WORCESTER — The sport of field hockey requires physical endurance, leg speed, top-notch hand-eye coordination, and many other athletic attributes in order to consistently perform at a high level.
Performing at a high level, for nearly a decade, would be Wilmington native Bridget Sullivan, who currently employs her athletic trade with the Worcester Polytechnic Institute Engineers field hockey team.
Recently, Sullivan took time away from her studies and preparing for the upcoming tournament season to discuss her field hockey career, both past and present, as well her post-collegiate aspirations.
Like many freshman athletes, Sullivan paid her dues at the outset with Wilmington High School in 2012, but was soon recognized and moved up the ladder to a starting role.
“As a freshman, I was on the junior varsity team and earned pretty much the same amount of playing time as everybody else,” she recalled. “But in my sophomore year, I made varsity and from that point, I was starting every game for the rest of my high school career.”
Throughout high school and college, Sullivan has been tasked with left forward duties which has proven beneficial, statistics-wise. According to a field hockey reference manual, the left wing or forward is responsible for converting chances set up by trailing players, typically from midfield.
“Midfielders will often dribble the ball all the way down and hit it to the forward,” explained team captain Sullivan, who led the Wildcats with 34-goals during her three-year varsity career. “Then the left forward would get a tip or a shot on net. So if you like to shoot, it’s a good position to play.”
Sullivan, an AP honors student who also played lacrosse and dabbled in basketball while at Wilmington in order to stay fit and have a little fun as she recalled, described the Wildcats annual duels with non-league opponent Watertown as the most intense during her high school field hockey years.
“We always had competitive games against Lexington and Burlington,” she said. “But even though they weren’t in our league, we always felt Watertown was our biggest rival. Every year, we got fired up for that game. They would win the state title each year and we were never able to beat them. But when I got to college, I met a few of their former players and they admitted that Wilmington was the toughest team they played during the regular season.”
Sullivan received a number of noteworthy accolades as a high school student, including the Excellence in Health Dynamics Award as a freshman and junior. As a departing senior, Sullivan was named a League All-Star for her efforts on the field, as well as recognition from her team via the Linda McVicker Award.
When it came time for college, Sullivan sought a school that had a first-rate engineering program coupled with the option to continue her athletic pursuits. Her search turned up the Worcester Polytechnic Institute.
“Actually, there were three aspects I was looking for in a college and WPI was the only school I could find that offered all three,” Sullivan explained. “Along with an engineering program and a school that welcomed student-athletes, I wanted to have the option to study abroad.”
Sullivan also received sound advice from a former Wilmington teammate and second-year WPI student, Amanda Richards.
“Amanda was two years ahead when we played field hockey at Wilmington,” Sullivan said. “She went on to WPI and told me good things about her experience there. When I arrived at WPI, we reunited as field hockey teammates until she graduated.”
Much like her high school field hockey experience, Sullivan had to earn her keep with the WPI Engineers. As a freshman, she saw little playing time and as she described it, needed to work on “speed, stick work, and adjust to the differences in the college game.” But before long, she assumed a starting role and over time, contributed significantly to the team’s success.
“Bridget has been an important part of our program since arriving in her freshman year,” said WPI Coach Lisa Moreau. “She has been instrumental in changing the culture of our team. She is unselfish and always puts the team first. She is an incredibly hard worker and has gotten better every year. This year, she has the distinct honor of being one of our captains.”
Coach Moreau preferred not to discuss individual statistics, stating that “we win and lose as a team and don’t care about who scores as long as it is WPI.” Certainly, a valid sentiment but the coach couldn’t deny that at least two of her team’s wins can be directly attributed to Sullivan. In the midst of scoring 9-goals this year, the senior captain scored the only goal in each of the 1-0 shutout wins over Springfield and Smith.
Currently, WPI holds a 14-2 overall record, has a pair of regular season games remaining, and is in the midst of preparing for the NEWMAC Tournament which commences on November 5. Much like Watertown was the key rival while she played for Wilmington High, Sullivan points to MIT as the nemesis in the college ranks.
“After missing the tournament in my early years with WPI, we made it last year but were knocked out by MIT,” Sullivan said. “We also lost to MIT by a goal two weeks ago. Honestly, it could have gone either way. I think we’re the better team and if we see them in the post-season again, we’ll beat them.”
Sullivan’s extensive support network includes older brother Brendan, fraternal twin sister Maeve, who is a track and cross country runner at Babson College, younger sister Maura, who is currently a senior at Wilmington High School, and parents Mark and Maura.
“Bridget is so humble and deserves every good thing that comes her way,” said her father, Mark. “Her discipline and determination has brought success both on the field and in the classroom. It is not easy to excel in a rigorous WPI engineering program and lead the field hockey team but she does it all. We could not be more proud of her.”
Soon, Sullivan will hold in her enthusiastic hands an engineering degree and has her heart set on launching a career in the San Diego area, where her brother Brendan currently makes his home.
“I have applied to a number of jobs,” Sullivan shared. “I completed a summer internship at ASML, a microchip manufacturer in San Diego and would strongly consider relocating there. But I’m not ruling out a job locally if the opportunity is right.”
When asked if she will try to continue playing competitive field hockey after entering the workforce, Sullivan was quick with an answer.
“I definitely think I’ll have to,” she said. “I haven’t looked into it yet but I am aware of a lot of WPI field hockey alumni that participate in after-work leagues and I’d definitely like to try that. Otherwise, I think I’d miss it too much.”