Field hockey: John Stark rides togetherness to second straight Division II championship
Published: 10-29-2023 4:50 PM
Modified: 10-30-2023 11:07 AM
BEDFORD — Dennis Pelletier could only pace the sidelines.
For the second year in a row, the John Stark head coach watched his team score a goal early in the first quarter and then have to hang on for dear life as the final seconds ticked off the clock. When the horn sounded, and his No. 1 Generals (16-1) prevailed 1-0 over No. 2 Kennett (14-3) for their second consecutive D-II championship, he could finally drop his playbook and give assistant coach Gretchen Guevin a big hug.
“It definitely is stressful,” Pelletier said of the end of the game. “I try not to look at the clock that much. I really would’ve loved a second goal, and I thought we had a couple great opportunities, we just didn’t handle it the way we normally would, but there’s a lot of pressure in games like this. A lot of anxiety.”
John Stark junior Jillian Fredette helped to ease some of that anxiety just 4:05 into the game when she scored what turned out to be the only goal on Sunday afternoon. While the Generals’ defense turned away most of the Eagles’ opportunities, the tension built as the game progressed, with John Stark holding on to the narrowest of leads.
Senior Edie Fischer got the start in goal in her final game as a General. Sophomore Addy Pelletier played the second half, making a sprawling save to keep the ball out of the cage. The goalie tandem delivered just as it had in every game this season. John Stark allowed only nine goals over its 17 games.
“It worked out for us that the situations both our goalies were in were things that they’re strong at,” Pelletier said. “That’s why I kept rolling with it because eventually some different things happen in a game. That’s the exact situation why Addy was in there. Edie made the perfect clears when she was there in the first half. That’s why we handled it the way we did.”
Now back-to-back champions, Pelletier noted the group’s camaraderie and how with his teams the last two years, the whole has been greater than the sum of the parts. Throughout the postseason both years, John Stark has faced teams full of players who will play Division I or Division II field hockey in college. What the Generals might lack in pure talent, they make up for in their chemistry.
“The fact that we can play and compete against these teams the last three years as well as we have, it’s a testament to how well they play together,” Pelletier said. “You’ll see these girls play separately on different teams in travel season, and you’re like, ‘They’re decent players.’ For some reason when they play together, they’re just on a different level. They just turn it up a notch.”
And encouragingly for Pelletier, the core of the team will return next season as well, from Fredette to sophomore Lauryn Guevin, the D-II offensive player of the year, to Pelletier in goal. But while John Stark’s largest contributions generally came from its younger players, Pelletier also pointed to the value of his senior leadership in helping guide the way to another championship.
“I’m just happy for them,” he said of the seniors. “I’m happy that they got the chance to do this and to keep this thing rolling.”