By Tris Wykes

Copyright Octopus Athletics 2021

LEBANON – The Mascoma High field hockey team’s bus became entangled in backed-up traffic near the intersection of Route 120 and Heater Road on Wednesday evening. A fender bender by Evans Drive caused congestion that left the Royals time to ponder a 3-1 loss to Lebanon that dropped them to 0-7.

Sophomore Lindsey Stark scored twice for Lebanon, which also received a Molly Smith tally. Smith, a senior, earned an assist and classmate Sally Tretter had two of them. Freshman Ann Buffington scored for Mascoma, her goal assisted by sophomore Kylie Rogers.

Lebanon High’s Molly Smith backs into Mascoma defender Chloe Crate. Copyright Octopus Athletics. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to ctwykes@aol.com.

“It’s frustrating for the (four) seniors,” said eighth-year Mascoma coach Jenn Hammond, whose NHIAA Division III team was competitive with the Division II Raiders but took only four penalty corners while allowing 12. “Their leadership has been great, though.”

Lebanon, which improved to 6-0-1, played sloppily two days after a highly-emotional tie at arch-rival Hanover, said fifth-year coach Amanda Valliere. The Raiders’ emotions and execution rose throughout that clash and peaked in overtime. Trying to again rise to that level so soon proved challenging.

“The comedown from Monday was pretty steep,” said Valliere, whose program is 35-10-3 the past four seasons . “We just kind of dropped and today was ugly field hockey. 

“They’re exhausted and I’m sure being back in school five days a week plays a role as well. We haven’t done that in a year and a half.”

Valliere said her players battled themselves as much as the Royals, struggling with passing sequences because of poor body and stick position. Lebanon often failed to strike the ball with authority and didn’t use the kind of helpful chatter that enhances good play.

Lebanon High’s Clara Smyrski runs upfield. Keira Houdegbe is a left. Copyright Octopus Athletics. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to ctwykes@aol.com.

“Everything just felt dampened,” Valliere said.

Mascoma was 47-16-2 from 2017-2020 and its semifinal elimination last fall was the first time in four seasons it didn’t reach the title game. The Royals played for the championship three times during that span, winning in 2018, but Hammond isn’t sure what to make of her current players.

“The few subs we have, it’s a big step up for them from junior high or JV,” the coach said, noting that she’s moved some players among positions, trying to find the right mix. “These guys, sometimes it’s hard to get them to engage because they stay back on their heels. 

“The record doesn’t show how hard we’ve played, but I can’t figure out what makes them tick.”

Hammond sometimes shouts, sometimes cajoles. She’s seeking emotion from her charges, something recent Mascoma teams rarely lacked. Now, there are many times she draws blank stares while trying to fire the Royals up.

“Where’s that intensity where you want to run over your opponent?” Hammond, the mother of former Mascoma football standout Walt Hammond Jr., wondered Wednesday. “You can only teach it to a point and after that, they have to want to flip that internal switch.”

For now, the Royals engage in enough remedial skill drills that the older players sometimes sigh in frustration. Going back to the basics is necessary, however, if the program is to rebound from the loss of four senior starters after last season and the exit of another such quartet in roughly a month.

Lebanon faces a lengthy road trip to play at Pelham on Saturday morning. Mascoma’s next action comes three days later when it hosts Winnisquam.

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Mascoma High’s Haley Miller, left, and Lebanon’s Molly Smith overrun the ball. Copyright Octopus Athletics. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to ctwykes@aol.com.