By Matt Taylor, Contributing Writer
Northborough/Southborough– Winning the Central Massachusetts
Division 1 Field Hockey Championship has created new challenges for the Algonquin Regional High School field hockey team.
Head coach Dan Welty said, “We get everybody's best game. Anytime we lose, it's an upset.”
The Tomahawks are off to a strong start this season, with a record of 7-2-1 after a 3-0 win over North Middlesex Oct. 5. They are well on their way to achieving success similar to last year, but there have been bumps in the road.
Two losses in three games to Littleton and Leominster were not only a surprise to the Tomahawks, but a major wake-up call as well.
“This was uncharted territory for us,” Welty said. “We had to remind ourselves that everybody needed to improve. We have a very skilled team, but we weren's using those skills to the best of our ability.”
The Tomahawks did lose six seniors from last year's team, which made it to the state finals, but fortunately Algonquin's 2011 team has strong leadership not only from Welty himself, but also from his seniors and captains.
Captains Emily Bourke and Channing Moreland have instilled confidence in their coach and their teammates. Welty recalled an instance where his captains refocused the efforts of the team on the bus ride home.
“The captains suggested everybody focus on the game in silence after a recent loss. We owe a lot of our improved play to our captains. They pushed their teammates to step up and not settle for less.”
Since the loss to Leominster, Algonquin has won four straight games, including three consecutive shutouts. The streak also includes a 5-3 win over previously undefeated Wachusett.
Seniors Nikki Wrin, Liz Holmes, and junior Taylor O”Connell have also played major roles in Algonquin's recent winning streak. Holmes had 12 goals after the Oct. 3 game against Lunenburg. Even with her 12 goals, Holmes is known for her strong play on defense as well. Nikki Wrin has also started strong this season as a midfielder.
“Nikki had a phenomenal game against Wachusett,” Welty said. “She does a great job setting the pace for us from both ends of the field.” O”Connell has also performed well as one of the Tomahawks” top scorers. She was particularly strong against Milford, where she scored three goals, and against Wachusett, where she tallied two assists. Welty also praised the play of Danielle Hayes on defense.
“Danielle did a fantastic job in her first varsity start against Wachusett. She really played well against a quality opponent.”
Welty is in his fifth year coaching the team and has watched his team improve from five wins in his first year to the brink of the state championship last year. With eight games left in the season, the Tomahawks look to use their strong leadership and talent to continually improve on their way to the state tournament.