By Tris Wykes
CANAAN – Mascoma High field hockey coach Jenn Hammond left her troops with a short thought before they took the field Friday against Hanover.
“Don’t play scared,” instructed the seventh-year bench boss.
Turns out the host Royals didn’t have as much to fear as Hammond perhaps thought. They outworked and outplayed the young and shorthanded Marauders, beating them, 2-0. It was Mascoma’s second defeat of Hanover in three days.
Carmen Zani and Bri Withington scored for Mascoma, which withstood Hanover taking 11 of the NHIAA game’s 16 penalty corners. The teams each produced five shots.
“I think my girls played as hard as they could, but they’re still learning the game,” said 19th-year coach Hanover coach Jean Essex, who lost all but three starters from last season’s NHIAA Division II title team. The Marauders (6-3) played with only two substitutes against a foe that reached last season’s Division III final.
“We had girls missing and three girls in brand new positions today. We changed our formation. At one point, we had a sweep playing right wing.”
Hanover senior Kate Blaisdell, committed to play at Northeastern University, was hounded at every turn by at least one and sometimes two defenders.
“The best way to beat them is to take her out of the equation,” Hammond said.
Mascoma sweep Sophie Guziewicz, the last defender in front of goaltender Emilie Conrad, was praised by Essex for being “a wall”. However, the senior said she had to overcome first-half timidity against Blaisdell, who had her trademark hard hits muffled somewhat by the patchy grass field.
“It’s easy to have a player who can frustrate you and get in your head,” said Guziewicz, one of her 4-3 team’s six returning starters. “I had to realize this is my school, my field and my team’s game.
“We’ve always had our bumpy field field here at Mascoma and we kind of know where the bumps are. I think it’s a huge advantage against teams coming off of turf.”
Mascoma’s first goal came with three minutes remaining in the first quarter when Zani corralled a rebound and put it home off the post. The Royals struck again a minute into the final stanza. Zani passed to Natalie Poitras, whose shot created a rebound that Withington sent past Hanover goaltender Olivia Evans.
“It was really sweet beating them on their home turf the other night,” said Hammond, who had her players prepare for those fast conditions by practicing in gym at 6 a.m. used sock-wrapped sticks and tennis balls.
“We’ve always played close games at Hanover but we’d never beat them. We carried that momentum into practice yesterday and focused on what we needed to work on to play even better here.”
Essex said Hanover hasn’t practiced once on grass. Two such surfaces at her school are reserved for football and soccer and buses aren’t available to take her players to Norwich’s Dresden Athletic Fields, she said.
Because of the locally-focused scheduling created by Covid-19 concerns, the Marauders have played on grass more often than in recent seasons. Their Division II slate is usually heavy with opponents in southern New Hampshire, most of whom play on artificial turf.
“Our returning starters have stepped up tremendously and the others will get there. But we don’t know what ‘there’ is, because we don’t know if we’ll have a postseason,” Essex said. “We’re going day by day.”
Notes: Hanover is 45-13-3 during the past four seasons while Mascoma is 44-15… Mascoma’s scheduled game at Lebanon on Monday has been scratched because of Covid-19 concerns there. Hammond said she’s hopeful it can be rescheduled later in the week, although that might give the Royals three contests in a short stretch… Both teams wore Under Armour brand uniforms. The Maryland-based company laid off 600 workers last month and was federally investigated for its accounting practices last year… Essex, who teaches Spanish and Italian at Hanover High, is a 1982 graduate of the school who later played at Boston College.
If you found this story worthwhile, please consider donating to support the work that produced it.
Octopus Athletics is an independent site covering sports in the heart of the Upper Valley. Your contributions allow us to bring you news without paywalls or pop-up ads.