Anybody who has been involved with high school sub-varsity sports will assure you that wins and losses take a back seat to getting young athletes on junior varsity and freshman squads vital playing experience, honing their burgeoning skills, and deepening their love for their sport while also, hopefully, having a whole bunch of fun.
But the 2017 Londonderry High junior varsity field hockey squad did plenty of winning this season – posting a solid 7-6-1 record – while covering a whole bunch of bases in helping to keep their entire program competitive and maintaining plenty of optimism for the future.
The 24-member squad, which was coached by former LHS all-state field hockey player Kelsey LeBlanc, exhibited more than enough tangibles and intangibles to show that the crew will provide the varsity crew with some fine players over the next several years.
“Every game the girls played they did so as a unit, which with a roster this big is a rare find,” said coach LeBlanc. “The biggest take-away from this season is that they played strong and relentlessly. Win or lose, they didn’t give up on themselves or each other.”
The LHS contingent had a handful of players who swung back and forth between the JV level and the varsity one, with those five athletes getting a chance to play with a varsity crew which got all the way to the Division I championship match.
That skilled quintet included quad-captains and forwards Courtney Julian and Sophie Karlson, their fellow front-liner Kayla Miles, midfielder Jenna Stowell, and goalie Rylee Walters.
The other members of the hard-working team included forwards Bella Bouchard, Jenna Madigan, Isabella McCutcheon, Ashley Ollis, Rylee McGrath, Guinny Gilcrest, Hayleigh Haynes, Izzy Augusta, and Skylar Hamilton, middies Grace Harpster, Chelsea Mullen (a captain), Erin Strike, and Andrea McEvoy, and defenders Stephanie LaConto, Sierra Sessa (a captain), Jill Fitzgibbons, Delaney Kearns, Julia DeChamps, and Nikki Walsh.
In thinking back on her squad’s finest group efforts of the campaign, coach LeBlanc landed on two distinct ones.
“Our top two performances of the season were against Concord and Exeter,” she said. “Both games were home, and they were back to back. I count these as their top performances because they were able to maintain high energy in two games, with a week’s-worth of practices only in between. They worked hard and got both wins through determination.”
And as she hearkened back upon what her initial expectations were for her JV crew in August and early September, the LHS leader stated, “The team far surpassed my expectations. This was my first fall season not playing in 10-plus years, so as a new coach I was not sure what to expect. Honestly, I think I learned just as much as they did this season. These girls are not only solid field hockey players, but they are great people who I had the pleasure of coaching. This team of girls is going to help the program continuously grow and succeed as they continue on with their careers.”