After winning a total of nine games the previous two seasons, the Clippers were victors in thirteen matches in 2008 and reached the Division 2 North quarterfinals.
How did they do it? I learned the answers from 2nd year coach Lauren Hefferan recently in the Anna Jaques cafeteria. Lauren is a clinical leader in the cardiac unit at AJH.
“The key to the team’s success was the commitment that the seniors on this team made,” explained Coach Hefferan. “They were the first kids this program has had that practiced skills all year round.”
More and more the out-of-season practice has become important. “In the Cape Ann League, you need to have players working out in the off-season just to be competitive because many of the teams are so good,” added Lauren.
Lauren said that she started seeing the results of the team’s commitment to improve in 2007 when the team finished 5-10-4. “The skill improvement was noticeable,” she said. “Our biggest problem was that we couldn’t put the ball in the net.”
Enter senior Ashley Karelis in 2008. “She was on the team in 2007 but didn’t score very much,” recalled Lauren. This year Ashley netted 15 goals. “We only scored seven goals during all of 2007 so you can see how important she was to the team.”
The Clippers also had a solid group of JV’s (Cassandra Davis, Haley Johnson, and McKenzie Maguire) join the varsity. “Sometimes underclassmen can be intimidated when they move up but not these kids.”
Strong at every position and able to score goals, the Clippers put together a stretch of thirteen games this season in which they didn’t lose.
“We lost to powerful North Andover 1-0 early in the season and came away realizing how much we had improved over last season,” said Lauren. “They had beaten us 7-0 in 2007.”
A little over a month later, against the same team, the final score was 1-1. “That game was memorable because it was supposed to be played at home but because of the lockdown we had to go over there for a second time, yet we still did very well,” she added.
Asked about coaching her daughter she said, “Callie was easy to coach. She probably worked as hard at field hockey as anyone has. I pushed her because I had a good idea what it would take for her to become really good at the sport. Fortunately, she had a bunch of close friends who joined her in working at field hockey year round. That made it a lot easier for her.”
The CAL Coach of the Year played field hockey at Haverhill and then went on to be part of a UNH team that was ranked 7th in the country her junior year. “I have tried to stay involved in field hockey since graduating from UNH,” she said. “In the off-season, I coach at UNH and Seacoast United (Hampton NH) wherever they need help and whenever my schedule allows it. Many of my former UNH teammates are coaches in those places as well.”
Callie Hefferan, Tricia Grasso, and Taylor Damon (the team’s senior captains) caught the field hockey bug as freshman. “We all started playing together after Callie’s mom told us about the game and helped sign us up for a camp,” said Tricia.
Now the girls hope to play at the next level. “I expect to play at Franklin Pierce,” said Taylor. Callie and Tricia have yet to settle on colleges but want to continue playing if the opportunity presents itself.
(To be published in The Town Common on December 31st)