FOXBORO — The Foxboro High field hockey team surrendered the fewest goals in the Hockomock League last season with 11. But with revisions of the rules in place to allow for competition under COVID-19 restrictions this fall, the game will no longer look the same.
The result? There might not be those low-scoring 60-minute affairs any longer.
With four fewer players on the field, no penalty corners to generate opportunities to score, and with four quarters and no timeouts, “it’s like coaching a whole new game,” Foxboro High coach Melissa Bordieri said. “Everything is going to be so much different from the game as we know it.”
The Warriors are coming off of a 13-2-5 season in which they advanced to the quarterfinal round of the MIAA Division 2 South Sectional.
The MIAA has dismissed sectional and state tournament competition for this season, so the Warriors and the rest of the Hockomock League, along with Bishop Feehan, will have to be content with winning as many matches as possible.
“We have some good seniors and some good up and coming players,” Bordieri said. “In a season like this with four less players on the field and having to use everybody, depth is going to be really important.”
Foxboro can boast of a half-dozen players with attacking attitudes. Senior captain Ella Waryas (three goals, four assists) and her sophomore sister Mya (seven goals), both have ice hockey backgrounds. Senior captain Molly McIlhinney, juniors Katie Collins and Mikayla Doherty along with sophomore Dylan Rapoli, also have knacks as playmakers.
Senior captain Shannon Eagan and senior Gina Ouellette have been three-year fixtures on defense. Foxboro is grooming three goalies at the moment, senior Hannah Trombley, junior Lilli Jones and freshman Catherine Ferguson.
The Warriors played some in a winter league and had some lively captains practices after the pandemic restrictions were lifted. But, there are a lot of unknowns with the new looks to the game.
Even with revisions in place for play, the Bombardiers have a very strong core of players to build a very formidable team on.
“Everybody has been doing everything that they can, but it’s going to be a totally different game,” AHS coach Lindsay Antunes said of the new changes in place. “The first couple of days of practice, we worked a lot on conditioning and getting used to playing with a mask, those were the first things to tackle so now we can move on to formations and line changes.”
Depth and durability will be key factors this season. With more space on the field, more players will be needed to sustain maximum physical output.
“We have no complaints,” Antunes said. “We have a strong group of leaders and the kids understand that they have to do their jobs.”
Attleboro is coming off of a 9-8-3 season in which it ranked second in the Kelley-Rex Division in goals scored (50) and beat Norwood in the first round of the Division 1 South Sectional.
Junior goalie Ava Haggerty, who posted six shutouts for a 1.44 GA mark in 2019, plays in the Bay State Club program and the Bombardiers’ two primary defenders, senior Kyra Murray and junior Emma Briggs, are wily veterans.
In the middle and up front, senior captains Hannah Webster and Amanda Burns (five goals, nine assists) return along with seniors Lauren McVeigh and Shea Salisbury. Attleboro has a pair of match-changers in senior Campbell Compton (one goal, seven assists) and junior Madison Ellis (seven goals, six assists).
“She’s a strong playmaker and scorer, she’ll put up numbers,” Antunes said of Ellis.
Eventually, second-year coach Betsy D’Ambrosia is going to reap the rewards of having 62 players in the program, many energetic Shamrocks who just need a bit of development and match experience.
“It’s exciting for our program and now we have a freshman team too,” D’Ambrosia said. “We have some really good athletes.”
The Shamrocks hope to generate goals from senior forwards Talia Giansante and Annie D’Ambrosia along with junior midfielders Cailin Lawlor and Grace Klingaman.
On defense, senior Riley Brennan, a goalkeeper lacrosse as well, will be in net. Senior captains Allie Robinson and Katie Faust team with senior Julia Horrocks, returning from ACL surgery, lend leadership and competitiveness. D’Ambrosia has another half-dozen players who should be of impact, senior Alyssa Boucher, junior Sarah McNeil, sophomores Mary Daley and Marissa Perreira along with impressive freshmen Ava Meehan and Kay Murphy.
