By John Orrell, Contributing Writer
Marlborough – When the 2015 sports season began, a number of uncertainties swarmed around the status of the Marlborough High varsity field hockey team.
A new coach was making her head coaching debut, the team had recorded a stellar 12-4-2 record on its way to district playoffs one year ago but lost a number of quality starters to graduation, and the program was entrenched in a highly competitive Midland B League.
In spite of these challenges, the Panthers immediately ran off a win streak of nine out of 10 games to open the 2015 campaign. The wins have kept on coming, placing them in a late-season battle for Midland B supremacy as the regular season schedule comes to an end and playoff competition looms. Following its Oct. 23 2-0 victory over Worcester’s Burncoat High School, the team’s record stood at 13-2-1.
“I definitely didn’t expect things to work out as well as they did but they’ve learned a lot and they’re willing to listen and change things up,” said head coach Angela Chouinard, who is assisted by DeeDee Rudzinsky. “We’ve come a long way defensively this season. We lost key players from last year and I’m proud that players on this team have accepted the challenge, rose to the occasion and shown what they can do on the field.”
“This is a great group of kids. Both DeeDee and myself are lucky that we have so much fun with them. Practice is always fun. They’re always willing to do what we ask of them and in return we’re seeing results on the field. Their camaraderie really helps them move forward.”
The team’s success has caught some by surprise but not so when it comes to co-captains Samantha Vaccaro, Jill Petrie and Megan Mayfield.
“This summer we worked really hard and we did an indoor league in the winter and that’s really helped us come together to play as a team,” Petrie, a junior and the team’s forward line leader, explained. “Most of us have played together since middle school. Across the roster we have a lot of balance and we balance each other in our positions and we play off each other. So if one person is doing well, we just pick it up a notch and just play off of each other.”
“We did well last year and we lost some key players but we’ve been able to come back and do just as well and maybe better so far,” added Mayfield, who anchors the team’s defense. “We try to have the best attitude when we’re on the field even though we can get frustrated when we play and we get frustrated with each other when things don’t work out. We try to keep our heads high to show everyone that it’s a moment and we’ll get through things no matter what happens.”
Evidence of the team approach is that there are no individual superstars on the roster, just a solid bunch that know how to work together and win. The Panthers have spread the success across the board with Petrie, Vaccaro, Catherine Glennon, Christina Leonard and Colin Hennessy all placing among the top 20 Midland B scoring leaders.
“We definitely don’t have any one superstar,” Chouinard said. “Everyone is carrying their weight. What we’ve done with our lineup is to spread them out accordingly and they understand where they are because it’s the best fit for them and the best fit for the team. When it comes to positions, we are always moving people around and doing what’s best for the team at the time.”
“We want the freshmen to have this amazing experience this year so they can keep carrying this playoff tradition on and I know that they’re going to go further and further each year they’re playing,” said Vaccaro, a two-year captain. “Each grade above brings it to the grade below them telling them what it is that needs to be done. I think the whole team gets it at this point as to just how important this is to all of us as a team, not just the seniors but the freshmen, the sophomores and the juniors, too.”
Besides captains, the 2015 Marlborough High varsity field hockey team is made up of seniors Taysha Marinho and goalie Meghan McDonough along with juniors Mariah Berry, Katie Buroni, Catherine Glennon and Meghan Taylor. Sophomores include Sarah Popivchak, Grace Fourin and Abigail Purches as well as freshmen Colin Hennessy, Christina Leonard, Jessica Jensen, Ciara Shanahan and Jillian Dion.