One of the best field hockey players to ever play at Mashpee High School is returning home to coach the program that she once starred in. Timarie Villa, a 2012 Mashpee High graduate—who went on to play at Springfield College—begins her rookie season as a head coach for the MHS varsity Friday, October 9, as the Falcons take on Norwell High School.

For Villa, who played goalie for Mashpee and Springfield, this is an opportunity she is very excited to take. She was recently hired after believing her work schedule would not allow it, but sometimes things work out the right way.

“It’s surreal; I’m still kind of shocked,” she said. “I love coaching, so this is a little dream-come-true for me.”

After graduating from college in 2016, Villa began her coaching career as an assistant at Western New England College. In 2018 she returned to Cape Cod and was an assistant coach for the Falcons, working with the junior varsity. She works full-time at Cape Cod Hospital and thought her job there would prevent her from being able to take on the duty as a head coach, but she said her superiors at the hospital helped her make the schedule work out.

Not only was Villa unsure if she would be able to work out the scheduling behind coaching but she also did not know if there would be a team to coach this year because of the pandemic. When it was announced that the fall season would be held, she said she was very excited to get to work and start to mold the program.

Having year one be this year, where the rules are changing pretty dramatically for this season, is another challenge for the rookie coach. For the 2020 season field hockey is moving from its usual 11-on-11 format to 7-on-7. Penalty corners have also been removed from the game this year, and the contest is supposed to be more free-flowing and up and down the field. With the rules changes come stylistic changes that coaches must account for, so Villa has had to jump in and teach a lot from the get-go.

“It’s more of a thought-process game now, I think,” she said. “You have to teach them to be aware and to take advantage of all of the space that is out there.”

Thankfully, the team has its share of returning players who have a relationship with their new coach and know how to play the game well. One of the bigger strengths the Falcons have is experience in the midfield, with senior captain Sidney Burke leading the way. She will team with Samantha Rosum to try to control the middle of the field and keep things moving forward.

“They both communicate very well, both on and off the ball, and their hustle—you can’t beat it,” Villa said.

Madeleine Cook is stepping into the lineup in the midfield and also will be counted on to make things happen. Villa said Cook is “going to be strong for us.”

On defense, Halema Shafie is moving up to play varsity for the first time and will have a big role with the team. The senior has a leadership role on the team, as Villa said, “Girls look up to her, and she always tries hard.”

Alexis Bryant will be busy on game days. She will play defense for the varsity team and will be the backup goalie. She will also start in net for the junior varsity team this year. Zahara Russell also will be big on defense, as she brings strong stick skills and good field awareness to the fold, along with a strong hustle game.

Bryant will be backing up varsity starter Paige Lundberg. The veteran netminder is excited to take on the challenges she will face this year, as the goalie position’s importance—which was already high—takes on even greater import under the new playing style. Being a goalie by training herself, Villa said she is quite impressed with the work Lundberg has put in and thinks she is ready to have a big season.

“She’s definitely going to be strong for us in the pipes,” Villa said. “She’s testing out some new techniques and moving really well, and she’s not afraid to come out and challenge the shooters, which you have to do.”

Up front on offense, Jailynn Burke is back for another year, and the senior has her sights set on putting up some big numbers for the Falcons. Villa said Bryant does a nice job of communicating with her teammates and is “hungry to score some goals.”

Issa Eagan will see time up front and is willing to move around the field for the Falcons. Coach Villa said she will be used in multiple spots. Clara Signs also will be used in several positions and will help out all over the field for MHS.

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