Injuries Derail Rebuilding Season for Girls Hockey

A+Rebel+brings+the+puck+down+the+ice.

A Rebel brings the puck down the ice.

Matt Brownsword

A Rebel brings the puck down the ice.
A Rebel brings the puck down the ice.

 

After four straight years of qualifying for the tournament and losing all but one of last year’s starters — three to graduation, one to another school, and one to field hockey — Girls Hockey looked prepped for a rebuilding year, with more moral victories than important ones late in the season.

But — with injuries to two Captains and two first line forwards — even moral victories look out of reach for this year’s team. Senior Captains Caitlin Barry, Kaylin Hallet, and junior Liv Knight have all suffered concussions at some point during this season, while leading goalscorer sophomore Olivia MacMillan is now sidelined with a separated shoulder and three torn ligaments in that same shoulder.

This young and undermanned — opposing teams usually have one more whole line than the Rebels — team is riding out a 8 game winless streak after their 2-0 victory over Natick early in the season. Other than the Red and Blue, and Brookline, the Lady Rebels have lost all of their other games this year by at least two goals, and sometimes as much as five. After a 2-2 tie away to Natick that finalized the Rebels elimination from the state tournament (in which Walpole only had 11 players able to suit up), this losing streak for 2-10-1 Girls Hockey seems to have no end in sight.

“It’s been a tough year,” said junior Lauren Hirshom. “We don’t have the strength or the depth of teams past and injuries to some of our best players have not helped us.”

At times, both defense and offense have been problems for Walpole: they have only managed to score more than two goals in a game once this year — against Brookline who is winless in the Carey Division — and have let opponents put up four goals against them on four different occasions. With a goal GSA (Goals Scored Average) of 1.33 and a GAA (Goals Against Average) of 3.17, the Rebels are last in the Bay State League in both major statistical categories (Brookline and Natick have an added benefit of some weak non-conference opponents).

However, there have been some bright spots: MacMillan and Hirshom were consistencies among the Rebels’ front line and responsible for most of the goals until the former’s injury. Senior Jenna Donahue — who has moved from offense to defense to offense again — scored both the goals against Braintree;

her and Hirshom have been the only two players from the opening game starting lineup that have played every game. Before Hallet suffered a concussion, she had her best game of the year in a 3-0 loss to Wellesley (the score does not reflect her play) in which she made countless saves to keep the Rebels in the game until the end of the third period.

The injuries have also resulted in a lot of positional changes: before Knight went out, she moved from her accustomed left wing to left defense, which resulted in a dearth of offensive firepower. So when Barry came back, Donahue moved up to forward in order to recover some of the lost goals due to the injuries to Knight and MacMillan (and has thus far done so) and freshman Cam Johnson moved into the starting defensive role.

Due to the injuries and positional shuffling, many of the Rebels’ more inexperienced players have been forced into starting roles; sophomore Kate Hamilton and senior Emily Byrnes have seen some time up top, Johnson and sophomore Brooke Carde at defense, and freshman Frankie Bonanno in goal.

“I never played defense until this year,” said Knight. “But moving there provided a lot of opportunities for other players to succeed and for me to best serve the team.”

Knight was the lone starter remaining from last year’s team after the graduation of F Michaela Tosone, D Annie Yonker, and G Bethany Welch; F Rachel Barry’s move to a new school; and the quitting of senior Brooke Matherson (D) to focus on field hockey. MacMillan and Donahue were the only players on this year’s team that saw favorable time last year.

“We don’t have many — if any — players that have experienced this before,” said sophomore Brooke Carde. “But there’s something to be said for being so unlucky to only have two lines available for a game.”

Whatever the case, there has not been a lot going right for Girls Hockey this year.  However, with only four seniors on this year’s team and a core of MacMillan, Knight, Hirshom, and Carde returning, next year’s team at least will have what this year’s lacked: experience.