On The Fly

Falmouth High junior Kaileigh Shea is one of the many returning players from last year’s field hockey squad. The team begins play next week.

Next Wednesday, October 7, is the day and, ready or not, the Falmouth High School field hockey team will be thrown right into the fire to begin their shortened 2020 season with what is always one of the toughest showdowns of the season. FHS hosts Dennis-Yarmouth on Wednesday to begin its season before traveling to Sandwich High School on Friday, October 9, for game two.

Just like that, three days into the season, and the Clippers will have played their two biggest rivals for the Cape and Islands League title. Then, on October 14, they will host their biggest rival, Barnstable, for game three.

Don’t blink, because it will be over before you know it. The Clippers’ sprint through their abbreviated schedule ends a day short of a month after it begins.

Welcome to COVID-era high school sports, where this year the teams will just be playing league games and the only title that they can shoot for is the league championship. A regular season champ will be crowned in the first week of November. Shortly after that a quick postseason tournament will be held to determine the playoff champ.

“We’ve got a lot of ground to cover in a short time,” coach Courtney Lima said.

The new playing conditions are part of what they’ve had to cover, and the coach said she’s been impressed with her squad’s ability to adapt and take everything in stride. Field hockey has experienced some major changes to the game for this year, including the elimination of penalty corners. Instead, the ball will be put at the 25-yard line and an indirect hit will be taken from there, which will make a game in which offense already was limited even more so. However, the game will be far more wide open than in years past. Rather than playing 11-on-11, field hockey in the MIAA will be 7-on-7 this year, which before had just been done in overtime playoffs. All of that running will be done with the girls masked throughout their competitions, something Lima said is harder than she thought it would be.

“I give my girls a ton of credit,” she said. “We practiced in masks the other day, and all of the coaches played with the masks on too and, wow, is it hard to do this in a mask.”

With so much more open space on the field, Lima said, conditioning is going to be the biggest factor for success this year. Players are going to have to run farther on the field and cover more ground. She said she is toying with a few triangle-based alignments to throw at the opposition, and that passing will be key.

“Ultimately, a pass is going to be faster than an opponent’s fastest player,” she said. “Making good passes will be important. The two and a half weeks we’ve had to prepare have given them a taste of what it’s going to take, but until you go out and play you don’t fully understand.”

One thing that is easy to understand is that more than ever, having a good goalie is going to be important for every team. The keepers are going to be more exposed than ever before, with fewer layers of defense to get through to get to them, and the keepers will need to be sharp. Lima is confident that her team has one of the best around between the pipes for the Maroon and White.

“Kylie Waggett is off the charts,” the coach said. “She’s just so ready for this season. That kid is great.”

Waggett, who also played as the backup ice hockey goalie last year at FHS, is not scared by a pickle quick. The junior moves laterally extremely well and has a knack for playing angles. She kept her team in every game last year until running into eventual state champion Dover-Sherborn in the state tournament.

While Waggett leads the way in the net, Katie Shanahan will be relied upon to make things work in the middle of the field. The junior had a dominant season last year, especially as a defender, but did not score many goals. Lima said Shanahan’s aim is to not defer to teammates as much as she did in the past and to look to make things happen with her shooting skills.

Fellow junior Navea Melton stepped into the lineup last year and showed she’s capable of pushing the ball offensively and making things happen. The former gymnast’s strength and speed are big assets to the squad, and she should be a key player.

Senior Caroline Freeman will captain the team and see time at forward. A player who coach Lima calls “a spitfire,” Freeman will be counted on to be one of the go-to players up front all year long.

Colleen Caswell and Meghan and Kara Guidi are all also playing up front. “They played varsity last year and didn’t necessarily get as much time as they expected. This is their time now, and I think they’ll be good,” the coach said.

Abby MacDonald is another forward who made an impression last year. As a freshman MacDonald jumped into the lineup and helped the team not only with her production, but also with her attitude. “She is the spark that every team needs. She has the enthusiasm that gets everyone fired up,” the coach said.

Natalie Bosselman is a sophomore who has the ability to score goals and make things happen either at forward or the midfield, where she was fantastic last year. The youngster stepped in and filled a huge role in her rookie season and Lima believes that she will continue to improve and be a major component for the Clippers.

Juniors Grace Hoestetter and Deirdre DiNicola could be midfielders in the lineup. Hoestetter played defense last year and played some big minutes for the team. DiNicola’s hard work in the preseason this year has earned her a spot.

On defense, the Clippers expect Haley Callahan, Kaleigh Shea and Lilly McDonald to be big contributors. Juniors Ava Norris and Drea Perez are both up from the junior varsity and are also vying for time. Additionally, Lima said she is scouting several younger players for varsity spots and that the roster will not be set until just before the start of the regular season. “We’re going to use every bit of time that we’ve got to get ready and to see what we’ve got,” the coach said.

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