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HHS Field Hockey Team Aiming For More Success

Holliston’s captains include, from left, Peyton Hastings, Jordyn Kuharich, and Cara Chipman.

Staff Sports Writer
Coach Alyssa Healey and her Holliston High field hockey team are terrific examples of  exceeding expectations.
Last fall’s athletic menu was chock full of alterations — specific sports not only underwent rule changes, but they also faced a plethora of protocols because of the covid-19 pandemic. Masks had to be worn while competing, social distancing was observed, no fans were allowed and equipment had to be sanitized.
The way field hockey was played changed dramatically. Instead of 11 players the sport went to a 7-on-7 format. And, no penalty corners were allowed. Penalty corners are set offensive plays inside the opposing team’s box that can lead to a goal.
Healey and her forces not only had to concentrate on all the changes, but they also knew that the 2020 season would be a huge challenge after losing 10 seniors to graduation. Those seniors had led the 2019 contingent to a 14-5-1 record.
Healey admitted before the 2020 season began that she was pleased the campaign would get underway, but she was sure rebuilding would be the primary theme.
However, when the pandemic-ridden season ended, the Panthers were sitting on Cloud 9. All they did was finish undefeated at 9-0, had five players named to the Tri Valley League all-star team, and won the large division’s sportsmanship award. Healey also was rewarded. She was selected as the TVL’s Large Division Coach of the Year.
“There’s no doubt that I was surprised by our finish but I knew we had potential,’’ Healey noted. “The key to our season was the way our underclassmen committed to off-season training. We also got outstanding leadership from our new captains (Peyton Hastings and Jordyn Kuharich). Another plus was the way we adjusted to the 7-on-7 format. It worked to our advantage because we were physically ready and our athleticism surfaced.’’
The 2021 season will definitely have a different feel, primarily because of the numbers. The Panthers lost only two seniors to graduation and they have 13 returnees (all experienced seniors).
“Our No. 1 goal will be to qualify for the State tourney,’’ said Healey, who’s in her eighth year as the Panthers’ coach. “We’ll also strive to contend for the TVL Large Division title. We also will focus on team bonding and team chemistry.’’
Holliston’s captains no doubt will work vigorously to maintain the close-knit atmosphere that prevailed last year. Hastings, a midfielder, and Kuharich, a defender, return for another stint of leadership and will be joined by midfielder Cara Chipman.
Peyton was a TVL and Boston Globe all-star,’’ Healey said. “She’s the key to our offense. Good in transition, she’s athletic, instinctive and has a high field hockey IQ. Utilizing consistent footwork, she had four goals and six assists last year. Jordyn also was a league all-star. She’s a tenacious defender who has great endurance, is athletic and handles breakaways well. Cara is selfless, solid in transition, defensive-minded and athletic. The captains lead in different ways. Peyton leads by example, Jordyn is a great organizer and Cara is vocal.’’
Bridget Daignault, who played soccer before switching to defense in field hockey, was “a great surprise’’ for Healey. “Bridget is so athletic,’’ said Healey. “A quiet leader, she’s got speed and quickness and she’s very agile. She went from the jayvees to a TVL all-star.’’
A pair of twins who sparkled on offense at forward were Abby and Bridget Glynn. Abby had 4 goals and 9 assists while Bridget had 10 goals and 3 assists. Both were TVL all-stars. “They have what’s called twin awareness,’’ Healey said. “They’re instinctive and athletic. They’ve got nice personalities but they’re both great competitors.’’
A trio of defenders — Emily Waldman, Lily Sawyers, and Jenna Canal — likely will have “a more visible role’’ this season. “They’re smart, instinctive and their timing on tackling is excellent,’’ Healey said.
Called “quiet scorers’’ by Healey, forwards Ellie Currie and Stephanie Farrell are quick and athletic. “We’ll rely on their experience on the forward line,’’ Healey offered. “They create offense and they’re effective on tipping and deflections at the net.’’
Kayla Tomacelli and Adriana Bureau were reserve midfielders last year. “They’ll play a bigger role for us this season,’’ Healey said. “They’re hard-workers and they’re strong on fundamentals. Both were very capable in their roles last year.’’
Junior goalie Lucy Svirsky (the only player named who’s not a senior) competed for the jayvees last year but this time around she’ll see plenty of varsity action. “It’s my hope that Lucy will become a successful varsity goal-tender,’’ Healey said. “Her work ethic is exceptional, she’s athletic and she’s a quick learner. I like her eagerness to learn everything about the position.’’

After two weeks of pre-season practice, which gets underway on Aug. 25, the Panthers will then open their campaign on the road against Ashland on Sept. 9. Holliston has a 17-game schedule on tap.
“Westwood and Medfield likely will be strong contenders for the TVL Large Division championship,’’ Healey said. “Westwood has become our rival and they’ve got a lot of talent and tradition. Medfield is a young team but they’re a very capable squad. We’ll be in the mix as long as we pay attention to detail and strive to reach our potential.’’
Delighted that the new season will return to normal with an 11-on-11 format, Healey admits that the pandemic reinforced some basic tenets. “Covid-19 emphasized that developing and maintaining relationships off the field is so vital and positive,’’ she said. “Life is more than just on-the-field coaching.’’
But, when Holliston’s 2021 field hockey team is on a field, expect a plethora of  strengths to be very evident. Assets like athleticism, an instinctive nature, speed, quickness, experience, depth and flexibility.
Those attributes should make the Panthers fun to watch.