Francesca Bonanno Steers Girls Hockey Into Postseason

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Sophia Giovaniello

After three years of not making the postseason, Walpole Girls Hockey qualified for the tournament this year because of one major factor: junior goalkeeper Francesca Bonanno.

This year, the team has improved tremendously from last year’s record of 6-7-6 to a current record of 10-5-2.

Bonanno has been a part of Walpole High School’s girls varsity hockey team since she was a freshman. During her freshman year, she was the backup for 2014 graduate Kaylin Hallett, and this is now her second consecutive year starting in goal.

This season, Bonanno is letting up an average 1.7 goals a game and has a .932 save percentage. On January 20 in a 2-0 shutout victory over Natick, Bonanno made a highlight reel save with the paddle of her stick while on her back.

“[Bonanno] is a true competitor, never willing to back down and always looking to put her best effort forward and leave it all on the ice. You will not find a more competitive goaltender in high school. She is the backbone of the team,” Coach Joe Verderber said.

Junior Cameron Johnson added, “She’s saved us in so many games. Even in games we’ve lost, she’s kept us in them.”

Learning to skate at 3 years old, Bonanno made the switch from defense to goalkeeper at the age of 6. “My second year, I tried out for goalie and instantly fell in love with it,” Bonanno said. “It’s a position that is so much different than all others. It requires just as much skill as any other, and you need just as much mental preparation as you do physical preparation.”

Coach Verderber said, ¨Goaltending is a very mentally demanding position. Regardless of the situation [Bonanno] maintains focus on the puck.¨

Over the years, Bonanno has played for two King Philip and Walpole teams; one with all girls and one with all boys. King Philip Walpole is a team of Walpole and surrounding towns who all play together on one team. The team is primarily a boys team until middle school where a team of all girls is formed: The Spitfires. For a year in middle school, Bonanno became part of the Spitfires but remained on the original King Philip Walpole team as well.  

Confident about her high school team’s first playoff berth in four years, Bonanno is  excited and hopeful for the tournament.  “I am looking forward to participate in my first time making tournament. If we all play with all we’ve got and really play our hearts out, I can see us going very far into the playoffs,” Bonanno said.

Coach Verderber said, “Hockey is a team sport and…[the team] know[s] she will always give her best effort for the end result…a win.”