Concord field hockey team looks for upward trend to continue
On the road to becoming a field hockey force, Concord High turned the corner last season. This year, the Crimson Tide is hoping to jump on the freeway.
“We’re upping our motivation,” senior tri-captain Brittany Munnell said. “We’re all getting excited because we’re seeing ourselves turning the corner. Seeing that gets everybody excited. We’re thinking things might change.”
“We’ve still got a really young team,” Concord Coach Steph Johnson said. “But it’s a good mix, and they’re all really talented. It’s the highest talent level I’ve seen in a while.”
That elevated talent level in a versatile group of girls has Johnson and the Tide optimistic heading into today’s season opener at Bedford that it can be competitive with most of Division I.
And that’s a turnaround from the past several years, when Concord struggled to reach the postseason. Coming off back-to-back two-win seasons in 2011-12, the Tide got off to a fast start last year, equaling those combined four wins in its first five games. But a rugged tail end to the schedule that pitted Concord against some of the division’s perennial powers led to a winless October and a final 5-8-1 record, still good enough to reach the playoffs after a year away.
This year, Concord won’t be content simply to join in the postseason. The Tide wants to stick around for a while.
“We’re definitely more skilled than in the past and we definitely want it more than in the past,” said Sarah Ek, another of the senior tri-captains, “so I think those two things are going to work out really well for us.”
One of the main reasons for that hopeful outlook lies with an offense that returns 65 percent of its productivity from a year ago, plus adds an infusion of talented and aggressive youth.
“We can put it in the net, so that’s reassuring,” said Johnson, whose team has scored 10 goals in two preseason games.
Steph Resnick was the Tide’s leading scorer last year as a sophomore with seven goals, and returns to power the attack along with sophomore Lauren Mullen, senior Kaela Nikodem and Ek, who’s returning to the forward line after moving back to defense last year. Senior tri-captain Kaleigh Otto also returns to the mix, but is recovering from a torn ACL and probably won’t be available play until late in the season. They’re joined up front by senior Gabi Stewart, a transfer from Bishop Brady, and freshman Morgan Sisson.
In the midfield, sophomore Becca Proulx and junior Abigail Whimpy are the veterans, with sophomore Julia Ek and freshman Brett Stoddard the newcomers. Sisson and Stoddard, two of the Tide’s three freshmen, have already made an impact offensively in the preseason.
“They’re extremely talented skill-wise,” said Johnson, adding that her forwards have more of a nose for the goal this year, as well.
They’ll be utilizing a new field scheme, as well, one that gives the Tide four overlapping lines.
“It’s given us more to work with,” Otto said. “It’s given us more defense. Everyone’s getting back.”
“And it allows the forwards to be a little more aggressive,” Sarah Ek added.
Defensively, junior Colleen Casey returns in goal, supported by a backfield featuring returning seniors Munnell and Ari McLeoud, as well as newcomers Bailey Jackson (a sophomore) and Anna LeBrun (a freshman). And as Johnson says, most of her players can play all over the field.
“They’re very versatile, very interchangeable,” Johnson said. “There’s smooth passing from the defense to the midfield to the forwards. It looks good out there.
“The team is blending nicely. (The newcomers’) skills and the rest of the team’s skills are working well together. It’s bringing us to the next level.”
(Sandy Smith can be reached at 369-3339 or firstname.lastname@example.org.)