By Lance Reynolds, HockomockSports.com Contributor
NORTH EASTON, Mass. — Oliver Ames was doing almost everything it needed to offensively.
For close to the entirety of Wednesday’s field hockey match against North Attleboro, the Tigers dominated possession time, closing in on the Rocketeer goal again and again.
Yet, when the final horn sounded, Oliver Ames had no goals to show for.
The Tigers never solved how they could get the ball around the North Attleboro backfield. Defender Emily Daby, middie Riley O’Brien, and goalie Emma Strachan continuously pestered Oliver Ames, poking the ball away and never allowing it into the Rocketeer goal, as North Attleboro grabbed a 1-0 shutout in a key, early-season Hockomock crossover game.
“Oliver Ames’ cross-passes were very strong,” said Rocketeers head coach Karen Folan. “So it was great that we could cut them off and get a stick on the ball.”
With Oliver Ames finding themselves in scrum after scrum near the North Attleboro goal in the first half, Folan knew she had to move some of her forwards and middies closer to the defensive end of the field.
The move paid dividends, not only did it allow the Rocketeers to hold the Tigers off the board, but it also allowed North Attleboro to have an aggressive offensive attack, whenever the Rocketeers had an opportunity.
In the 27th minute, North Attleboro forward Julia Puccio found herself breaking away from the Oliver Ames defense after the Rocketeers’ defense broke up a Tiger scrum in front of their goal. Puccio bolted down the field, passed the ball over to Olivia Luistro, and forward Lauren Abusheery successfully finished the sequence, rifling the ball into the Oliver Ames goal, as North Attleboro took a 1-0 lead late in the first half.
“Offensively, I was telling them to push up because OA had a lot of possession and were dominating on offense,” Folan said. “But once we got it past them, there wasn’t a whole lot of defense back there. We definitely took advantage, passed the ball around a little bit, and got the nice angle on the shot for Lauren Abusheery.”
Oliver Ames relentlessly tried to find a way to figure out the Rocketeers defense, and it took all of the final 30 minutes of the match for North Attleboro to make sure they were going to hold onto their 1-0 lead.
In the 39th minute, Tiger forward Cassie Gennis mercifully ripped a shot after an Oliver Ames corner, but Daby was in the right place at the right time, stopping the ball from going past Strachan and into the Rocketeer net.
A few minutes later, the Tigers had several scoring chances when they battled in a scrum, once again, in front of the North Attleboro goal after a corner, but O’Brien got a piece of her stick on the ball to break it up, as Oliver Ames once again failed to generate a score.
In the final minute of play, Oliver Ames forward Lily Gaskill had the last opportunity for the Tigers to strike even with the Rocketeers, but her shot went wide of Strachan, who finished with 19 saves, and past the North Attleboro goal.
“We’ve been working on stopping the ball and carrying it out,” Folan said. “We did a really great job of doing that today instead of stopping it and not finishing it. We’ve been really working on it and it definitely showed today.”
It’s just one win and it’s still early in the season, but after the Rocketeers fell just four points short of advancing to the tournament last year, Folan admitted that the early season games are, perhaps, the most meaningful for North Attleboro’s postseason chances.
“We have the mindset thinking that this is the point we need to make tournament,” Folan said. “Because we’ve been getting to the end of the season where we need just that one point and we’re not getting it, so even though it’s September, we’re thinking that this is the point that we need to make it to the tournament. This is really going to make a difference.”
North Attleboro (2-1) looks to keep the winning spirits alive when they host Sharon next Monday while Oliver Ames (1-2) looks to get back into the win column Saturday when they travel to West Bridgewater.
2018 Record: 6-11-1 2018 Result: Missed Playoffs Coach: Lindsay Antunes
The Bombardiers are looking to climb off the foot of the Kelley-Rex division standings this fall and challenge for a return to the state tournament. With a number of players making the move up after successful seasons on JV, Attleboro coach Lindsay Antunes is confident that her team will have the firepower to compete with the league’s top teams this year.
