PEABODY — With a new coach leading the program, the Peabody field hockey team’s ready to kick the 2018 season into gear. Peabody High alum Tawny Palmieri was hired as the Tanners’ new coach during the offseason but she isn’t new to the program. Palmieri, who graduated from Peabody High in 2008, was a three-sport athlete who played field hockey, basketball and softball.
Palmieri played one season of college softball at UMass Amherst (she redshirted her freshman year) before transferring to Merrimack for three seasons. She has six years of softball coaching experience at the high school level. This will be her first year coaching field hockey. Palmieri replaces Karen Atkinson, who spent one season in the role at Peabody.
“It’s pretty crazy that it’s come full circle,” Palmieri said. “I didn’t really think of myself as a field hockey coach when I left high school. I always sort of thought I’d coach softball.
“I became a (field hockey) captain my senior year,” Palmieri said. “I enjoyed the sport, I understand it and I like it. It’s nice to be able to give back, especially where I grew up and played.”
Palmieri will coach the Tanners alongside assistant Elaine Linehan, who coached Palmieri when she played on the Peabody junior varsity team. Palmieri played two seasons of varsity field hockey for former Tanners coach Lorraine Benoit.
“(Elaine) and I are a lot alike,” Palmieri said. “I know how she operates. She understands me and how I work. I think the two of us together will make a great team. I learned from her as a player and now I have the ability to learn the coaching side of things.”
Peabody returns a solid nucleus to the fold, beginning with its four co-captains. Three of them are seniors in center-mid Hailee Monies and sisters Marlana Winschel (outside-mid) and Sophia Winschel (defensive back). Rounding out the core of co-captains is junior forward/mid Jess Bacelar.
“I’m excited to work with these four,” Palmieri said. “They’re all great athletes and great people as well. They make adjustments right away. They’re constantly helping other girls in the program, whether it’s girls who haven’t picked up a stick or girls who’ve been in the program. They’re always helping each other. I’m excited. I think it’s going to be a good year for them.”
A pair of sophomores are currently competing for the starting goalie role in Sidney Branga and Kylie Colella. Palmieri said both have looked solid in net through the first few days of the preseason.
“They’ve both looked really good,” Palmieri said. “They come to practice ready to play. They’re constantly ready, they’re ready for us when we need them to jump into drills. It’s pretty even right now. You can tell they both want it. That’s very exciting for a coach to see in a sophomore.”
Palmieri said the Tanners are still waiting for a few eighth-grade waivers to clear to allow a few more hopefuls to join the team. One of her main goals as Peabody’s new coach is to increase interest among underclassmen and eighth-graders.
“We have to get some eighth-grade waivers to make sure we have enough for both teams,” Palmieri said. “When I played we had a freshman team with girls coming in on eighth-grade waivers. It’s my goal to get the program back to that level.
“It’s a great sport,” Palmieri said. “Students need to know about it to play. Me and Coach Linehan, our goal is to build a team that’s noticed in the field hockey world and bring field hockey back to Peabody.”
Another goal for Palmieri is to coach the Tanners to an appearance in the state tournament.
“I want them to experience a winning season,” Palmieri said. “I want them to know how successful they can be. I want them to make the playoffs, that’s my goal as a coach. I want them to play as a team and be successful.”
The Tanners open the 2018 season September 5th when they host Northeastern Conference opponent Beverly at Peabody High.