Field hockey season recap: John Stark defends its title

The John Stark field hockey team celebrates their back-to-back championship on Sunday, Oct. 29, 2023, at Bedford High School after beating Kennett High School, 1-0. 

The John Stark field hockey team celebrates their back-to-back championship on Sunday, Oct. 29, 2023, at Bedford High School after beating Kennett High School, 1-0.  GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

Bow freshman Shire Kelley (center) and Ella Gray (1) react after Kelley’s game-winning goal in overtime to lift the No. 6 Falcons to a 3-2 upset over No. 3 Oyster River in the Division II field hockey quarterfinals on Sunday, Oct. 22, 2023 in Durham. Kelley had two goals and an assist in the win.

Bow freshman Shire Kelley (center) and Ella Gray (1) react after Kelley’s game-winning goal in overtime to lift the No. 6 Falcons to a 3-2 upset over No. 3 Oyster River in the Division II field hockey quarterfinals on Sunday, Oct. 22, 2023 in Durham. Kelley had two goals and an assist in the win. Chip Griffin / Photos By Chip

Concord’s Allie McGonigle (right) runs after the ball as a Windham player falls down during the first half at Rollins Park on Aug. 28.

Concord’s Allie McGonigle (right) runs after the ball as a Windham player falls down during the first half at Rollins Park on Aug. 28. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

By ERIC RYNSTON-LOBEL

Monitor staff

Published: 11-12-2023 8:13 PM

John Stark field hockey was one of three area teams to hoist a championship plaque this fall, the second straight year the Generals were the last team standing. But the area was littered with other successful programs as well.

Bow reached the Division II semifinals as the six seed, while Concord narrowly lost to No. 3 Bishop Guertin in the D-I quarterfinals. Merrimack Valley, Pembroke, Hopkinton and Kearsarge also all qualified for the postseason.

Here are three takeaways from the field hockey season:

John Stark still the team to beat

Things didn’t come as easily to John Stark this season as they did last year when the Generals steamrolled through their competition on their way to winning the program’s first championship. Dealing with some injuries and more youth on the roster this fall, the Generals played in four one-goal games during the regular season. They still only lost once all year.

In the playoffs, top-seeded John Stark narrowly survived in the quarterfinals against No. 8 Portsmouth in a 3-2 win, before handily taking down No. 4 Souhegan, 4-1, in the semifinals and hanging on for a 1-0 win over Kennett in the championship on Oct. 29.

“The fact that we can play and compete against these teams the last three years as well as we have, it’s a testament to how well they play together,” head coach Dennis Pelletier told the Monitor after the Generals’ win over Kennett. “You’ll see these girls play separately on different teams in travel season, and you’re like, ‘They’re decent players.’ For some reason when they play together, they’re just on a different level. They just turn it up a notch.”

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Led by sophomore Lauryn Guevin who was named Division II’s offensive player of the year, John Stark has loads of talent returning next year. That includes goalie Addy Pelletier.

The Generals will lose seven seniors, including goalie Edie Fischer and midfielder Hailey Brisson.

Bow takes massive step forward

Under first-year head coach Sarah Vaughn, Bow went from a team that finished 2022 at 5-9-1 to a team that went 13-4 and came one goal shy of reaching the D-II championship.

Although an overtime goal from Kennett at Bill Ball Stadium in Exeter brought an unsatisfying end to the year, Vaughn sees great opportunity to continue to build the program moving forward.

“The season was a success,” she said after the semifinal loss. “We came into this as underdogs, and we worked our way farther than anyone expected, so we should hold our heads high and be back next season.”

The Falcons will lose two seniors off their roster, Maia Kimball and Sabrina Bernard. With just 16 players this season, one area of focus moving forward will likely be on growing the program. John Stark, by comparison, fielded a roster of 22 players this postseason.

Concord wins playoff game, narrowly loses in quarters

Despite having a goalie in Deeqo Hussein who’d never played the position until a week before the season started, the Crimson Tide finished 2023 with a record of 11-6-1.

Concord took down No. 11 Timberlane in the first round of the Division I playoffs with a 3-1 win but came up short against No. 3 Bishop Guertin in the quarterfinals, losing 2-1 to end the season.

After starting the year with an overtime loss to Windham, the Tide bounced back with four wins in a row and eight wins in the next 10 games. However, Concord also went 2-2-1 over the last five regular season games, including a somewhat surprising draw with Timberlane. Bouncing back to win the playoff rematch a few days later in the final home game of the season made the victory feel a little sweeter.

“We’ve been saying all along that on any given day, it’s anybody’s game, and I did not take Timberlane lightly at all,” head coach Nicole Armaganian told the Monitor after the first round playoff win. “Good effort by them, and I’m happy to move on.”

The Tide will lose three seniors from this year’s team: Aidah Smalley, Grace Smith and Alison Dupuis.