Andover eyes 3-peat – Boston Herald

Third time’s the charm?

There’s a good chance at least one team will find out if that’s true by the end of this MIAA field hockey season, but in Div. 1, it’s hard to predict which way.

Coming off consecutive state titles, it could be the first three-peat for Andover – even after head coach Maureen Noone retired. New coach Bridget Morris has proven players, led by defensive anchors Rose Memmolo and Scarlett Glass, midfielders Lucy MacLean and Bella DiFiore, and forwards Casey Michael and Mia Batchelder.

Early frontrunner Walpole makes an even better case, looking to avenge consecutive one-goal losses in that state final. The Porkers feature premier players in versatile senior Kerin Birch, junior Caitlyn Naughton, Katie Colleran and goalie Abby Johnson, along with Elena Govoni, Izzy Adams and Taylor Carter within a group of nine returners.

Fellow state semifinalists Wachusett and Shrewsbury have both been ousted by the finalists in consecutive years. Wachusett returns leading scorer Emmy Johnson, midfield stars Kaleigh and Lindsey McGurl, defensive anchor Ella Perry and a trio of other starters looking to beat Walpole. Shrewsbury seeks vengeance over Andover, with Bridget McLaughlin, center defender Emma Heald, and midfielders Caroline Bis and Maddie St. Pierre anchoring a loaded returning group.

Winchester is primed to make the leap past back-to-back state quarterfinal exits, guided by skilled forwards Ava Paragas and Julia Legere, as well as standouts Samantha Gal (midfield) and Madison von Mering (defense). Franklin seems closer than ever to its first state final in the third year of the newer tournament format, with star junior Emily Carney, forward Haley Wernig, forward Raena Crandall, Lindsay Dennett and Brooke Taylor highlighting a group of eight returning starters.

Navigating the rest of the field won’t be easy.

Acton-Boxboro headlines the loaded Dual County League as a title contender behind midfielder Devin Onken, sophomore Sarah Ryan, Cat Holtz, Liette Letorneau and two talented goalies. Concord-Carlisle contends behind seniors Julia Lambert, Hadley Swenson, Elise Sohn and goalie Siena Triola. Two senior goalies, defender Nina Cecere, junior Ellie Innes and sophomore standout Blair Brennan lead a tough Lincoln-Sudbury group.

Chelmsford returns seven starters and some of its top players in two-time leading scorer Kate Harrison, senior Ava Balan and center-back Jenna Nigro to threaten again. Kerri Finneran leads a competitive Central Catholic, while senior goalie Alivia Downer and midfielders Eliana Kaplan and Rose Gordon lead North Andover.

Lexington returns elite midfielder Hannah Ward, complemented by Nina Arnold, defender Julia Elefante and forward Charlotte Cox to make it dangerous. Belmont and Arlington should be competitive.

Needham is extremely deep, with top scorer Lily Schmalz and Olivia Alper headlining a roster rich with experience. Premier attackers in speedster Kayla Bohlin and third-year starter Kaitlyn Uller pair with midfielder Sophia Weene to put Wellesley’s eye on the Final Four. Natick is excited for what center-back Emerson Hebert-Matcaro, center-forward Olivia Norchi and center-mid Abby Tarka lead this year, as is Braintree over returners Callie Burchill, Alison Curran, Claire Joyce, and Katelyn Chen.

Few teams have a tougher schedule than Bishop Feehan, sharpening star forward Ava Meehan, star midfielder Kay Murphy, Lily Marchand and Jordi Higgins for a deep playoff run. Last year’s Cinderella King Philip returns its core of Kelly Holmes, Mara Boldy and Nikki McDonald, while Algonquin looks fit to turn heads behind star junior Lindsey Brown.

Barnstable has a strong returning cast, highlighted by offensive standout Penny Baroni, midfielder Alexa Garthee, and defenders Coralle Figueroa and Bridget Bedenkop. Durfee threatens by returning lead defenders Emily Curran and Paitynn Botelho, and forwards Toni Freitas and Kacey Curran.

Marshfield competes out of the Patriot League behind senior captain midfielders Meagan Condon, Lindsey Rochelle and Mary Tracey. Attleboro returns signature scorer Siobhan Landers. Essex Tech, formerly a Georgetown co-op, arrives as a threat with the new brand behind captains Caitlyn Collins, Brooke Shaughnessy and Ruby Nisenbaum.

There might be more changes in Div. 2 than any other to open up the field.

Reading is primed for a big year as an early favorite, returning 12 and several fourth-year varsity players. Myles Lakin is an elite goalie, while scorers Autumn Mathews and Ava Goodwin, and defender Natalie Wall lead a balanced group. Westwood, the 2021 state champion, is back in a position of power with versatile scorer Katie Krumsiek, center-back Ava Kelly and Katelyn Fay leading seven returning starters.

Hingham drops down from Div. 1 stacked with experience, featuring forward Stella Brazis, midfielder Siena Brackett, and defenders Lily Samoska and Anna Kiernan. Somerset Berkley could be in line for a big year behind Karissa Albin.

Last year’s top finishers are far from an afterthought. Reigning champion Longmeadow turns to Isabella Mitreska and defender Emily Brais to help it contend for a repeat. Nashoba graduated much of its star power but shouldn’t be overlooked after reaching consecutive state finals. Perennial power Masconomet hasn’t lost in the regular season in years, and returners Sophie Doumas, Nora Duval, Savannah Stevens, and Avery Magnifico load it up once again.

Canton has a bevy of scoring threats in Izzy Digirolamo, Carolyn Schiavo and freshman Shannon Lane, while a trio of returning figures make it a serious challenge. Oliver Ames returns scoring dynamo Erin Cottam, while North Attleboro should make some noise as well.

Camille Perlov is a premier returner for Hopkinton looking to make noise in the tournament, while the defense of Lauren Strechay, Callie Weston and Ali LePage all return.

Notre Dame Academy of Hingham is always a threat. Dartmouth is loaded offensively behind Kallie Rose, Samantha Souza and Grace Haskell, and Scituate should compete.

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