TEWKSBURY - The Tewksbury High field hockey team is on the rebound after struggling through a 2020 COVID season, and one of the players leading the way back to normalcy and the hope for increasing success is senior midfielder, Brianna Gagnon.
Gagnon is a fourth-year player who has successfully transitioned from being a goalie to one of the key players for this year's Redmen squad.
In fact, Gagnon's history of a successful goalie has helped her the unofficial role as the team's goalie coach, one that has made her popular with the team's newcomers to the position.
"This year she is definitely going to be a great player for us," said Tewksbury coach Brooke Pacheco, of Gagnon. "She is also a good one because she helps our goalkeepers. When a freshman comes in, she is able to pull them aside and give them pointers. That makes her a leader for our goalies even though she plays the field now."
Gagnon became attracted to the sport through her older sister, Cora Gagnon, who had a successful varsity career at Tewksbury High.
"My sister did it when she was in high school, so I wanted to do it to follow in her footsteps," said Gagnon. "(Former coach) Jordan Buckland did a program in the middle school that was started by (Tewksbury field hockey coaching legend) Pat Ryser, and I did that, knowing I wanted to do field hockey in high school."
As a freshman, Gagnon willingly took over the goalie position, which was not a particularly popular one that year.
"I know I wanted to be back there to help out my defense, and I figured being the goalie was the best possibility," she said. "No one really wanted to step up, so I knew right then and there I should take the lead and step up."
After two productive and successful campaigns guarding the net, Gagnon decided it was time for a change. She is noted for her speed and that facet was not being well utilized with her in goal.
"It was good (in goal), but then I kind of wanted to play out on the field and be more of a part of the action," said Gagnon, on her decision to try out as a field player, last year. "Now I'm one of the inners (midfielders who transition from defense to offense, and then back again), and that's going pretty good."
Being an inner is perfect for her skill set, including her speed, and also fulfills her want to be a part of the action out on the field
"You want to make sure you are up there to get in on the goals," said Gagnon, describing her role on the field. "And you want to be sure to get back to help out the defense."
Gagnon is used to it now, but playing in her field position during the pandemic season was something of a wakeup call, especially with less players on the field and having to cover the same amount of area as before.
"It was a real shock," said Gagnon, on playing with less players on the field, last year. "You had to play 7-v-7, with the mask, but I think I adjusted pretty good with it."
After taking part in the annual jamboree in Methuen on Friday, where the Redmen got in games with the Rangers and North Andover, Gagnon can safely say she prefers the way the game is normally played.
"When you played 7-v-7, no matter what your position, you had to make sure you got back to help out the defense, since there were less people out there" said Gagnon. "Now that we are 11-v-11 again, you don't have to worry as much about getting back since there are more players helping out."
Gagnon hopes Tewksbury can turn its fortunes around this fall after going 2-8, last year. She would also like to take her game to the next level, as in playing beyond high school.
"Hopefully we win some games, and in the future, have some (college) scouts come look at us," said Gagnon, on her goals for the season. "Who knows for now."
For now, the goal is to play well enough as a team for the Redmen to be successful enough to play in the tournament.