performed. It’s unfortunate we can’t take them all.”
DiCenso had her opportunities to shine at the Spring Premiere weekend. She played half the game against both Japan (an 18-1 victory) and England (an 18-8 win). The two-time Hockomock League MVP and reigning HockomockSports.com Player of the Year adapted well to the international game with its higher speed and new rules. “I was with the same people all weekend, so we really blended and there was so much chemistry by the last scrimmage,” she said. “We were just doing really well together.”
“It’s so much faster, but it’s so much fun because it’s so much more intense,” DiCenso added. “I just find it so exciting and being able to play at this level with players who are at this level is so much fun…The harder the competition, the better.”
This weekend also provided the team with its first opportunity to put on the jersey with USA across the front. A reminder of what they were playing for and the unique experience that they are all sharing.
“That was one of the coolest experiences,” DiCenso said about walking into a team meeting and seeing all the jerseys lined up. “We were pinching ourselves, thinking this is not real. It’s the coolest feeling to be such a small group of girls, and we’re all close friends, to be representing something that is so much bigger than we are.”
She was joined in this process by several of her club teammates. Cohasset sisters Elle and Jane Hansen and Notre Dame Academy star Madison Ahern all play with DiCenso for Mass Elite and are part of the final 23. “We’ve flown to all the weekends together, and being on the same midfield line with some them was just comforting because we all know how each other play and it was just really easy to find each other on the field,” DiCenso explained.
Her lacrosse career started, she explained, when she was given a plastic boys’ lacrosse stick as a kid. She joined the Outlaws Lacrosse program that was started by Foxboro boys coach Matt Noone to play in tournaments up and down the East Coast and then made the switch to Mass Elite as she got to high school. Even at an early age, DiCenso had her sights set on being a success.
“It was like sixth grade and I used to do shooting lessons with (former Foxboro standout) Abby Tepper and we’d watch older players and I was always like, I’m going to play Div. I lacrosse someday,” she recalled with a chuckle. It didn’t take long for her desire to play in college to become a reality. By her freshman year of high school, colleges had already recognized her talent and her coaches, including Mass Elite coach Leslie Frank, were preparing her for the next level.
She credited the support of all her coaches and friends, both at her club and high school, for making her dream of college lacrosse come true. She said, “I have the best support from friends, coaches, teachers, family members and it makes me want to work harder to meet those expectations. It’s rewarding to have all this support and if I didn’t have it, I don’t know where I’d be.
Her college dream will come true next spring, but in the meantime there is plenty of lacrosse still to play as the senior is focused on bringing another league title and a first sectional title home to Foxboro.
“That would be one of the best endings to a senior year,” DiCenso said. “It’s time. We have such a strong senior class and we have all been together since fifth grade in Outlaws at Booth (Field) on the little grass fields and we always talk about it’s our year. I think we’re all really ready and we’ll see how it goes but I have high hopes.”
There is a couple of months before the high school lacrosse season kicks off and DiCenso is working hard with her club team, but now she has the added motivation of fighting for her place at the world championships.
“I can’t wait,” she said. “Our coach was just like, this is when all your hard work begins. I just can’t wait to hopefully prove myself one or two more times and then hopefully I’ll be in Toronto.”
In the summer before her senior year at Attleboro High, Kerri Beland suffered a torn ACL while playing with her AAU team. It was the type of injury that could have ended her final season at Attleboro and even cost her a chance to play basketball at the next level, but Beland fought her way back. She missed soccer that fall but managed to get back on the court for the final few games of basketball season.
Despite the injury, Beland remained focused on her goal of playing collegiate basketball. With the help of former Attleboro and current Adelphi University coach Missy Traversi, Beland reached out to local schools to find the right fit.
Salve Regina coach Cori Hughes took a chance that Beland could make it back to full fitness and contribute. It was a decision that paid off, as Beland jumped right into the rotation as a freshman and is in the midst of her second year as captain for the Seahawks.
“She told me, ‘It’s going to be hard, but it will be fine. You just have to keep working,’ and I did,” Beland said of her conversations with Hughes during the recruitment process. “She’s been a huge supporter of me and she always gave me a lot of opportunities, which was nice.”
It has been a long road for the senior guard, but Beland appreciates the new perspective that she gained from being sidelined. Beland explained, “It sucks getting hurt but it’s an eye-opening experience. You see the game from a whole different perspective sitting on the bench. I feel like I learned a lot from sitting on the sidelines, as much as it sucked, it was horrible, but I learned a lot.”
The Seahawks had a four-game win streak coming into the week, but dropped games to Roger Williams and Nichols and dropped back to 9-11 overall and 5-6 in the Commonwealth Coast Conference (CCC). Beland has started all 20 games this season. The 5-foot-8 guard is second on the team with 12.6 points per game, and leads the team with 7.6 rebounds per game.
“We’re playing together better,” she said about the win streak. “We have a lot of strong players on our team but it took us a while to really mesh. We have so much talent but it was one person or a few people trying to do too much and not spreading the floor out.”
After three straight first round exits in the CCC Tournament, Beland thinks that the Seahawks have the opportunity to make a run this winter. “This is anyone’s year and it’s exciting,” she said.
When asked what it would mean to bring home a title during her senior year, Beland replied, “It would be indescribable. The girls that I play with just love the game and my senior class, which is half of the team, we’ve just been through it all together. Finishing it out with them…words wouldn’t even be able to explain how happy I would be.”
Heading into her senior year of high school there was also a lot of excitement for Beland and the Bombardiers. After a playoff appearance the season before, Attleboro looked poised to make even more noise in the Kelley-Rex division. But then Beland went down with an injury and not long after Traversi left to take the job at Adelphi. “It just felt like my whole senior year was crashing down honestly,” Beland reflected. Traversi stayed close with Beland and used her contacts in the coaching world to keep Beland on the radar of area colleges.
Beland made it back onto the court with a few games remaining in the regular season, but it was difficult to adjust to playing after the injury. “It was definitely frustrating,” Beland said. “I’ve never been a quick player and so that was really frustrating to be even slower than I was before and to have to drag around the extra weight on my leg.”
“it was just amazing to play again because basketball has always been a huge part of my life. It was crazy to go that long period without being able to play.”
She admitted that it took a long time to get back to playing like she did prior to the injury. It wasn’t until her sophomore year at Salve that the brace came off and she was able to play with the freedom of not worrying about her knee. That season Beland, who is also a member of the Salve lacrosse team and two-year captain in the spring, was named third team All-CCC and named the 2016-17 Salve Sophomore Athlete of the Year.
“When I had the brace, I could go a little harder because I knew it was there but when you lose the brace you have to kind of start all over about being nervous of hurting yourself again,” she said.
Spending so much time on the sidelines was a reminder of how much she loved the game of basketball and gave her a unique perspective on the work that it takes to play at this level.
“DIII is draining,” Beland said. “You’re not getting money for it and you’re putting in as much time as any other division. You have to love it and, honestly, the injury reminds me every day that there was a time when I didn’t get to play and I never want to have to feel that way ever again. It’s nice to know that I don’t have any regrets.”
With the end of her basketball career in sight (and even with a lacrosse season still to come), Beland and her classmates are trying to slow down and enjoy these final weeks together.
“We’re kind of at that stage right know where we’re at the edge of the cliff and we want to walk back because we’re so nervous,” she said with a chuckle. “It feels like it’s coming to an end so quickly and we just want to slow the time down.”
Salve has five games left before the conference tournament kicks off and will get the final stretch started with the visit of Endicott.