On paper, the Manchester Essex field hockey team’s Round of 32 matchup with 31-seed Bromfield looked like it wouldn’t exactly be the toughest challenge of the year for a Hornets squad that went 14-1-3 and earned the second seed in the MIAA Div. 4 Tournament. That notion was proven true with a dominant 7-0 win that propelled Manchester Essex into a Sweet 16 matchup with 15-seed St. John Paul II.
“We were up 5-0 by the end of the first quarter in this game,” explains Manchester Essex field hockey coach Courtney Brown. “At that point, we had an idea of what the outcome of the game would be. Every member of our team played some solid minutes and contributed to controlling the game and ultimately winning, 7-0. The girls’ energy going into the day even at school set us up for success in this game. We had excellent passing combinations all 60 minutes.”
The Hornets are a loaded team with experience and talent in every corner of the field. While the team’s starters set the tone and staked out an early lead to make this one a forgone conclusion, Brown was quick to laud the efforts of those who came off the bench to keep the momentum going for the final three quarters.
“While our starters closed the door for this game early on, I want to call out some players who have been patiently waiting for their opportunity to contribute to a big team win like this,” says Brown. “Emma Hickey, Celia Mannal, Hannah Davis, and Jessie Philpott went in and maintained the same level of play as our starters. It was so awesome to see them get playoff experience.”
Winning a tournament game and moving on is something worth celebrating, but these Hornets are focused on greater goals than first-round victory after making it to the State Championship game in 2022. “It feels great, but is expected,” says Brown. “We know we have a lot of work ahead of us to make it to the state championship.”
The Round of 16 matchup with St. John Paul II was slated for Nov. 7 at Manchester Essex Regional High School. This is not a particularly familiar foe for the Hornets, but there’s no denying the success they’ve enjoyed in 2023 in going 11-2-4.
“We know they’ve had a fairly successful season, but it’s hard to say without having any common opponents,” explains Brown. “Having watched film, we do know who their strongest players are and we are preparing for their style of play. Most importantly, we are cleaning up our own play and working to take the lead early on.”
It also doesn’t hurt that this isn’t the first time that the field hockey team has played in a high-pressure game at this level.
“It gives us the confidence to control a game,” Brown says of her team’s big-game experience. “No matter what, playoff games are intense and high pressure. Showing other teams what a number-two seeded team plays like fuels us to work hard and play strong all across the field."