By John Orrell, Contributing Writer
Marlborough – Post-game celebrations in sports can occur in wide-ranging ways. They often include lots of high-fives, team hugs, photos with championship banners and in some cases can be more extreme with Gatorade dousing, synchronized victory dances and more.
For the 2016 Marlborough High varsity field hockey team it’s all about the hammer and nails.
Always seeking creativity in her approach to coaching, assistant coach DeeDee Rudzinsky has come up with a new celebratory idea, likely not seen anywhere before. After each win, a game MVP is chosen to hammer a hefty-size nail into the Pioneer scoreboard as a means of recognizing superb performance. There are 18 nails lying in wait, exactly the number of scheduled games, and the hope is to have them all embedded in the board when the regular season runs its course.
“Hopefully, we’ll have 18 nails in there by the end of the season,” said senior co-captain Katie Buroni with a smile. “We just have to continue stepping it up every game and keep on doing what we’re doing. We’re doing great but we can always do better.”
In the early-goings of this 2016 campaign, performing better would be a statement in and of itself. The team has already defeated Leominster (2-0), Hudson (10-0) and Westborough (2-0) with new junior goalkeeper Sarah Popivchak recording all three shutouts. Defense has been outright stingy while the offense is capable of scoring goals in bunches.
The early-season success fuels momentum, said head coach Angela Chouinard, who is especially pleased with the balanced lineup of players from freshman through senior.
“We’ve had some really young kids step up into roles and then we’ve had some first-time players that are juniors do the same,” Chouinard explained. “So we have the ability to take our best 11 and get them onto the field. We need early momentum to get our players pumped because we have a tough season ahead.”
From the players’ point of view, it’s the camaraderie, familiarity and time spent together that’s making the season fun, which then so often transcends into success.
“We have a lot of good team chemistry coming in from last year,” said senior co-captain Jill Petrie, who finished second in scoring in Midland B with 23 points a season ago. “It’s good that we’ve had some incoming freshmen to make up for the players who graduated. Everyone’s been working hard to make sure our lineup is doing the right things. We only have 18 games so we have to take advantage of every game we have and win as many as we can.”
“We know each other so well because we’ve been playing together for a long time,” added fellow senior co-captain Catie Glennon, who recorded 20 points in 2015. “We know how each other plays, what moves they like to do, where they go on the field and then the new freshmen have come and blended with us well so that we all get along like one big family.”
The Panthers have put together successful campaigns in recent seasons with a 36-17-4 record notched since 2013. The downside is that the post-season has not been kind to Marlborough with early knockouts sending players, coaches and fans home all too soon. This season will be different, vows Chouinard. With a potent lineup featuring skill, talent and experience, there is hope for dominance in the highly competitive Midland B League where the competition is strong up and down the schedule.
“For us to keep moving forward into Districts we need to finish plays and keep the momentum coming,” she said. “We have a lot to work on and it’s going to take a lot of hard work, but there’s always a lot we can improve on.
“I like that this team plays together as a unit. This is one team and they laugh on the field, all get along and we have a great time at practice. Practices fly by and when it comes to a game, they’re learning more and more about each other and expect where someone’s going to be because they’re with each other all the time now and it’s great to see the chemistry they have.”
Members of the 2016 Marlborough High varsity field hockey squad are seniors Jill Petrie (F), Olivia Larson (F), Alyssa Monti (D), Mariah Berry (F), Catie Glennon (F), Katie Buroni (D), Meghan Taylor (D); juniors Abigail Purches (D), Sarah Popivchak (G); sophomores Christina Leonard (F), Colin Hennessy (M), Jill Dion (M), Ciara Shanahan, Jessica Jensen (D) along with freshmen Cynthia Pascarelli (D), Abigail Larson (M) and Jackie McKinnon (F).