Senior Anna Beck will lead the way for Attleboro again this fall. The midfielder led the team in scoring last year and was one of the top scorers in the Hock, and she will be counted on to open up chances for her teammates. Junior Campbell Compton will add to the midfield group with her playmaking and stick skills. Junior Kiera Murray will be the lynchpin of the defensive unit, providing leadership at the back. The forwards are going to be a combination of returning players and new faces that are expected to provide additional scoring this season.
“Though spots are still being established and player combinations being determined,” Antunes said, “we are confident that this year’s offensive line is going to make a significant impact on the league.”
2018 Record: 15-4-1 2018 Result: Reached Div. 1 South Quarterfinal Coach: Chrissy O’Connor
Canton finished just one point shy of back-to-back league titles and for the second season in a row saw its season ended by the eventual South champion, but the Bulldogs remain one of the teams to beat in the Davenport thanks to a roster filled with returning, experienced players ready to make another tournament run.
Midfield will be an area of strength for the Bulldogs this season with senior Kaitlyn Goyetch back to create scoring chances for her teammates. She was second on the team in scoring last year and is capable of opening up space for the attackers. Juniors Maria Femia and Meghan LaBelle will help Goyetch out in the middle of the field, adding to both the attack and the defense, and senior Meg Aldrich provides energy to push the team on both ends of the field. Junior Riley O’Connor returns in goal to shore up the defense. The attack will certainly miss leading score Maggie Malloy, but there are a number of players that are ready to step in and try to make up for that loss of production.
“Canton field hockey is excited for the regular season to begin,” said head coach Chrissy O’Connor. “Our captains Kaitlyn Goyetch, Meg Aldrich and Rose Malloy along with several key returning players will be major contributors to our success this season. We are working towards a strong showing in the always competitive Hockomock League”
The Foxboro Warriors will have almost an entirely new look this season after graduating 10 starters and 14 seniors overall.
While it will be almost an entirely new team, there is definitely plenty of talent and a lot of team speed. Jaime Notarangelo is the lone starter to return and will see time at both center forward because of her goal-scoring abilities plus time at center mid because of her distribution skills. Ella Waryas will see a significant increase in her role in the midfield alongside Molly McElhinney. Anna Marcucella and Mikayla Cloherty will see time both in the midfield and defensively for head coach Melissa Bordieri, who is still moving all the pieces around in search of the right combination. Lauren Foster is a team captain and will be tasked with anchoring the defense while junior Hannah Trombley and sophomore Lily Jones battle for minutes in goal. Kate Collins picked up some valuable minutes last year and will be relied on offensively alongside Olivia Simoneau.
“We still have a lot of talent, it’s just a matter of piecing together who fits where and who works well together,” Bordieri said. “We are a tenacious team so we are optimistic about the season.”
2018 Record: 13-6-2 2018 Result: Reached Div. 1 South Semifinal Coach: Michelle Hess
After finishing second in the Kelley-Rex division and making a run to the Div. 1 South semifinal, where they led perennial power Walpole by two goals with 10 minutes remaining, Franklin wants to build on that momentum and return to the top of the league standings for the first time in three seasons. The experience of last year’s run, which included finishing on an 11-2-2 run, has confidence brimming through the program.
The loss of do-everything midfielder Cassi Ronan will certainly hurt, as well as defender Emily Valentino and goalie Christina Luccini, but the Panthers still have a solid foundation of returning standouts to rely on. Senior Maeve Ledwith will continue to lead the defensive unit and is one of the league’s top distributors out of the back. Junior Amanda Lewandowski saved her best for the end of the season and playoffs and will be one of the team’s top attackers. Freshman Kaitlyn Carney is expected to contribute right away and possibly ease the loss of Ronan from the midfield. Junior Neilee Hess will take over between the pipes.
“The players worked very hard in the offseason, and I am proud of them for their dedication and determination,” said Franklin coach Michelle Hess. “I look forward to watching this team come together and earn a top spot in the Hockomock League along with another deep run in the tournament.”
