NRHS Field Hockey Loses Playoff Bid

Published in the November 5, 2008 issue of The Stow Independent

By Jordana Bieze Foster

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Clutch play in the last week of the season carried the Nashoba field hockey team to its second consecutive playoff appearance. Unfortunately, the Chieftains' reward was a trip to Auburn.

Out of their element on the cold artificial turf and lacking the muscle to keep Auburn scoring machine Blaise Falk in check, the 15-seed Chieftains fell to the 2-seed Rockets last Wednesday by the score of 3-0.

“It didn't seem like it was three to nothing,” said head coach Jaime Mariani, who has led Nashoba to the Division 1 playoffs in each of her two seasons at the helm. “Auburn came out really strong and scored early, but going into halftime we were only down by one and we were really confident. We really thought we were going to be able to do it. And in the second half we had the ball more than they did. The girls played hard and I give them a lot of credit.”

But the Chieftains had no answer for Falk, who has been turning heads all season not only for being Auburn's sole male player but also for his offensive dominance. During the regular season, the junior midfielder led all Central Mass players in both goals scored (with 32) and total points (39) – by comparison, the next-highest goal scorer had only 23 and the next-highest point-scorer had 33.

Falk lived up to his reputation against Nashoba, assisting on Eileen Collins' goal just six minutes into the game, then scoring twice in the second half to put the game out of reach. And although some might equate male field hockey players with unsportsmanlike conduct, Mariani said that was not the case with Falk.

“He's not a dirty player. He's a very clean player. He's fast, he has a good stick, knows how to score,” she said. “And he's strong. The goals he had in the second half hit off of our sticks and went in, just because he hit it so hard. There's really nothing you can do about that.”

The loss to Auburn was a disappointing finale to what had been a valiant end of the season for Nashoba. An Oct. 7 injury to senior defender Jaclyn Bucciero had rattled the Chieftains, who had just entered a brutal six-game stretch featuring five opponents that would ultimately make the playoffs. After going 0-4-2 during those six games, including three consecutive losses, the Chieftains found themselves needing to win or tie their last two games in order to qualify.

A single goal by sophomore Shara Batson was enough for a win over Milford on Oct. 20, but Nashoba still had to face Lunenburg, one of the top Division 2 teams in Central Mass. Four days later, seniors Rebecca Aldrich and Megan Cullinane both scored as the Chieftains managed a 2-2 tie with the Blue Knights and squeaked into the post-season.

“That was a lot of stress on us. We knew it could be done, but it was tough,” Mariani said. “But it showed how well the girls persevered. They wanted it. They really worked hard and we got it done.” By that point in the season, the Chieftains were no strangers to hard work, having had to overcome not only the injury to Bucciero but also an unexpected personnel change in goal. Following an ankle injury to senior keeper Meghan Ryan two games into the season, sophomore Christine Butler stepped up and performed admirably under the circumstances, finishing with a respectable 1.16 goals-against-average.

Stow senior captain Allison Wyand split time between the forward and midfield positions but still finished among Nashoba's top scorers with four goals and three assists on the season. Other Stow players who made contributions throughout the season on defense included juniors Chelsea Koch and Allie Bradley and freshman Rebecca Bagdigian.

With leading scorers Aldrich, Cullinane and Wyand slated to graduate next spring, it will be up to this season's underclassmen to ensure a third consecutive playoff appearance.

“Hopefully qualifying will be something that will happen each year,” Mariani said. “That's something we will try to be sure we achieve.”

Copyright 2008 Jordana Foster – 24 Kirkland Dr, Stow, MA – Email: – Fax: (815) 346-5239