New Child, Unbeaten Season Bring Joy To Healey in 2020Dec 31, 2020 01:51PM ● By KEN HAMWEY
The new year has arrived and there’s no doubt that many people are eager to distance themselves from 2020 because of the covid-19 pandemic.
For Alyssa Healey, however, last year produced two major plusses. First, her Holliston High field hockey team went undefeated (9-0) and one day after her squad’s outstanding achievement, Healey gave birth to a daughter who arrived on Nov. 16.
The unblemished season was unexpected, primarily because Healey had lost 10 seniors to graduation and faced a major rebuilding job. The timing of her first child’s birth also was unexpected because Kaelin arrived a month early. Healey didn’t realize it but her back pain during Holliston’s final game (a 3-1 win over Hopkinton) was a signal she was in labor. A day later, Healey was taken by ambulance to Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston for an emergency C-section.
“My husband (Jason) and I are blessed to have a daughter and to know that she’s healthy,’’ Healey emphasized. “And, I’m thankful for the opportunity the players and I had to compete in field hockey. It’s what we love. But, it's my hope that the coronavirus is eradicated in 2021. It'll be wonderful when the entire country returns to some degree of normalcy.’’
The field hockey season was anything but normal. The Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association implemented modifications to a variety of fall sports after it had canceled all athletics in the spring. Field hockey was altered, on and off the field.
Changes made to prevent the spread of covid-19 included a seven-on-seven lineup instead of playing 11-against-11. Masks had to be worn during competition and penalty corners were out. A maximum roster was 20 players, a limited number of fans were allowed and reserves had no bench but stayed socially distanced.
“We dealt with rebuilding by stressing there were job openings and lots of playing time available,’’ Healey said. “Our younger players stepped up, thanks to the efforts of our junior captains — Jordyn Kuharich and Peyton Hastings. They emphasized conditioning and wearing masks during pre-season practice. They were superb leaders.’’
As for the modifications, Healey and her 15 players (2 seniors and 13 juniors) adjusted quickly. “We figured out how to deal with the pace of seven-on-seven and we handled the elimination of penalty corners. Being in good condition helped us with having only six field players to deal with so much wide-open space. I substituted often and that helped our younger players gain experience and get opportunities.’’
Kuharich played defense and midfield and Hastings competed as a center midfielder. Both were Tri Valley League all-stars and Hastings was a Boston Globe all-scholastic.
“Both captains met all challenges,’’ Healey said. “They rose to the occasion when needed and took charge. Jordyn displayed physical toughness and athletic ability while Peyton moved the ball up field, dodged effectively and distributed the ball like a point guard in basketball.’’
Four junior forwards were key cogs for the Panthers — Bridget and Abby Glynn, Kayla Tomaselli and Ellie Currie. “They were able to get the ball in front of the net and move the goalie from side to side,’’ Healey noted. “Their stick skills were very good, they learned quickly and improved rapidly.’’
Healey also lauded the play of junior defenders Cara Chipman, Bridget Daigneault, Emily Waldman, and Stephanie Farrell, and senior goalie Jenna Schutt. “Our defense was tenacious,’’ Healey said. “Cara and Bridget relied on quickness and that limited our opponents to very few scoring opportunities. Emily and Steph were patient and had good timing on tackles. We had high IQ players on the defensive end. Jenna never played goalie in field hockey. However, she was the school’s goaltender in ice hockey and lacrosse. She relied on terrific instincts.’’
Healey also banked on instincts when her back pain persisted the day after her season concluded.
“I called my doctor and he saw me in his office in Westwood,’’ she said. “I was transferred to Boston for an emergency C-section. I had arrived in Westwood at 3 p.m. and gave birth to Kaelin at 8:15 p.m. at Brigham & Womens. I thought that the back ailment was just part of being pregnant but it was labor pains. All the care I received was top-notch.’’
Now, 32, Healey, whose daughter arrived 30 days early and tipped the scale at 4 pounds and 15 ounces, stayed in the hospital for five days while her daughter remained hospitalized for 10 days. Kaelin already has added several pounds to her tiny frame.
Healey’s husband, who’s a paramedic for the Easton Fire Department, met the ambulance at the hospital and was present for his daughter’s birth. As for his wife, a physical education and health teacher at Dover-Sherborn Regional, she’ll remain on maternity leave until March, then return to school, which is using a hybrid learning approach.
“The timing of Kaelin’s birth was amazing,’’ said Healey, who was voted the TVL’s coach of the year. “We joked that she knew when my last game was.’’
Excluding last season that had no Sectional or State playoffs, Healey, who was a high school and college (Westfield State) all-star, has led the Panthers to five tourney appearances in six years. She’s hoping the 2021 season will be more traditional and she’s already anticipating its arrival.
“We’re hoping the seven-on-seven format is a thing of the past,’’ she said. “A more normal season should help us to do more bonding. Covid-19 prohibited us from developing that aspect.’’
While 2020 was a difficult time for so many people, Alyssa Healey is acutely aware that last year had some personal plusses — an unbeaten season in field hockey and the birth of her daughter.
The personable coach, however, would relish a time in 2021 that’s coronavirus-free.