The word “rebuilding” does not exist when it comes to the Manchester Essex field hockey program. The Hornets proved once again this season that down years do not happen when it comes to field hockey, the team just continues to reload.
The Hornets season ended in heartbreak Monday with a 2-0 loss to Watertown in the Division 2 North Final, the fourth loss to Watertown over the past five seasons. But Manchester Essex is far from the only team to fall to Watertown over the last handful of seasons as the Red Raiders extended their eye popping win streak to an absurd 90 games. One would be hard pressed to find a more dominant program in the entire state in any sport.
Monday’s Division 2 North Final does not tell the entire story of the Hornets’ stellar 18-2-1 season, not by a longshot.
Early in the season it was clear that this team was in store for another long state tournament run. Andrea Slaven’s group entered the year with a giant chip on its shoulder following what it perceived as an off year in 2011. A 10-5-5 record is an off year only by the Hornets standards, but the team used that record as motivation this season and the results could not have been much better.
Manchester Essex won its first 12 games this season and could not have been more impressive in the process blowing the doors off some of the top teams in the Cape Ann League.
The Hornets brought new meaning to the word balance. Senior captain Maddi Bistrong handled the goal keeping duties picking up 12 shutouts on the year. Helping Bistrong get those shutouts was a stellar defensive unit led Ivy Silag-Stearns, Sarach Beckmann and Carolyn Heslop.
Manchester Essex also had the midfield covered with All Star Megan Jones as well as Taylor Meek. Dominant midfield play led to plenty of scoring opportunities. CAL Small Player of the Year Nicole Bradley worked as the offensive facilitator while juniors Brittany Smith and Anna Heffernon provided the scoring punch.
Everywhere you look around the Hornets lineup there was production, so it’s no wonder the team finished the regular season at 16-1-1 and picked up the No. 2 seed in the state tournament.
A 16-1-1 record is stellar for any team, but for one of the smallest schools in the always deep Cape Ann League it’s a triumph, and the Hornets seem to be triumphant every year rolling through their difficult conference season with minimal blemishes.
The Hornets took that regular season momentum into the tournament with a 4-0 win over Lynnfield in the quarterfinals, a game that was closer than the score would indicate, and a 2-0 win over Swampscott in the semifinals in a game that wasn’t as close as the score indicates.
Once again Manchester Essex proved that the Division 2 North tournament is essentially a two team race as both the Hornets and Watertown are head and shoulders ahead of the competition.
A look over the Hornets roster this season also makes one think that another strong tournament run is in store next fall. Manchester Essex will return its top two scorers in Smith and Heffernan, both CAL All Stars this fall, along with Beckmann on the defensive end and several other key contributors.
The Hornets took the Cape Ann League and the Division 2 North tournament by storm this fall, and by the looks of it they’re primed to do the same in 2013.