NORTHBOROUGH, Mass. — For the Algonquin Varsity Field Hockey team, the beginning of this season has been a wake-up call.
Though the two-time defending Central Mass. Division 1 Champions won 17 games last year in their most successful season in team history, the Tomahawks have faced a challenging start in 2012. Tough losses against Lunenburg and Nashoba have left the team with a 2-2 record so far.
"We hit a dip early last week," said head coach Daniel Welty. "We'd rather have that happen now than later in the season."
Part of the problem is that the team lost a number of senior players to graduation last spring, and it is still in the process of adjusting.
"We're building the team new because we lost seven seniors," said senior co-captain and goalie Kate Sears.
"Ultimately, we want to be peaking by playoffs," added senior co-captain Emily Hart.
It's up to the eleven returning players to lead the seven newcomers - four juniors, two sophomores and one freshman - to the level of play at which they need to be to repeat past success. "The returning girls are setting the bar," Welty said.
But he has confidence in them, adding: "These girls have the skills." Sears had a three-shutout playoff season last year and has already accumulated two more shutouts this season. Meanwhile, junior Maggie Wraight is the team's leading scorer, with two goals and one assist.
The loss against Lunenburg on Sept. 10 in particular had an effect on the team, Welty said, and has motivated them to practice even harder. "If you're putting the intensity in the practice, you'll play well in the game," he added.
In addition, four players - Sears, Wraight, Hart and Molly Dore - will have the opportunity in late September to attend a clinic run by five-time World Field Hockey Player of the Year Jamie Dwyer. Welty, who said that Dwyer is to field hockey what "Michael Jordan was to basketball," added that the clinic would be a great opportunity for the players to bring back lessons for the rest of the team.
"It's pretty incredible that we get to meet him," Hart said.
The team's next game will be against Shrewsbury on Sept. 21 at 3:30 p.m. The game will be played at home.