Field hockey previews: John Stark looks strong after historic 2022 championship run

By ERIC RYNSTON-LOBELand DAN ATTORRI

Monitor staff

Published: 08-25-2023 8:29 PM

In 2022, pretty much everything went perfectly for John Stark field hockey. The Generals finished the season 16-0-1 and took home the Division II championship, their first in program history.

In 2023, head coach Dennis Pelletier will need to replace four of his starters from last year’s team. But one of the biggest reasons for John Stark’s success last year was its lack of reliance on any one or two players to carry the load. It was always a comprehensive effort put forth by everyone on the field.

Pelletier expects their depth to be a strength once again, especially with a roster of 22 varsity players.

“We’ve got some good, young players,” Pelletier said. “Most of our team is coming from our sophomore and junior class. That’s our strength, but we’ve got a couple of good senior leaders that are helping out. I feel pretty good. We’ll be in contention again, from my standpoint.”

Among key returners, junior Adie Bolduc (First Team All-State) will anchor the defense along with senior midfielder Hailey Brisson. Sophomore Lauryn Guevin and junior Jillian Fredette look to play key roles as well.

Last season, Pelletier basically split time in goal among three players. With two of them returning in 2023, it looks to be stiff competition once again between senior Edie Fischer and sophomore Addy Pelletier.

“People say it’s a nice problem to have, but it’s hard because only one goalie can be out there at a time, and obviously Addy’s our future, so we can’t just have her sit on the bench and not play,” Pelletier said. “Whoever’s in goal, I feel like we’ll have the strongest goalie on the field in that game.”

In addition to depth, Pelletier’s hoping to re-create the team-first mentality that he said was so vital to their success throughout the championship run.

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“The team part is what’s set us apart from those other teams in the final four last year, so I need to see that part continue to develop,” Pelletier said. “I think that’s the most important part is for us to stay as that tight-knit unit, because that was the biggest edge, I thought, last year. We had younger kids. We didn’t have many D-I or D-II (college) kids, but we were very good.”

Pelletier will need that level of togetherness even more so this season as opponents circle their matchups with the defending champions on the schedule. Last year, the Generals steamrolled their competition, outscoring opponents by 46 goals across 14 regular-season games.

At a recent jamboree, Pelletier even had someone ask him if he thinks they’re going to go undefeated again.

“I’m not looking that far ahead,” Pelletier said. “Do I think we could be in the finals again? Sure. But we lost some very key players, so some younger players are going to have to step it up. Every time we cross onto the white lines, I feel like we have a legitimate shot of winning every game we play in, but we have to earn it.

“We’ve got the target on our back now, so we’re going to have to be ready for everyone’s best punch every time we step on the field.”

CONCORD

Division: I.

Coach: Nicole Armaganian (third year).

Last year: 12-6-0, reached quarterfinals.

Returning players: Nadia Hanna, jr.; Ally McGonigle, jr.; Amy Desrochers, fr.

Top newcomers: Deeqo Hussein, fr.

Outlook: It will take some time for the Tide to recover from losing nine seniors from last season, most of whom were starters, including goalie Anna Gregg. Freshman Hussein is stepping up to learn the position and handle the duties between the pipes.

“She is eager to learn and not afraid to put in the work,” said Armaganian.

Concord was dealt another blow with the loss of midfielder Aidah Smalley due to a knee injury, but the Tide does return three All-State players: Desrochers (First Team), McGonigle (Second Team) and Hanna (Honorable Mention).

Teams to beat: Windham, Exeter, Dover, Winnacunnet, Bedford.

BOW

Division: II.

Coach: Sarah Vaughn (first year).

Last year: 5-9-1, reached prelims.

Returning starters: Maia Kimball, sr.; Sabrina Bernard, sr.

Top newcomers: Shire Kelley, fr.; Kaylee Jacques, fr.; Madelyn Hebert, fr.

Outlook: The Falcons have 10 freshmen between the varsity and JV rosters, which is a huge boost to the numbers in Bow’s program. Kimball is committed to playing field hockey for Stonehill College, while Bernard, the Falcons’ only other senior, was an All-State pick in 2022.

MERRIMACK VALLEY

Division: II.

Coach: Jen Colgan (sixth year).

Last year: 10-6-0, reached quarterfinals.

Returning starters: Lauren Bailey, jr., M; Alyssa Brodeur, jr., F; Taylor Gionet, jr., G; Julianne Guertin, sr., F; Kaiya Mercier, jr., M; Abbey Thompson, so., M; Grace Thompson, sr., F/D; Caroline Wheeler, jr., D.

Outlook: “We have a solid group of returners that raise our level of play everyday at practice,” Colgan said. “We will continue to focus on doing the small things well and utilizing our experience and sense of urgency to push our pace of play. A big focus for us will be execution in our attacking zone. We are eager to get out and compete.”

Teams to beat: John Stark, Portsmouth, Souhegan, Hollis-Brookline.

PEMBROKE

Division: II.

Coach: Steve Langevin (fourth year).

