Final Tally: Unforgettable Season For ME Field Hockey Despite Finals Loss


They couldn’t quite bring home the title, but the Manchester Essex Regional High School field hockey team seemed to reach every other goal they could sink their collective teeth into in 2022.

Including the playoffs, this is a squad that won 16 games (finishing 16-4-3 overall), won the Cape Ann League Baker Division (with a 12-2-1 record), and climbed the ladder in the MIAA Div. 4 State Tournament, making it all the way to the State Final game before being eliminated by Uxbridge, 5-0, at Norwell High School on November 19.

It was the field hockey team’s first visit to the state final game since falling to Watertown in the North Div. 2 Final in 2017. The Hornets advanced one game further than they did in the tournament in 2021, losing to Uxbridge in the Div. 4 Final Four last fall. And while the COVID-19 pandemic eliminated a chance for the team to make a postseason run in 2020 (the Hornets still went 8-1-1), Manchester Essex was bumped out in the second round of play in both 2019 and 2018.

To put it simply, this was a memorable run made by a memorable team.

“My gosh, what an amazing group of young ladies,” explains Manchester Essex field hockey coach Courtney Brown. “What many people don’t talk about is the amount of sacrifice and commitment it takes from high schoolers to go this far into the state tournament. From very early on, we set two goals: Win the CAL and make it all the way to the state tournament. With a lot of hard work, fun, and love, we did both.”

The Hornets did that thanks to strong leadership from eight seniors, contributions up and down the roster and the ability to play some unbelievable defense seemingly every time they hit the field. That defense was crucial all season long: It allowed the Hornets to possess the ball more often, leading to more playmaking and scoring opportunities.

To see an example of this, look no further than the Div. 4 Final Four matchup against Cohasset on November 15. Down 1-0, the defense kept Manchester Essex in contention right until the very end of regulation when Grace Gerhardt scored a goal with eight seconds left to tie things up and send the game to overtime and eventually a shootout.

Torrin Lee Kirk, Amy Vytopilova, Hadley Levendusky, Helaina Davis and Abby Kent all scored in the shootout, sealing the win, 2-1, and sending the Hornets to the state final game.

“Grace Gerhardt made all the difference for us in this game so that we could play into overtime and ultimately to a shootout,” says Brown. “All five shooters scored on their one-vs-goalie, which sealed the deal for us. It was by far one of the most exciting games I’ve ever coached.”

Unfortunately, the Hornets couldn’t replicate that kind of result result a few days later against Uxbridge, falling by a 5-0 score in the championship game.

“Uxbridge controlled most of the play in this game,” explains Brown. “A big difference was their stick skills and ability to hold possession. They had a strong presence especially at the top of their offensive circle and really challenged Paige [Garlitz], our goalie.”

Even when facing this type of opposition, the Hornets were not going down without a fight. Goaltender Paige Garlitz was busy all day, making 24 saves, while midfielders Vytopilova, Ella Chafe, Caelie Patrick and Liv Cahill did all they could to keep things close and find opportunities on offense.

“Our defensive unit as a whole really stepped up here,” says Brown. “They had nine corners; midfielders Ella, Amy, Caelie, and Liv absolutely left everything on the field. They were working a full 100 yards to try to generate offense after we played team defense for some time.”

While the state final wasn’t quite the conclusion to the season that the Hornets were hoping for, it’s the win over Cohasset that seemed to best summarize what this team was all about in 2022.

“The game against Cohasset must be a highlight for all of us, with how emotional and intense this game was,” explains Brown. “It just shows how much we can accomplish when we are focused and prepared. I also want to commend my players on their flexibility and trust in me as their coach. So many of them were excellent players in various positions, and that utility makes us overall stronger.”

Looking ahead, Manchester Essex loses eight seniors from this squad to graduation in May, including Davis, Garlitz, Vytopilova, Levendusky, Gerhardt, Calista Lai, Ava Grace Magnuson and Juliana Saunders.

“That said, we have big shoes to fill,” says Brown of the loss of the seniors. “I’m looking forward to our juniors stepping up and making this team their own.”

manchester essex regional high school, coach, hockey