Last fall, for the first time since 2012, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) field hockey team reached the NEWMAC (New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference) championship game. The third-seeded Engineers lost 1-0 to rival and top seed Babson, which proceeded to make a run all the way to the final four of the NCAA Div. III tournament before falling to eventual champion Messiah College (Pa.).
While it was a great accomplishment to reach the conference final, MIT was left wondering just how far it could have gone had it come out on top in that game. Former Foxboro standout Katie Notarangelo, a senior captain in the MIT midfield, admitted in a phone conversation the day before a rematch with Babson that last year’s finish has given the Engineers additional motivation to start the season.
“We were happy to get to the championship game,” Notarangelo said. “Just think of what we could have done if we had won and I think this season it’s quite possible we’re on that level.”
She added, “If anything, we’ve gotten better for this season and it will be interesting to see how far we go and what teams we can hold strong against this year.”
Notarangelo, a former Hockomock League all-star for the Warriors, is one of the reasons that MIT comes into this season with so much confidence. The senior is a two-time first team All-NEWMAC performer and last year jumped from the second team to first team All-New England by helping the Engineers boast the second best defense in the league.
This year, she has also added the title of captain and is one of the leaders on the field, along with her best friend Emily Penn, who was named an All-American as a junior.
“It’s a little more than last year, being a captain,” said Notarangelo, “but generally everyone on the team steps up. Everyone is someone that you can look to on the field for extra guidance, extra support, and knowledge of the game.”
It has been an impressive run for a player who had not played field hockey competitively before arriving at Foxboro High and who spent four years playing on the grass at Payson Field (Sam Berns Community Field was not installed until her senior season of lacrosse).
“That’s where I got all of the background I have on the game, all of my game experiences, my first game sense, and really Bodie [Foxboro head coach Melissa Bordieri] was really great at drilling in the intensity and general game sense into all of us,” Notarangelo explained. “I think I took that and built off it a lot once I got here.”
Naturally, there were a lot of differences between the high school and collegiate games, not least of all playing on turf all the time. “On the Payson Field grass, you just swing and hit,” Notarangelo said. “Here, on turf, the ball moves a lot faster and you’re really able to showcase your player-to-player passing skills and your one-on-one moves.”
She also had to work on the mental aspects of the game, gaining a better understanding of the flow of the collegiate game and she credits the upperclassmen and coaching staff for improving her stick skills and decision-making.
Now she is passing that same advice to the talented crop of underclassmen that MIT has brought in, so that those freshmen can contribute to the Engineers’ goal of getting back to the conference final and avenging last year’s loss.
“I think our whole senior class is full of really respectful leaders,” Notarangelo said, “and I think we all do a great job of keeping everyone on the same page and moving towards the same goal of winning that conference championship.”
In addition to field hockey, Notarangelo also plays lacrosse at MIT. Juggling two sports is not easy at any school, but has an added element of difficulty when you are a chemical engineering major at one of the toughest schools in the country. Despite the challenges, Notarangelo is glad that she took on the responsibility of playing both sports.
“It’s definitely demanding,” she said. “At MIT you have a lot of problem sets, a lot of work other than just your classes, so the time meld is tough to get to but it really offers that outlet to get away from all of the work that you have on your plate every single day.”
Notarangelo added, “I wouldn’t have the great friendships that I have today without both my sports and then there is also the leadership and teamwork skills that you develop being on such a goal-oriented team.”
The day after the interview, MIT got its rematch with Babson (featuring senior Jackie Merrigan of Canton), but unfortunately for the Engineers the result was the same, as the Beavers came away with a 2-0 victory. Four days later, MIT pulled out a 1-0 victory against Tufts, a Div. III finalist last year and the fifth-ranked team in the country, to improve to 6-1 on the season.
After narrowly missing out on a spot in the NCAA tournament last fall, the Engineers have their sights set on getting there this season, whether through winning the NEWMAC title or as an at-large.
When asked about what it would mean to reach the tournament this year, Notarangelo said, “That would be just so great. That’s been one of our main goals for the past four years and to achieve that senior year would just make the whole four years really special.”
She added, “I think we’re looking great and when you’re winning it’s more fun, so it should be a great season.”