Field hockey: John Stark’s energy, experience launch the Generals into D-II championship game
|Published: 10-26-2023 11:56 PM
EXETER – The evening began with a roar of energy from the John Stark sideline, and it ended with still more celebration. The top seed in Division II field hockey continued its quest for a second straight championship, while also stopping and taking in all the small moments that make winning such a thrill.
On Thursday at Bill Ball Stadium in Exeter, there were lots of those small moments, from Addison DeCew scoring her first varsity goal just 1:21 into the first quarter, to D-II Offensive Player of the Year Lauryn Guevin’s two-goal performance, to the team hugs and shouts of joy following the No. 1 Generals’ 4-1 win over No. 4 Souhegan (12-3-2) in the D-II semifinal. John Stark (15-1-0) advances to face No. 2 Kennett (14-2), the only team it’s lost to all season, in the championship game on Sunday.
Head coach Dennis Pelletier has lots of “good problems,” as he calls them: Both of his goalies are outstanding, and he has a roster of 22 players, so he can mix and match even when injury problems creep up. Everyone might not have their ideal role, but they all contribute one way or another.
Like clockwork, DeCew scored the first goal of the game, Hailey Brisson made it 2-0 with 4:20 remaining in the first quarter and Guevin added a third goal less than three minutes later. John Stark looked precisely like a team prepared to defend its championship.
“When you’ve been there once, the experience really helped us out being in the same scenario,” Pelletier said. “They want to play, and every time they cross the lines onto the field, they feel like they should win the game. That’s good because it’s not easy to have teenage athletes have confidence. It’s something you really have to work on instilling. … We had a bunch of people very happy and cheering in the game. We live another day.”
One of Pelletier’s lineup tweaks involved moving Guevin from midfield to forward, hoping to lighten her load with her a bit banged up. She rewarded her coach with the two goals. DeCew, who doesn’t typically start, capitalized on her opportunity as well.
“I said, ‘This girl’s super fast, she’s been killing it in practice. We’re going to give her a start today,’” Pelletier said. “She showed her worth. She’s very strong, she’s severely fast, she’s going to be a dominating player for us in the future, so we thought the future would start today.”
Such is the luxury for the Generals, who seemingly can push any number of buttons during a given game and be rewarded each and every time. Like they’ve done all season, goalies Addy Pelletier and Edie Fischer each played a half. Pelletier made three saves; Fischer made five.
Now attention turns to the Eagles who beat Bow, 2-1, in overtime in the other semifinal and have stifled offenses all season, including John Stark’s. The Generals’ first loss in roughly two years came at the hands of Kennett on Oct. 5, also a 2-1 game. The Eagles haven’t allowed more than one goal in a game all season. Sunday’s championship at Bedford High School will be John Stark’s chance for revenge.
And surely as soon as the Generals’ bus arrives at the field, their energy will be through the roof, much like it was on Thursday. They’ve been there before. They know what it takes.