2018 Record: 18-2-1 2018 Result: Reached Div. 1 South Semifinal Coach: Lisa Cropper
After winning the league and South titles in 2017, the Warriors made a coaching change. After making it back-to-back Kelley-Rex crowns and getting back to the South semifinal last season, the Warriors are making another change on the sideline. Former Franklin coach Lisa Cropper is back in the Hock after two years at Dean College and she will be trying to keep the momentum going for KP this fall.
While the Warriors dominated the league in goals scored last year, thanks in large part to HockomockSports.com Player of the Year Alli Meehan, and that drew a lot of attention, but the Warriors were even more impressive defensively, allowing only 15 goals in 21 games. Senior Sammy Robison is back to hold down things on defense along with classmate Grace May and junior Mackenzie Manning, who may end up sharing duties in goal. Sophomore Christina Gifun and junior Paige Berdos will drive the team in the midfield.
In addition to the graduation of Meehan, KP will be without reigning Underclassman of the Year Meghan MacDonald, who transferred to Tabor Academy. Senior Raegan Simeone and juniors Abby Nixon and Grace Crocker will be counted on to try and make up that production in the attack.
“We have a lot of really solid players with no real superstars, which should give us a very balanced team,” said Cropper.
2018 Record: 9-8-2 2018 Result: Reached Div. 1 South Preliminary Round Coach: Theresa Nyhan
The Hornets are only four years removed from back-to-back league titles and a trip to the South final and the experience on this year’s roster gives Mansfield hope that another deep tourney run could be on the cards. With seniors in every layer of the field and talented underclassmen to fill in the depth, the Hornets look like a serious contender at the top of the Kelley-Rex division standings.
In attack, Mansfield will count on a speedy trio of seniors to try and boost the goal totals. Paige Peterson, Becca Hottleman and Gabby Devlin are all back on the front line. In midfield, Kelly Doherty and Grace Doyle provide the engine that pushes the Hornets forward, while also providing the necessary cover for the defense. Senior Kayla Hunter is back in goal and will try to organize the back line, which will include seniors Grace Maher, Mallory Burke, and Angela Burnham.
“Overall we have a good balance of juniors and seniors at each level,” said Mansfield coach Theresa Nyhan. “We should be able to keep fresh legs on the field at all times. Looking forward to a good season.”
2018 Record: 2-14-2 2018 Result: Missed Playoffs Coach: Katie Blackburn
The Hawks have a number of players returning who have several years of varsity experience and will try to blend in players that are making the leap from JV in order to improve from last year’s two-win season, which included five games that Milford lost by only one or two goals.
Senior goalie Paige Reisman will be the key on the defensive end, solidifying a back line that will see several new faces that are trying to get up to varsity speed. Her communication and vision will help the newcomers be ready for opposing attacks. Senior Megan Hart is also back on defense to add leadership in front of Reisman. Junior Olyvia White can play in midfield or defense, while senior Kathryn Swineford will try to push the Hawks into the attack from the middle of the field.
“We have a lot of returning players on offense that have experience playing together,” said Milford coach Katie Blackburn. “This experience will help in creating an offensive attack throughout games. The players have worked hard this offseason to improve on skills and come into the season conditioned.”
2018 Record: 6-10-2 2018 Result: Missed Playoffs Coach: Karen Folan
The Rocketeers are hoping that an experienced lineup will be the key to challenge the top teams in the Davenport division and also to make a return to the state tournament. North Attleboro only missed out on a playoff spot by four points last season and there is the potential to make a bigger push this fall.
Senior Emma Strachan will be in her third year as the starting goalie and will continue to lead the defensive unit. Senior Lindsay Robinson heads into her second year as a force in the North midfield and senior Michelle Pothier will start her third year generating offense as one of the starting forwards. Senior Grace Cole adds speed on the wings to open space for the attack and senior Faith Graveline will move into the midfield from defense, adding another layer of cover for the back line and another weapon in the offensive circle.
“We have a solid group of returning varsity players for the 2019 season,” said North coach Karen Folan. “We hope to utilize our knowledge and experience to come out strong at the start of the season and continue to build on our strengths as the season moves forward.”
