“I have everything I need for a championship,” said Pingree coach Jen Richardson.
Entering Wednesday’s match against Portsmouth Abbey, the Highlanders are 16-2, including a 7-0 record in the Eastern Independent League. Pingree was unbeaten in EIL play in 2017 and 2018, winning both regular season and tournament titles. However, Pingree lost in the NEPSAC Class C semifinals both seasons.
Richardson’s team has its sights set on a New England trophy this season.
Senior forward Katelyn Clarke of South Hamilton, a University of Michigan recruit, is joined by her fellow captains — defender Addy Fenton (Andover) and forward Caroline Kagan (Ipswich).
Junior goalie Shannon Conte (Amesbury) has registered 10 shutouts, and junior midfielders Alana Richardson (the coach’s daughter) and Maddie Mullaney, both from Boxford, provide talent up the middle.
Here are five things you might not know about Pingree field hockey.
Taking it to the Max
Nearly every member of the Pingree team points to one thing when describing their success — the Max Field Hockey High School National Invitational tournament.
The tournament convened 36 of the top field hockey teams in the nation to Conshohocken, Pa. from Sept. 20-22. The Highlanders went 2-1, defeating two teams from Maryland and dropping a game to a team from Texas.
“We bonded a ton down there,” Clarke said.
“That was probably one of the funnest trips I’ve ever been on.”
Conte was chosen as a standout performer at the tournament. But the biggest gains came off the field — where the girls were able to bond in airports, vans and hotel rooms.
“Since then, it’s like a party on every bus ride,” Kagan said.
The Highlanders played in a national-caliber tournament, and they have national-caliber talent to back up the invite.
Clarke will play at Michigan, which qualified for the NCAA Tournament in each of the past four years, as well as reaching the national semifinals in 2017.
There are also a few Highlanders with Team USA ties. Clarke, Conte, Mullaney, Alana Richardson, and freshmen Grace Mullaney and Nina Husak all participate in theUS Futures program. The younger Richardson — a two-time EIL MVP and Globe All-Scholastic — recently made the U-17 national team.
“I have talent from the top to the bottom,” Richardson said of her roster.
Lefties don’t always have the easiest time in field hockey. All sticks are made for righthanded players — which adds an extra challenge for a southpaw like Clarke.
“Field hockey is a righty-dominant game,” Clarke said.
“When you’re introduced to the game [as a lefty], it kind of throws you off.”
Teammates laud Clarke’s creativity because she essentially plays the game backward. Fenton notes Clarke’s excellent reverse shots, and backward passes off her back shoulder.
“Some of the things she does on the field,” Fenton said, “I’m just in awe.”
One of the reasons Clarke chose Michigan was the program’s experience with previous lefty talents.
“I really do see it as an advantage,” Clarke said.
“I like how I can be creative.”
Kagan points to a 1-0 win over Brooks on Oct. 10 as an example of her coach’s poise. The skipper didn’t panic in a game in which the Highlanders couldn’t get anything going offensively — no timeouts, just constructive criticism relayed from the sideline.
“She makes incredible adjustments that change the pace of the game,” Kagan said.
The elder Richardson was a standout player at Northeastern University, leading the Huskies to the NCAA Final Four in 1995 and 1996.
Despite this résumé, players say Richardson keeps things simple. Fenton came to Pingree as a lacrosse and ice hockey player, and credits her coach for teaching her the game.
“She made me the player I am today,” Fenton said.
Losing in the NEPSAC semifinals in back-to-back seasons weighed on many Highlanders over the offseason.
“Last year it was a heartbreak,” Fenton said.
A bounce-back requires determination, and Pingree has shown life in big non-league wins over Phillips Exeter, Brooks, and Governor’s Academy — three teams that this year’s senior class hadn’t beaten in their careers.
The hope is, a tough out-of-league schedule will prepare the Highlanders for what’s to come.
“They’re gritty, they want to win,” coach Richardson said.
“They carry a lot of revenge tour mentality.”
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