Last year: 6-8-1, reached prelims.

Returning starters: Brianna LePage, sr., M/F; Meredith Kiander, sr., M; Ava Strazzeri, sr., D; Treic Thomas-Guerzon, sr., D.

Top newcomers: Anne Phillips, fr., M; Ashlyn Barker, so., F; Phoebe Morris, so., F.

Outlook: The Spartans reached a huge milestone as a program last season, making the playoffs for the first time since 2017 after winning just one game combined over the previous three seasons. But 12 of the players who comprised last year’s squad are gone, so Pembroke will once again rely on younger, inexperienced players in 2023. Still, the Spartans have a solid returning group of four senior starters. Sophomore Carlee LePage will be stepping into a key role in the central midfield, and junior Annika Jawidzik takes over between the posts after spending the last two years as the JV goalie.

“The rest of the team just needs to get experience at this level,” Langevin said. “They are having fun and are enthusiastic about the season.”

Teams to beat: Souhegan, Portsmouth, John Stark.

BISHOP BRADY

Division: III.

Coach: Kelly Owen (30th year).

Last year: 11-7-0, D-III runner-up.

Returning starters: Carly Fuller, sr., F; Kylee Potter, sr., D; Laura Yap, sr., M/D; Kimble Rose, jr., F; Madison Noel, jr., F; Payton Bryson, jr., M; Ava Archambault, so., G.

Top newcomers: Camdyn Despres, jr., M/F.

Outlook: The Giants had excellent team chemistry and senior leadership and used that to turn a No. 7 seed into a championship contender as Brady made it to the D-III finals for the fourth straight year. Once again, teamwork and chemistry will be key, and the team will look to a strong group of seven returning starters to fill roles vacated by the four graduated seniors.

“We look to compete every game,” Owen said. “We continue to work together as a team/family and continue to grown on and off the field. We continue to believe in each other and value one another in the name of teamwork.”

Teams to beat: “Anyone,” according to Owen.

FRANKLIN

Division: III.

Coach: Missy Lewis (third year).

Last year: 0-12-0, did not make tournament.

Returning starters: Savaughna Slocum, jr., G; Abby Collins, jr., F; Taylor Collins, sr., F; Taylor Caron, jr., M; Kaia Roper, jr., M; Lizzy St. Cyr, sr., D; Lilli Corrow, sr., D; Sage Slocum, so., F; Layleah Wells, fr., F; Rose Franson, sr., F.

Top newcomers: Addison Francis, so., M; Reese Henry, eighth grade, M; Ella Blanchette, eighth grade, F.

Outlook: It’s been several years since Franklin has won a game, and the Golden Tornadoes were scoreless last season. But with 10 returning starters, this is the strongest and most experienced team Franklin has seen in years.

“The team is really working hard to improve the field hockey program at FHS,” Lewis said. “With the returning experience and new additions to the offense, we’re ready to score more goals this season and win some games.”

Teams to beat: Bishop Brady, Gilford.

HOPKINTON

Division: III.

Coach: Kate Hohenberger (fifth year).

Last year: 2-11-1, did not make tournament.

Returning starters: Maddie Dwyer, so.; Maddie Ceriello, jr.; Crissy Johnson, jr.; Kelsey Sullivan, jr.; Anika Hudak-Hall, jr.; Emma Brock, jr.; Hadley Cook, sr.; Sylvin Dustin, sr.

Top newcomers: Ryan Barrett, fr.; Mary Maughan, fr.; Autumn Meier, fr.; Lauryn Vetter, fr.

Outlook: “Looking to have a competitive season and build back from last season,” Hohenberger said. “Our numbers are much better, and we have more depth this year. The team is showing strength with our starters and with our players subbing in. As a team, we want to continue to build on our skills and game play.”

Teams to beat: “Everyone is a competitor,” according to Hohenberger.

KEARSARGE

Division: III.

Coach: Chelsea Williams (fifth year).

Last year: 5-9-0, did not make tournament.

Returning starters: Graycee Foster, sr., M/F; Tori Montagna, sr., F; Ava Valle, jr., M; Tori Wooten, jr., M; Ella Dumais, jr., D; Lily Hoegler, sr., D; Luna Landers, jr., G.

Top newcomers: Stella Syversten, fr., M/F; Ava Nolan-Waddell, fr., D.

Outlook: “We have a good mix of experience to help guide a skilled and enthusiastic incoming freshman class,” Williams said. “This season looks promising.”

Teams to beat: Bishop Brady, Gilford, Conant.

WINNISQUAM

Division: III.

Coach: Nelly Roache (first year).

Last year: 5-8-2, reached prelims.

Returning starters: Ashlee Roache, sr.; Bradyn Proulx-Rose, sr.; Vanessa Power, sr.; Allison Parry, sr.; Sophia Braun, sr.

Outlook: After spending some time as the JV coach, Roache takes over the Bears’ varsity program.

“This is a young team with many seniors graduating last year,” coach Roache said. “We have a new goalie this year. The team has b een working hard during the summer and over preseason.”

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