Sacred Heart field hockey on top of its game

Convent of the Sacred Heart senior captain Mo Leitner works the ball down the field during a recent practice. — Paul Silverfarb photo

Convent of the Sacred Heart senior captain Mo Leitner works the ball down the field during a recent practice. — Paul Silverfarb photo

Although the Convent of the Sacred Heart field hockey team lost several high-quality seniors to graduation last year, the Tigers are still poised to once again be one of the top teams around.

“We have seen a lot of commitment to the team already,” said CSH head coach Sarah Hill, entering her 31st year at the helm. “We had two-and-a-half weeks of preseason and tryouts and the commitment level was amazing then. The group dynamics between the younger players and the returning veterans makes the season look very promising.”

Last season, the Tigers finished with an 11-6 overall mark and were third in the Fairchester Athletic Association.

In their last game in 2013, CSH lost talented players like Maggie Purcell, Liza Connor, Tessa Davis, Emma Molloy, Kayla Souza, Margurite Sommer and Jackie Gross to graduation.

Senior captain Mo Leitner, entering her fourth year as a varsity player on the field hockey program, will lead this year’s team.

“It’s awesome to be a captain here,” Leitner said. “I really have been looking forward to this season. I had Maggie as a solo captain here last year, so I was able to look at what she did and get inspired by her. Now it’s not too overwhelming. Although we lost a lot of seniors last year, I’m really excited about our team. We have an even amount of sophomores, juniors and seniors, which is really exciting.”

“She is doing a great job blending the younger players new to the group and making them feel comfortable and confident in a new environment and a higher level of competitiveness,” Hill said. “She’s done that extremely well. She was voted on by her peers and has their support.”

Right from the start, CSH has to make up for the loss of junior Catherine Hayden, who will be studying abroad in London this year and will be playing field hockey all year there. Last season she was the team leader in goals, with 29, and also led the way with a team-high 12 assists.

Returning to the attack position will be junior Alice Millerchip, a third-year starter who was second on the team last year in goals and assists. Fellow junior Emma Novick, who was one of the scoring leaders in lacrosse last spring for CSH, is new to the sport of field hockey, but is looking to make noise immediately.

In addition, junior Sarah Jackmauh and returning senior Sydney Walker are goal-hungry and ready to put the ball in the back of the net.

Hill said that the returning line has to take over for the loss of Hayden and be more confident in the circle.

“We need to be more consistent at generating corners,” Hill said. “And when we get those corners, we need to be able to finish. That’s going to be key for us.”

When it comes to midfield, Leitner will be in the center of the midfield, commanding the position.

The Convent of the Sacred Heart field hockey team working through a game situation during practice. — Paul Silverfarb photo

The Convent of the Sacred Heart field hockey team working through a game situation during practice. — Paul Silverfarb photo

“I have really high expectations this year,” Letiner said. “We are looking to make it all the way to November and finally compete in the NEPSAC tournament, which we haven’t been able to do before. We want to get there and that means we need to beat some of those bigger teams that we haven’t been able to do in the past. We need to be consistent and play at a high level, no matter who the competition is.”

Joining Leitner in the midfield will be juniors Meg Gerli and Fran Hay.

“They are going to need to be highly-conditioned,” Hill said. “They will be working on helping the offense in the circle and back defensively marking up. We are

One of the team’s biggest strengths this season is at the defensive position, led by junior Katherine Burkett and sophomores Madeleine DeVita and Kelly McLaughlin.

“We are really happy with our solid line of defense,” Hill said. “All three have played in the summer and went to some camps. They are very passionate about field hockey and those three are very good with their stick skills and their game sense. They all can distribute the ball really well. DeVita will be the general of the backs by being in the middle.”

Sacred Heart’s defense will need to stay on its toes, as the team lost two-year starting goalie Connor to graduation. Last season she had the highest save percentage in the FAA.

This season, the duo of Kaitlyn Larkin, a senior, and freshman Elizabeth Kupersmith will be filling the role of goaltender. Larkin played soccer for the Tigers last season. Helping both goalies will be assistant coach Alexandra Holowach, who was with the middle school team as a goalkeeping specialist and will be back with the varsity squad this season.

“Kate is new to field hockey, but she’s really good with her feet and still needs to work on her positioning,” Hill said. “They both split time between our scrimmages and did very well with the angles. They will be learning a lot as the season goes along, but they are both pushing each other to get better and we have. We are very fortunate to have Alexandra back with us, giving those girls daily work. You can already see their improvement.”

While the strength of the team is its defense, Hill said she wants to see improvement from the forwards.

“We have a really fast forward line,” Hill said. “What we would like to see out of them is that they come together and use that speed to our advantage. We have some very fast forwards and I think the more they play, the better their field hockey knowledge will be.”

With the team that Hill sees, she’s hoping for a better finish than third in the conference.

“Because we didn’t have a postseason tournament due to Hurricane Sandy, we finished third,” Hill said. “We would like to be in the postseason playoffs this season. We also want to set a tone for the season early by being successful. I think this team could get a bid in the New England tournament, but that will be tough. We are in class A, so we play a lot of the top boarding schools. It’s a goal for us and I think if our speed up front and the back line confidence comes together, I think it’s obtainable.”

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