LYNN — It’s tough to watch a state tournament run end sooner that expected. But when it happens, a team can only flip the page and aim to learn from the experience. That’s the goal for the St. Mary’s girls hockey team this winter.
The Spartans finished the 2017-2018 season at 15-3-2 and earned the No. 8 seed in the Division 1 North state tournament. St. Mary’s defeated Peabody, 2-0, in the preliminary round before falling to Masconomet by the same score in the first round.
“We were disappointed on how the season ended,” Spartans coach Frank Pagliuca, in his 14th season, said. “I thought we got away from what we needed to do to be successful in the state tournament. We became a bit too individual. We didn’t deserve to win. We ran into a hot goalie. Hopefully that’s a lesson to our kids that we need to show up and compete harder if we want to win. In those tournament games it’s one and done. You don’t get a second chance.”
With last year’s tournament exit as a learning point, the Spartans carry a fresh mindset this winter. Leading the Spartans are team captains this season are seniors Madison Hentosh (defenseman) and Codi Butt (forward). Pagliuca credited his captains for helping establish a positive tone thus far.
“I think they bring a lot of leadership to the table,” Pagliuca said. “Codi’s the captain of the lacrosse team too. Their leadership really rubs off on the rest of the team. We all focus on the same goals as far as being team oriented. Those two have a lot to do with that. Everyone’s buying in, which is a great, refreshing change.”
Also returning are junior defenseman Kelsey Sullivan and forward Jenna Chaplain, an eighth-grader.
“We have a good group of returners,” Pagliuca said. “We had a lot of new faces last year. They gained a lot of playing experience. I’ve seen a lot of individual improvement within those girls. They’ve worked hard in the offseason to gain confidence and gain an edge, which will help us out in the long run.”
Senior Lauren Vaccaro and sophomore Maddy Delano return to the team as a solid 1-2 punch at goalie. Angelina Catino, an eighth-grader, is also in the mix for playing time in net.
“Goaltending’s a big strength for us,” Pagliuca said. “We return a lot of players up front. With their experience, that’s really going to help us going into the season. We have some kids that haven’t played a lot so hopefully they can step up and take a bigger role. That’s only going to help make us a better team.”
Pagliuca foresees a competitive Catholic Central League that’ll test his Spartans each time they take the ice for a league clash. But with a sense of confidence making its way through the locker room, St. Mary’s feels it can compete with anybody on its schedule.
“We’re confident in what we have to do,” Pagliuca said. “I think we’ll be very competitive in our league. I think Austin Prep’s the clear favorite in our league. I feel we have the confidence that we can compete with anybody in our league.”
Thus far, things are looking good in the preseason. St. Mary’s held its first scrimmage this past weekend and the Spartans are still ironing a few wrinkles but Pagliuca said the team’s starting to find its footing.
“The girls are very excited,” Pagliuca said. “We had our first scrimmage Saturday. We have a few more scrimmages. We’re starting to round into shape. We’re still a bit sloppy but the effort and compete levels have been there. I think the sloppiness will take care of itself as we move into the season.”
St. Mary’s opens the season next Wednesday night (8) when the Spartans host Peabody at William P. Connery Rink.