LYNNFIELD — The town of Lynnfield may be on the small side but when it comes to NCAA athletics it’s right up there churning out big-time college student-athletes.
The latest Pioneers to go the Division I route are the Barrett twins, Ashley and Brianna, who are taking their field hockey talents to Virginia Commonwealth University in 2019.
The Barretts are following a long line of Lynnfield residents who played Division I level field hockey. That group includes Marisa Didio, who played field hockey at UNH alongside Pioneers’ coach, Mamie Reardon and later coached UNH to an NCAA women’s national lacrosse championship in 1985 and also coached the field hockey team to the finals of the 1986 NCAA championship; current Pioneers’ assistant coach Kerry Doherty, who starred at Boston College; and Bailey Fanikos, who now plays for UNH after transferring from Virginia.
The Barretts, rising seniors, hit the ground running as freshmen, with each securing a starting role in no time. Brianna started out as a forward and moved to center-mid last year, while Ashley is a forward.
The twins said their interest in VCU began when they attended a college showcase at the University of Massachusetts (Amherst) last June. They also considered Holy Cross, Fairfield, Stonehill and Bentley.
“The VCU coach, Stacey Bean, was the coach of Ashley’s team at the showcase, so we got to know her there and liked her a lot so that was a big factor,” said Brianna.
“We just loved the area and especially loved the weather and the campus and everything about the program, so we knew that was the place for us,” said Ashley. It was only after we got our offer that we learned from Kerry that she had played for Bean when she was at BC. We had also played many club tournaments in the area as Virginia and Pennsylvania are big when it comes to field hockey.”
The twins got a relatively late start in taking up the game and didn’t pick up their first sticks until the seventh grade after Jamie Johnson, the director of the middle school program, encouraged them to try out the sport. They fell in love with the sport, eventually discontinuing their ice hockey careers after freshman year in order to devote more time to their club team, Northeast Club Elite, currently the top-ranked team in New England.
Both Barretts, who also ran indoor track, will serve as captains of the field hockey and girls lacrosse teams for their senior seasons.
Ashley said the strength of her game is the reverse hit.
“I’m left-handed so I had to learn to play right-handed as they don’t have left-handed sticks,” Ashley said. “It’s much easier for lefties to score from the left side as the ball can go either high or low so it’s a much harder shot for goalies to defend.”
The strength of Brianna’s game is her poise and patience in the middle.
“She’s much calmer with the ball and has the ability to get everyone all settled down,” said Ashley. “Basically, she does all the work to set up the goals, while I’m one of the girls who finishes what she started.”
While they share much in common as twins, the duo doesn’t plan on rooming together at VCU. They’ll also pursue different areas of study as Ashley plans on majoring in health sciences then go into nursing, while Brianna plans to major in computer science and then look for a career in cyber-security.
With their college decision behind them, the twins are focused on one thing, and that’s to go out as winners.
“We’ve been working out every day and are again playing in the summer league at Georgetown as started captains’ practices at the beginning of July,” said Brianna. “This year we are hoping to go really deep in the tournament. We want to beat the teams that beat us last year, like Triton, Masconomet and Manchester-Essex and hopefully we’ll get another shot at Watertown. We have a lot of returning players coming back, so that should help us.”