LYNNFIELD — The Lynnfield field hockey team faces an uphill battle this season.
After losing 12 seniors to graduation, the Pioneers return only four players with varsity experience.
“This is such a young team and we are definitely rebuilding,” said Lynfield coach Mamie Reardon. “I’m hoping it’s not a big rebuild, but with only four players who have ever played varsity, who knows?”
The Pioneers will be tested right out of the gate when they open the season at reigning Division 1 North champion Masconomet Thursday. The two teams split last year, with Lynnfield winning on its home turf and Masconomet winning on its home grass.
“We’re jumping into the fire right away,” said Reardon. “We just have to put the stick down and go for it. There’s no way to prepare to play on their grass. It’s unfortunate, but all we can do is stay wide and capitalize on our opportunities and see what happens.”
The Pioneers are coming off their best season in 10 years. They finished the season 16-4-1 and were one bad call away from pulling off what would have been one of the most thrilling upsets in program history. Lynnfield had a 1-0 lead over nine-time defending state champion Watertown (which had not lost in 10 years) in the Division 2 North semifinal. But a bungled call by an official gave the Red Raiders second life, who tied the score on a penalty corner to send the game into overtime. Watertown prevailed in double overtime, 2-1.
“I was so proud of the way the girls played,” said Reardon. “We outplayed them and had the game won. It was heartbreaking that it had to end that way. The girls deserved that game.”
Last year, the Pioneers excelled in set pieces, leading the league in scoring with 68 goals. But gone are the likes of Cape Ann League First Team all-stars Ashley Barrett, the Pioneers’ top goal scorer and defensive standout Brianna Barrett, who have moved on to Virginia Commonwealth University, along with fellow Second Team all-star Abby Buckley and starting goalie Emily Dickey. Brianna Barrett, Buckley and Dickey were key players in the backfield, forming the core of a defensive unit that allowed a league-low 16 goals.
This year, while it’s clear the Pioneers have significant holes to fill, the preseason has shown promise.
“These girls came in ready to play and in great condition,” said Reardon. “They worked hard in the offseason and that allowed us to jump right into scrimmages instead of having to work on conditioning. Even with very little varsity experience, they’ve looked great so far and I’m encouraged that we scored 15 goals in four scrimmages.”
Seniors Garolyn Garofoli, Lily Rothwell and Grace MacDonald will serve as captains.
Rothwell, a forward and CAL Second Team all-star, tied for the team lead in scoring with 18 goals and 33 assists, while Garofoli, a midfielder, tallied one goal and notched seven assists. The University of New Hampshire commits are both four-year varsity veterans. MacDonald, a three-year verteran, played a major role defensively.
“Lily’s just a dynamo on the front line. She has great stick skills and can score,” said Reardon. “Carolyn polices the middle and does a great job passing to the outside and keeping it out of the circle. Grace is a quiet player who works so hard and makes good decisions.”
Jenna Freni, Lauren Kustka, Talia Bridgham, Olivia Ventre and Gabby Langone round out the seniors.
“Jenna looks good at sweeper and Lauren will be playing on the right side among others, but nothing is etched in stone,” said Reardon. “I will be using more bench than I ever have. We have people who can play multiple positions.”
Maddie Murphy, Grace Klonsky and Bella Scala are the only returning juniors.
“Maddie’s looking good on the right wing, and Grace and Bella are really the only two players who got in a few games last year,” said Reardon.
Jeannie Carpenter, Charlotte Mihalchik, Madison Angelo, Maddie Cook, Ella Gaudette Ally Orlofski and Ava O’Brien complete the junior group.
Reardon said Orlofski is coming off an injury but will be in the mix at multiple positions when cleared.
Sophomores Jackie Carbone, Lauren Grava, Anna Kaminski, Georgia Milne and Oliva Reska and freshmen, Charlotte Radulski, Julia Carbone and Ava Marotta are also new.
“So far, Ava O’Brien has the early nod in goal with Charlotte Radulski and junior JV player Riley Slaney also competing,” said Reardon.