TEWKSBURY - After suffering through a pandemic season that left it with a 2-8 record, the Tewksbury High field hockey team is transitioning on many fronts in order to get back to the form that made the Redmen tournament participants the previous two years.
Tewksbury has a new coach in Brooke Pacheco, who is a familiar face to many of the players as she was the junior varsity coach in 2018-19. After a year as the girls soccer junior varsity coach, Pacheco is now the new varsity field hockey coach.
"I'm glad that I had those two years to have under my belt at the JV level," said Pacheco. "So now I have a better understanding of the game, and I know the players, which helps."
The team itself is trying to get back into the swing of things as far as playing 11-on-11, after the rules/restrictions of the pandemic season called for the game to be played 7-on-7 on the same existing field.
"Playing 7-on-7 on a field like this is tough, not only for the strategy of the game, but also for the players' fitness, and making sure you have enough players so you have fresh legs," said Pacheco. "I do think now that we have the full field and the girls coming back and they are working on their skills, like the corners, which they also didn't have, last year. We are focusing on that so that we have some good penalty corners under their belts before the season starts."
Although several players graduated from last year, many others are coming back, so experience will not be an issue.
The Redmen have nine returning starters, including two forwards, four midfielders, two defenders and a goalie.
"We are a big team, which is good," said Pacheco. "We have a lot of players (37), which means we have good numbers for both varsity and JV, which is good for the program going forward and gives us a lot of options of who is going to play where for us."
Tewksbury returns two top scorers in Mia Gaglione and sophomore Katerina Schille. Gaglione is a midfielder and Schille is a forward.
Senior Brianna Gagnon returns as a top midfielder, and also doubles as the team's unofficial goalie coach. Gagnon was the Redmen goalie her first two years before making a successful transition to field player, last year.
Sophomore Avery Della Piana is in her second year at the position, and she should see a little less action with more defenders able to help her out.
Also returning to the starting lineup are senior midfielders Alliana Kennen and Elizabeth Kenneally, senior forward Courtney Capachietti, and senior defenders Courtney Curtin and Ava Piccolo.
Pacheco has had three other players impress her with their play during training camp. Senior Ashley Demers plays midfield and defense, junior Alexandra Macauda plays forward and in the midfield, and junior Abigail Mahoney completes the Tewksbury defense.
"I am looking forward to seeing the girls play without restrictions," said Pacheco. "Last year we were confined to 7-v-7 with no corners. Going back to 11-v-11 I am focusing on game strategy, shape and speed of play. I can already tell that my girls respect and motivate one another, so I am really looking forward to seeing their team camaraderie on the field."
Rounding out the Redmen roster are Paige Harrington, Rebecca Kelleher, Michelle Kusmaul, Nina Moulton, Nicole Potito, Jacqueline Vitiello and Olivia Ward.
"We want to increase our record and get more wins, and score more goals," said Pacheco, on the team hopes to build on for the upcoming season. "Personally, as a coach,my goals are to teach the team a little more about strategy and shape on the field, and things like that. I like to think more about strategy and how to be smart on the field. I try to coach to that and they can increase their stick skills at any time, in practice or on their own."
Tewksbury will open up its season on Monday with a home game at Ed Dick Memorial Field starting at 4 pm.