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Holliston - Local Town Pages

Season of a Lifetime

By Christopher Tremblay, Staff Sports Writer
When Holliston’s girls’ lacrosse coach, Ally Jacobs, had to leave the position due to her fulltime job, the Panthers were in need of someone to take over and fill her vacancy. 
Senior midfielder Kaitlin O’Connell, who was returning to the team to play the sport in her senior season begged her mother to apply for the position. Kelly O’Connell was more than happy to apply but told her daughter that because she had only coached youth lacrosse that if anyone with more experience applied, they would most likely get the job over her.
O’Connell got the Panthers head coaching job but was apprehensive as to what she was getting into.
“I was beyond thrilled and excited to get the job, but I was always very nervous as I had never coached high school sports, I was just a youth lacrosse coach,” the new varsity coach said. “It was exciting to get back into coaching and to be able to coach my daughters (senior Kaitlin and sophomore Lindsay) as well as all the girls that I had coached through the youth lacrosse program was unbelievable.”
Coaching in the Holliston youth lacrosse program, O’Connell was very familiar with a large number of the girls who would play on the varsity team and those girls were more than excited to have her coach them once again. According to the new coach, it was more than heartwarming and it made her realize that she had made a good decision.
While it turned out to be a good move, O’Connell found herself in a predicament in the beginning trying to balance her job with the team’s schedule. Once she got her practice plans in order, she found things weren’t all that tough.
“The girls were all hard working and a pleasure to coach,” O’Connell said. “It ended up being fun.”
Along with Holliston JV Coach Paul Hickey, who would act as her varsity assistant, the two entered O’Connell’s inaugural season with the Panthers just looking to improve upon last year’s 7-9 regular season record and having only lost only two seniors from that team she was hopeful that the Panthers cold accomplish that.
The Panthers went 8-10 during the regular season and was .500 in the Tri-Valley League and qualified for the Division 3 State Tournament earning a 15 seed. The Coach was aright with the team’s seeding, the only issue she had was that once they defeated Dedham in the first round was who they had to play in the second round.
“The downfall was our second game,” she said. “We had to drive two hours to Newburyport, had a little over an hour lightning delay only to get a beating (17-2) before driving 2 hours back home. It was a long ride knowing that we were going to get our butts kicked, but we were proud of the girls in getting there.”
If it’s any consolation Newburyport, the number two seed in the tournament, was getting ready to play in the State Championship game at the time of this writing was averaging 17 points a contest while only giving up 2.5 goals a game.
Playing in the TVL, Holliston found themselves with a rather tough schedule this season, especially to begin. The Panthers quickly found themselves in a negative hole at 1-5 to open the season. Despite the frustrating start O’Connell was optimistic with the teams they would square off against next. They did find themselves losing a few games here and there by one or two goals to teams that they should have beaten.
During O’Connell’s first year with Holliston the Panthers were led by the team’s quad-captains in Jenna Quatromoni (attack). Brooke Reiss (defense), Ella Goughan (defense) and Izzy Broschik (attack). The four not only kept the team motivated and ready to play, but allowed the Coach to occasionally bounce ideas off them. 
Goughan played an outstanding defense for the Panthers and was saddled with stopping the opposition’s top players. She would generally play the entire game. Broschik was one of a handful of club players to grace the Holliston roster. The attacker, who netted 23 goals and 12 assists, will be moving on to play lacrosse at the University of New England next year.
In addition to the seniors, O’Connell had a strong junior presence on the squad, which bodes well for next season. Ava Lombardi led the team with 40 goals and 23 assists, while Andersen Hastings chipped in with 35 goals and 16 assists and was the Panthers only representative to the TVL All-Star team as a midfielder. Kaitlyn Quealy posted 24 goals and 18 assists, but also was a key contributor in the draw circle where she recorded 60 draw controls. 
“She was a threat on attack, but very strong on defense for us,” the coach said. “Playing both ends she was our MVP and best all-around player; providing the effort on attack and defense while also making some great passes and possessing great stick skills.”
Kaitlin O’Connell, although playing in her one and only high school season, is one of the faster players on the team and used that speed to defend some of the top players in the league. In doing so, the senior was able to keep those players’ numbers down.
Sophomore Amelia Laingen was the Panthers last line of defense playing solid between the pipes. Last spring the club trained goalie, and was used sparingly for most of the season, but once she got her chance, she took over the position over the last third of the season. The keeper recorded 204 saves for the Panthers.
With this season all but wrapped up, O’Connell will face a much tougher challenge come next spring in her second season at the helm. Holliston is graduating 11 seniors, including 6 starters, from this years roster. While the coach believes that the midfield and attack positions would return very strong, it is the defense that is going to need some help.
Holliston is going to need some of the younger girls to step up next season. According to O’Connell, they have the potential with all the girls who didn’t get as much playing time this season but will definitely see the field more next year.
As she begins to think about her second season with Holliston, season one will be one that the O’Connell never forgets.
“This was truly an opportunity of a lifetime to be able to coach both of my daughters as well as 15 girls that I had coached in youth lacrosse for six years,” she said. “I will never forget this special season.”