TEWKSBURY – Back in June of 2018, Jordan (Russell) Buckland was named the new varsity field hockey coach and former star player Hayley Sutherland was named the JV coach.
Right before that season started, Sutherland was asked if she would take the assistant job at Fitchburg State University. She accepted and for several weeks, Tewksbury didn't have a JV coach. That changed when Athletic Director Ron Drouin asked one of the newer teachers at the school, Brooke Pacheco if she would fill-in, more or less in an emergency basis. She obliged, getting her feet wet in coaching, something she had always wanted to do after earning her master's degree from Boston University in coaching just a few months prior.
That year, Pacheco was thrown to the wolves, starting late and coaching a sport she had never played and really had limited knowledge in since she was a three-sport athlete in Rhode Island, competing in soccer, swimming and lacrosse.
Pacheco handled that first-year field hockey coaching experience extremely well, so much so that Drouin asked her back the following year, before naming her the JV Girls Lacrosse coach, serving in that role since 2019.
Pacheco spent two years as Buckland's assistant, before switching over to become the JV Girls Soccer coach this past fall.
Then about three weeks ago, Buckland resigned after three years, and on Tuesday, Pacheco was named the new head field hockey coach.
Pacheco becomes the seventh new head coach since school began last September with Steve Kasprzak (wrestling), Scott Wilson (boys outdoor track), Anthony Pontes (boys lacrosse), Mario Almeida (boys soccer), as well as Steve Boudreau (boys basketball). Nick Parsons served as the Indoor Boys Track coach, but has since resigned.
Pacheco is glad that's she's now an addition to the varsity staff.
“It's kind of coming full circle because those girls who I started with on JV my first year are now seniors and the captains of this year's team, so it kind of all happened perfectly,” said Pacheco. “That's good because I already have relationships with those girls and I know them through coaching field hockey and some with coaching them in lacrosse so I am really excited to work with them and the rest of the team.”
Pacheco was asked about her limited experience in field hockey – coaching two subvarsity seasons, and never having played the game.
“If I was really concerned with that, I wouldn't have taken the job because I don't want to do a disservice to the girls,” she said. “I'm not necessarily worried about it. I also know that the girls are great and they are going to bear with me and grow with me, so it will definitely help that I have a good group of students to work with.”
She does have a plan to help fix that experience gap.
“I'm in the process of trying to find an assistant coach. Ideally, I would like to find someone who has just graduated out of a college program themselves so that person can bring in fresh drills, skills and things like that since I was not a player myself, it's not that I don't feel comfortable, it's just that's not my strong suit,” said Pacheco. “I'm hoping I can bring in an assistant who can help with the skills part of the game where my strength is more strategy, in-game play, team morale, organizing and building the program for as many years as I can.”
If you ask Buckland, Tewksbury has the right person for the job.
“Brooke works at Tewksbury High and I think she will be a fantastic fit. She's wonderful and I loved having her during the two years that she was my JV coach,” said Buckland. “As an assistant coach, I thought she was such a smart person to be with. She was smart in the way she would present things, she was smart in the way that she would learn and pick things up.
“Before she came to our program, she had a very limited background in field hockey. She just picked everything up so quickly. She learned how to coach it, how it's played and how to notice what is needed on the field. She was fantastic and I love the relationship that she has with her players on the field.”
Pacheco grew up in Bristol, Rhode Island and graduated from Mount Hope Regional High School in 2012. She was named to the Providence Journal's All-State (first or second team) in all three sports. From there, she attended Bridgewater State University, where she played soccer for four years and was a member of the women's swim-and-dive team for three years, being a captain in both programs.
She earned a BA in Physical Education, took a year off, before earning her Master’s from BU in 2018. She'll be entering her fourth year as a PE/Wellness Teacher at TMHS, and now her first season as a head varsity coach.
“I am excited. It's definitely going to be a learning curve,” she said. “I did run my own team as the JV coach, but with varsity, there's a lot more responsibility. I'm just going to use my peers to help me. I have (Girls Soccer) Coach (Sam) Tavantzis and we share an office and Steve Kasprzak is also a co-teacher (in the Physical Education Department) and he's now running the wrestling program so I have good people around me to help me out.”
Pacheco will be taking over a team that finished 2-8 in the abbreviated COVID-19 season, which comes after back-to-back state tournament appearances with records of 7-12 and 9-10. The program hasn't had a winning record since 2013 — but made five state tournament appearances since — where it finished 14-5-2 with a trip to the Division 2 North Sectional semi-finals.
Before Buckland, Pat Ryser was the head coach for 22 years and finished with a record of 242-127-76, which included 20 state tournament appearances, two sectional final appearances, three sectional semi-final appearances — losing all five games to the 17-time state champions from Watertown, as well as two MVC Large School Championship titles in 2006 and 2013.
“I'm happy to have Brooke on board,” said Drouin. “She's a well thought of teacher in the school. She a good connection with the kids and hopefully she can move our field hockey program forward.”