Lions, Clippers welcome back field hockey

Lions, Clippers welcome back field hockey

Lincoln junior Sophia Gaitanis, #8, gets ready to pass the ball to a teammate in front of Cumberland junior Katelyn Blais during the opening half of last Friday’s Division II field hockey opener at Tucker Field. The Lions posted a 1-0 win in the teams’ first meeting since last year’s D-II quarterfinals. (Breeze photo by Eric Benevides)
Lincoln tops Cumberland, 1-0, in D-II opener

CUMBERLAND – Win, lose, or draw, make no doubt about it: Cumberland and Lincoln were more than happy to be kicking off their high school field hockey seasons against each other last Friday afternoon at Tucker Field.

But Lincoln junior midfielder Sadie Brown gave her team an extra reason to enjoy their opener. Her goal midway through the first half was the difference in the contest and allowed the Lions to net a 1-0 victory.

While Lincoln head coach Lea Miguel and her players were obviously pleased to top their rivals in an evenly-matched game – both teams took 10 shots on net and had nine penalty corners – simply being able to finally take the field for a Division II game seemed to matter the most.

“It’s a thrill to be out on the field again,” Miguel said. “I keep telling the girls, ‘We’re very fortunate. We could be like volleyball, football, or cheer right now and not have an opportunity to play this season,’ so I think they appreciate their time out there. We’ve been working on our skills and we were just happy to play a game, so it was wonderful.”

Like every fall sport, Miguel and second-year Cumberland head coach Erin Gendreau were wondering two months ago not only if there was going to be a season, but also if there were going to be any strict modifications if there was one.

When the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association decided to move forward with a field hockey season, the MIAA did so with some drastic measures, such as playing 7-on-7 and eliminating penalty corners, that worried a lot of folks in the state’s field hockey circles.

“I was very concerned,” Gendreau noted. “I think it’s a lot to ask, even as a college player, to play a full game 7-on-7. You’re putting a lot of strain on your body, going all-out with four less people on the field. I was very leery that we were doing to do that in Rhode Island, and I’m very happy (the RIIL) didn’t.”

“Honestly, I thought we were going to mimic (Massachusetts), and I was really pleased to hear that the Interscholastic League wanted to keep the integrity of the game and let the kids play with little modifications,” Miguel said. “I know that there’s debate about what’s appropriate and what’s not, but I do know that teams had been playing against each other in different states all summer, and without incident.”

As for the modifications? Wearing masks is obviously the biggest one, teams are playing 15-minute quarters instead of the traditional 30-minute halves, “and we have to maintain some distance between each other,” added Gendreau. “If the girls are outside 10 feet on the field, they can take a mask break and pull their masks down, but they still have to wear their mouth guards and goggles, and of course, they can’t share water bottles.”

The Lions, who edged the Clippers in last year’s Division II quarterfinals, 2-1, to return to the D-II semis, are fielding a very young team this season, with just three seniors on their 18-player roster. But those 12-graders, Drew Swanson, Olivia Mendes, and Lauren Rose, are the team’s captains and led the way defensively in last Friday’s win over the Clippers.

“They’re great leaders on and off the field and they’re very versatile players who are giving 110 percent,” said Miguel, who also has two Second-Team All-Division players, junior midfielder Grace Miguel and sophomore midfielder Kelsey Smith, back from last year’s team. “Those three did a wonderful job today, kind of anchoring our defense, and I was just thrilled with the team effort.”

“We always know that when we play Cumberland, they’re going to be a well-coached, well-skilled team,” the head coach added. “They bring great competition, and that’s what we expect.”

The Clippers will also be led this season by their three captains, senior Sydney Kell and juniors Jenna Hooper and Sophia Ziniti, and “they’re really great kids,” Gendreau said. “They’re good players and they do a great job leading the team. I know the girls look up to them, and they play hard all the time.”

The Clippers will return to action next Monday with a 3:30 p.m. game in Warwick against Pilgrim. The following afternoon at 4:45 p.m., the Lions will also be on the road, taking on South Kingstown at Curtis Corner Middle School.