“With all of the new rules, a new league (Catholic Central Conference), a lot is going to be different,” D’Ambrosia said.
Coach Lisa Cropper and her Warriors have prepared themselves to meet the challenges of the Hockomock League competition, not to mention the rather extensive revision of the rules.
“it’s been challenging and very different,” Cropper said.
KP is coming off of a 10-7-3 season in which the Warriors won their opening match in the Division 1 South Sectional before losing to eventual champion Somerset Berkley. Cropper has 58 players in the program, but will be without mutli-sport star, junior Haley Izydorczak, who suffered an offseason knee injury.
“Not only do we have a lot of good players, but we have a lot of good athletes who are very competitive,” Cropper said.
One of those is senior captain and veteran goalkeeper Makenzie Manning, who allowed just 14 goals last season and compiled a 1.04 goals against mark.
Junior two-year starter Molly Piller anchors the defense, while senior captain Abby Nixon (nine goals, six assists) will benefit from the open space to create more offense. Senior captain Grace Crocker and classmates Paige Berdos, Emma Naddor and Ally Beltramini join with juniors Syd O’Shea and Lily Brown to present a formidable cast of two-way players.
It’s a formula for success — building confidence and skills in the freshmen and sophomore classes and then coach Theresa DeGirolamo-Nyhan tinkering with their tools to contend for a Hockomock League title and a place in the MIAA Tournament. It’s an annual ritual not to be taken for granted.
“The kids are very accepting of the new rules and conditions of which they have to play and are most appreciative of the opportunity,” Nyhan said of her Hornets.
Mansfield is coming off of a 12-7-2 season in which the Hornets beat Nauset and New Bedford in the Division 1 South Sectional to advance to the quarterfinal round.
“We’re trying to figure out a substitution pattern,” Nyhan said of the new rules with 7-on-7 play. “Even in captains practices, with the kids working out without sticks and then with mouth guards and masks, it’s been brutal. I think we’re going to see more high scoring games with more open space. The ball is going to go in, so you need a goalkeeper who can make saves and a defense that can move the ball.
Sophomore Lily Danehy gets the starting nod in goal, buoyed by a stellar senior cast of defenders in Bella DeBerghes and Lily O’Brien. Senior captain Alex Burnham and classmates Ally McDevitt and Lindsay Devine have veteran experience at midfield.
The Hornets have a dynamic cast of attackers in seniors Grace Danehy, Abby Varrechione and Stori Rounds.
“That’s quite a group, a powerhouse line,” Nyhan said.
“It’s kind of going to be a combination of field hockey and track with the open space and all the running,” Nyhan added. “The ball is going to be everywhere. We played a 14-minute scrimmage the other day and the kids were pooped. Now with no timeouts, you can’t keep kids out there too long.”
Rocketeers coach Karen Folan is happy to see so many players with fast feet. With fewer players and more space on a field, a premium will be placed on speed and endurance.
“There’s so much space out there now, it’s good that we have some fast kids, we’re going to need that,” Folan said of the Rocketeers, who were 6-8-4 last season.
Folan is pleased to see the progress of her players who gathered for captains practices three times a week over the summer.
“We’re going to have to change lines a lot with the new rules, it will be a lot like lacrosse or hockey,” Folan said. “There’s a lot of ground to cover out there.”
Senior Hannah Bachand in goal, along with classmates Emily Davy, Emma Bailey (seven goals, one assists) and Maeve McGinely will anchor a back line which has strong transitional skills.
Folan had 45 players sign up for the program, which now includes a freshman team. The midfield-forward cast includes senior captains Nora Dauly and Lauren Abusherry (six goals, two assists), Liz Luistro and Julia Puccio.
“Lauren is a very good playmaker, Julia is a natural talent, Liz is quick and Nora is a good offensive and defensive player,” Folan said.