Ashland Field Hockey Excited to Be Back on The FieldSep 29, 2020 10:49AM ● By Christopher Tremblay
Having already lost the entire high school spring season due to the coronavirus pandemic schools throughout the state were not all that optimistic about fielding teams this fall especially when the beginning of the school season was postponed. However, after having baseball played this summer things were moving in the right direction in regard to sports.
In early September, the Tri-Valley League (TVL) approved a modified fall season. The majority of fall high school sports would be played during Phase I; while football, cheer and volleyball would play in Phase II, which would begin in late February. Ashland field hockey Coach Molly Bennett was ecstatic that her team could eventually take to the field.
“I am not in possession of the complete details as of yet, but I believe tryouts will begin on September 26 (Saturday) and games will get underway around October 15 and run roughly through November 20,” the Clocker Coach said. “There will be three practices a week with games being played on the weekend and will be 7v7 instead of the original 11v11 to minimize contact.”
The TVL split up the teams into two pods with Ashland playing Hopkinton, Holliston, Bellingham, Medway and Norton; games will be played on Saturday and Sunday in a home and away fashion against the same team and there will be no post season tournaments once the regular season concludes. Being that Norton does not have a field hockey team Ashland and the rest of their pod foes will play an eight-game schedule.
“Our overall feelings were that we were hopeful that we would be playing in some capacity. It may not be the most ideal situation but it’s a chance to get out onto the field and play,” Bennett said. “This season will definitely not look like one we are used to, and I imagine that masks are going to be a part of this year’s game in some form.”
Prior to the announcement, the Ashland coach was trying to promote a positive attitude to her team and the impending season. Throughout the months prior, Bennett was in contact with her team though messaging, making sure that when the announcement came that the girls were prepared.
“When I told the girls that we’d be playing, they were very excited,” the Coach said. “It will be a crazy season, but they can not wait to get back onto the field with one another again.”
Ashland currently has about 35 girls (13 from the varsity team) ready to gear up and play field hockey. The Clockers are coming off their best season in many a years and although they have some big shoes to fill in the loss of quad captains Athena Lampiris and Kaylee Palin on the defensive side as well as Brynn Moriarty and Kaitlin Loughlin on the offensive end of the field. All four girls played every game for the Clockers last fall. Bennett also said goodbye to Karina Mendiola and Emily Schwartz.
Looking to lead the Clockers onto the field in this abbreviated season will be senior captains Nicole Moriarty (middie) and Madigan Flynn (goalie). In a season that comes with a lot of uncertainties the fourth year Coach feels that her squad is setup for a strong campaign.
“With a season upon us like one we’ve never seen before it will be much more important for our captains to get the girls motivated to enjoy the two hours on the field during game days. We need to stay positive and excited,” Bennett said. “The future is upon us, we have a bunch of talented upperclassmen as well as sophomores, who as freshman got a lot of playing time on the varsity level last year.”
Some of the freshman forwards who saw a good number of minutes last fall for Ashland and should be a positive influence as sophomores this year will be Melissa Leone, Dani Moriarty, and Natalia Arjona.
Unlike a typical season in which teams would field 11 girls, they will have to only play 7 at a time due to the MIAA ruling. These adjustments not only took Bennett by surprise but will cause her to change everything about the way she coaches.
“It came as a total shock to me, it’s a huge difference coaching wise as I’m going to have to reevaluate my lineups and the formations that we out onto the field,” Bennett said. “The conditioning of the girls will also play a big part in our season as they are going to have to cover a lot more ground with less athletes on the field. Luckily, I gave our team a packet of workouts that they should do during the summer, so they’d be ready for the fitness test prior to the season.”
Although the girls will be much more exhausted than they have been in years prior, Bennett believes that in some ways it may a positive way for the girls to learn to relay on one another. This year’s field hockey play will need structure and will give the girls an opportunity to use their teammates instead of doing it themselves. By involving as many teammates as they can while on the field will make it easier on the players.
Although their season was in limbo for most of the summer the Clocker Coach reiterated to her team that is was in the utmost importance to stay in shape as it would be easier for them to come into camp when the MIAA and leagues decided there would be a season. Bennett wanted her girls to be ready when the preseason began not wait until the two weeks before the season got underway. Knowing her team, the Ashland Coach is hopeful and optimistic that the girls will come into the season prepared.
Last fall Ashland was rather successful against the four teams that they will square off against this season. During the squad’s most successful campaign the Clockers were able to come away with two wins against Bellingham, one against Medway and tied Hopkinton twice, including the last game of the season where the Ashland team played really well. Bennett is confident that this year’s team can turn those ties into wins.
“With no playoffs this season the girls really have nothing to lose; we will be playing about half of our normal schedule and nothing else is guaranteed,” Bennett said. “We just need to go out and execute, play every game with intensity as it literally could be the last game of the season (if the Covid-19 numbers go up again).”
Bennett knows that this season will be one of a different animal and hopefully one that they will never have to deal with again, but at least it’s a chance to get onto the field and play a sport you love instead of sitting at home.
“Play for your season and use it as an opportunity to get better, but also have fun in doing so,” she said. “This is the seniors last hurrah and underclassmen will earn a sense of what it’s like to play on a high school team.”