By Nick Curcuru
---- — MANCHESTER — The Manchester Essex field hockey team is officially on a roll.
The Hornets entered the season with great expectations looking to get back to the Division 2 North Finals for the second year in a row, and after Tuesday’s 5-0 win over North Reading at Hyland Field, the team is once again looking like its poised to make a deep tournament run moving to 6-0-1 on the year with their sixth straight win.
“The girls know that people expect a lot out of them this season and they are really working to live up to those expectations,” Hornets first year head coach Kara Beauregard said. “The girls have been so committed to the team and are really putting things together. It’s tough to pinpoint one or two players because everyone has contributed.”
Beauregard’s team has been nothing short of dominant in every facet of the game outscoring opponents 26-4 while recording three shutouts in its last four games and not allowing more than one goal in a contest. Manchester Essex is scoring just under four points per game while allowing an average of just over a half point per contest.
Those numbers are even more remarkable considering the competition the Hornets have faced this season, taking down strong teams such as North Andover and Ipswich.
That dominance was on full display on Tuesday as Manchester Essex controlled North Reading in a battle of the Hornets from start to finish, putting the game away early with a pair of goals in the game’s opening minutes from Anna Heffernan and Brittany Smith.
Taylor Meek added another first half goal with an assist from Paige Zaval and the rout was on.
“It’s always nice to shoot and score early and often,” Beauregard said. “The first three minutes is when we want to make that happen. It’s nice to have some insurance so early in the game.”
Manchester Essex has frequently built up big leads in the first half and cruised to victory in the second half, but in preparation for the postseason, the team is also working on its second half intensity as it knows that games are won in the final 30 minutes of play come state tournament time.
On Tuesday, the Hornets also turned in a strong second half performance peppering the North Reading goal with shot after shot while allowing very few opportunities to their Cape Ann League Large opponent.
Heffernan and Smith struck again in the second half with an unassisted goal each to cap the scoring at 5-0.
“As much as we score in the first half we also want to be a second half team,” Beauregard said. “We’ve been working hard on that this season and getting two second half goals today was great. Finishing strong will be key later in the season.”
The road doesn’t get any easier for the Hornets, who are now in the midst of their most difficult slate of games against CAL Large teams. An always formidable Newburyport team is next on the Hornets’ schedule on the road Thursday (3:45 p.m.) and difficult opponents in Pentucket and Masconomet await next week.
“This is a huge week coming up for us,” Beauregard said. “The Ipswich and North Andover games have really given us confidence in preparing for the larger schools. We have put ourselves in a good position and we are looking to keep the path we’re on. The girls have worked really hard to get to this point and I know they’ll continue to work hard to get even better.”