2018 Record: 8-9-2 2018 Result: Reached Div. 1 South Preliminary Round Coach: Sharon Lawrence
While Oliver Ames brings back 11 returning players from last year’s playoff team, the Tigers remain relatively young, with a strong junior class anchoring the team throughout the roster. That level of experience gives OA the potential to make noise in the loaded Kelley-Rex division and be competitive with the perennial title challengers.
The offensive unit is deep and expectations are high for an improvement on last year’s 31 goals scored as a team. Juniors Haley Gilman and Hannah Stryke and seniors Maura Kiernan, Ellie Waters, and Cassie Gennis will all play up top and are all capable of making plays inside the offensive circle. Several younger players will get the chance to impress right away, including sophomores Ava Costello and Lily Gaskill and freshman Julia Maclaine.
Junior Maggie Woods is the leader of the midfield group, constantly finding herself around the ball and propelling the Tigers forward. Sophomore Georgia Costello will join her in the middle of the field. Juniors Emily Han and Emily Dionne will lead the defense, while juniors Abbey Boyce and Courtney Lake are newcomers to the defense that will contribute right away. Senior Kara Ostrander and junior Peyton Phillips are both capable of being the starter in goal.
“The team shows improvement in skill and confidence from last season after a strong off-season commitment to the game,” said OA coach Sharon Lawrence. “We have a deep bench with lots of talent in the forward and midfield lines to keep legs fresh and performance strong, giving us good game endurance.”
2018 Record: 0-18-0 2018 Result: Missed Playoffs Coach: Ashley Courville
After a winless season, with no goals scored, there is plenty of room for improvement for the Eagles this fall. Sharon ended that goalless stretch in the opening game of the season against Norwell and there is an increased level of confidence that the program is mixing in more experienced players with newcomers that can help make the team more competitive this year.
The defense will be led by an experienced corps of players. Seniors Holly Davis, Blaize Hanna, and Anya Lane are all back to solidify a back line that reduced the goals allowed by 27 from 2017 to 2018. Senior Lauren Glass will be the team’s primary playmaker in midfield and she will get help from junior Jenna Goldstein. There are a lot of new faces in the attack, including sophomore Ashley Young, who got Sharon’s first goal of the season in the opener. Juniors Samantha Sherman and Jillian Parker will also chip in up front.
Sharon coach Ashley Courville said, “Our strengths on defense this season are consistency and strength. We have a handful of returning players back on defense giving us stability. Our offensive strengths are added speed leading to the ability to carry the ball on the field more effectively.”
2018 Record: 7-11-2 2018 Result: Missed Playoffs Coach: Dan Mark
The Black Knights would love to make a push for a playoff appearance this fall and Stoughton will rely on is experience in midfield and attack to overcome some of its inexperience in defense to try and make that run possible.
In the midfield, seniors Skylar Carroll, Madison Araujo, and Juliana Rush give the Black Knights speed and stick skills to push forward and make the transitions that will break down opposing defenses. In the attack, senior Brittni Paul and juniors Haley Nelson and Sarah McGrath have a nose for being in the right spots around the goal to create scoring chances. While the defense is relatively new, junior Kayla Laboy will be back between the pipes to add leadership and organization at the back.
Stoughton coach Dan Mark said, “We have a good nucleus of returning players, but do have some inexperience defensively. I think the key to our team will be a strong offense.”
2018 Record: 8-7-4 2018 Result: Reached Div. 1 South Preliminary Round Coach: Liz Hathaway
The Tigers have made great strides as a program, becoming a regular in the state tournament and competing with the top teams in the Hock, but after graduating 10 seniors Taunton will have its work cut out to make sure that another playoff berth is secured this fall.
Junior forward Alana Tavares will carry a lot of the scoring load for the Tigers this season. Tavares led the team in scoring last year and showed that she can also play in the midfield to create opportunities for teammates. Senior Kathryn Robinson will move up from defense into the midfield and her stick skills added to her defensive mindset will give the Tigers cover on both ends of the field. In defense, junior Jocelyn Pagliuca returns to provide leadership and cover in the back line with her ability to step into a challenge.
“We graduated 10 seniors last year and have many players stepping up for this season,” said Taunton coach Liz Hathaway.