Can the Porkers Do It Again?

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Senior Captains Molly Lanahan and Lauren Hirshom pose for a picture.

Lucy Lynch

Senior Captains Molly Lanahan and Lauren Hirshom pose for a picture.
Senior Captains Molly Lanahan and Lauren Hirshom pose for a picture.

Coming off of the ultimate season – ending with a 2013 State Championship title – the Porkers face one, huge challenge: can they do it again?

Last November, Walpole Field Hockey’s magical tournament run was captured by its amazing victories against formidable opponents – Duxbury, Acton-Boxboro, and Longmeadow – and the strength of its three senior Captains: Caroline Feeley, Ashley Waldron, and Brooke Matherson. As these three players move on to play field hockey at Amherst College, Brown University, and Boston College, this year’s senior Captains Molly Lanahan and Lauren Hirshom look to protect their state title.

Currently, the Porkers record is 6-0-1. In their opening game versus Newton North, Walpole eventually won 5-0 after having to wait out a 30 minute lightning delay. In their second game at Brookline, Walpole won 4-0, but the adjustment to the grass baseball field of Larz Anderson Park and multiple yellow cards for Walpole hindered the team’s performance. The very next morning, sophomore Melanie Weber led Walpole with four goals against Beverly for a 5-0 win.

Next, the team headed into more tough Bay State competition. Needham, an annually strong team, proved tough to manage with their speed and powerful hits. Nevertheless, a late goal from Weber capped the win and held off Needham, 1-0. Against Natick, a slew of Walpole players scored goals in the 11-0 win including senior captain Molly Lanahan, sophomore Megan Fisher, and right halfback, senior Ania Egan.  Against Wellesley, both teams failed to find the back of the net, so the Porkers ended with their first tie of the season.

As for the lineup, the Porkers head into this season losing five starters from last fall, including the three captains, Lena Ford, and goalie Erin “Tito” LeBlanc. This season, many upperclassmen look to fill these spots and create a strong starting line-up.  Here is the breakdown.

Forwards: Returning to her position as center forward is sophomore Melanie Weber, who is undoubtedly one of the team’s fastest players. Supporting on the left are forwards junior Nicole Tobin and senior Olivia Knight, and on the right, filling Matherson’s role is senior Cassidy Jackson and sophomore Megan Fisher.

Midfield: Replacing Feeley’s place at the important position of center midfielder is Molly Lanahan. Her speed combined with strong stick skills have been important in games against tough competition. Newcomer sophomore Sophia Giovaniello joins Lanahan on the left, while returning starter junior Sarah Rockwood stays on the right side of the field. Rockwood’s long stride has been pivotal in allowing her to rip long drives into the offensive end.

Defense: Last year, captain Lauren Hirshom played sweeper – the deepest lying defender – but this season, the veteran moves to fill Waldron’s spot as center halfback. Hirshom leads on the field with her adept skills including her ability to change direction to beat defenders and send diagonal hits. Joining her on the left, filling Lena Ford’s spot is senior Lucy Lynch, and returning to the position of right halfback is senior Ania Egan. The sweeper position has been played by senior Maddy Oser, who has been consistently relied upon to clear the ball from the defensive end.

Goalkeepers: Senior Emilee Curtin returns to guard the net and is joined by senior Jenna Alessandro, a former field player plagued by recent shin injuries. Together, the two goalies split halves and have made some remarkable saves in games versus Needham and Wellesley.

In addition to facing Wellesley again in several weeks, Walpole needs to prepare for other strong teams like Norwood, whose program has recently strengthened, much due to their speedy, scoring forward Kacie Smith.  The improved strength of these Bay State teams and the Porker’s other non-league matchups should make the Porkers a tougher team in the postseason.  Defensively and offensively though, the Porkers need to become comfortable with their new lineup as they face the difficult challenge of winning back-to-back State Titles.