Valley News Sports Editor
Published: 10/1/2020 8:46:01 PM
Modified: 10/1/2020 8:50:33 PM
WOODSTOCK — In this year of the coronavirus pandemic, honoring senior classes has become a priority among the Upper Valley’s high school sports programs.
Memories remain fresh of a spring in which the Class of 2020 lost its final chance to complete. So teams all over the region have made it a point to schedule their days to recognize the Class of 2021 at the first possible opportunity.
Woodstock High field hockey joined the crowd Thursday, giving seven seniors their moment prior to a 3-0 loss to Windsor in their home opener at Yvonne Frates Field. The Yellowjackets (2-0) did the same thing for nine seniors prior to Monday’s 6-1 win over Springfield at MacLeay-Royce Field.
“No time like the present” has a different meaning this year.
“Last spring was so hard on all the sports, and I think there was that hope that they were going to play because they didn’t make the decision until well into the season,” Woodstock coach Wendy Wannop said. “I think everybody was really sensitive to the whole senior graduation last year that it was very much on everybody’s minds that the seniors should be recognized. So we should just do it.”
The good news for the rivals: This season’s underclassmen aren’t too shabby, either. The Jacks received two of their three goals from athletes who should be back next year. They fired 20 shots toward a Woodstock sophomore goaltender who had never played the position prior to preseason but didn’t look the part.
“Woodstock-Windsor games are always competitive,” Windsor coach Jody Wood said. “Whoever the better team is, everybody shows up to play. It’s a big rivalry for both schools. I thought we came out and played our game.”
The Jacks remain an offensive juggernaut a year after amassing 83 goals in 17 games en route to the VPA Division III championship. They jumped right out on the Wasps (1-1), earning their first penalty corner within two minutes and their first goal within five, junior Karen Kapuscinski drilling a 12-yard shot through the legs of Woodstock goalie Audrey Emery on a pass from senior Hannah Wood.
Emery only got better from there. A goaltender from girls lacrosse but a first-timer in the field hockey cage, Emery confidently kicked out four other Windsor scoring chances in the first half before Yellowjacket senior Alyssa Slocum solved her on a second-chance bid with 2.5 seconds left before the break.
“She had an awesome game today,” Wannop said of Emery, who finished with nine saves. “Certainly, she’s really got it. She kept us in the game.”
The Wasps grew into the contest, peppering Windsor senior goalie Glenna Ricard with seven shots — five of them on the frame — over the third 15-minute period, and they were unlucky not to dent the net. Woodstock senior captain Lili Sorrentino had the best bid midway through the quarter, launching a right-wing drive from just inside the circle that Ricard deflected wide with the toe of her right foot.
Windsor paid back the stop with the clinching goal 70 seconds into the fourth quarter. On the tail end of a penalty corner, the Jacks’ Meagan Holling sent a crossing pass off a Woodstock defender to junior Peyton Richardson, who lined an open shot inside the left post.
Both coaches noted their teams are still trying to work their way back into game shape. The Wasps and Jacks would both be capable of playing up-and-down field hockey in a normal season, but this one — which was a good month late on starting practices and six weeks behind schedule for games — is still far from normal.
“We need some girls to move to the ball; that’s all we need to do,” Wannop said. “If we cut in front of Windsor half of the time today, we would have had more command of the game. We’re waiting; we’re sitting behind the shirts. The talent’s definitely there, so we’ll work on that.”
Wood held similar sentiments, for both her team’s conditioning and its healthy senior class.
“I thought it was very smart to have the senior game first, so that they have the opportunity to play in a senior game at home,” she said. “My heart would have broke for them if they didn’t have a season, so every day we’re very grateful to be out on the field.”
Stick Checks: The Yellowjackets finished with a 20-11 edge in shot attempts and a 15-8 advantage in penalty corners. … The National Federation of High Schools changed the format of field hockey from two halves to four quarters during the offseason, and teams no longer can call timeouts. Wood isn’t a fan: “We call our timeouts very strategically. I feel like they’re telling us when we’re taking our two minutes of time.” … Thursday marked the only time the rivals will play this season. They split a pair of one-goal games last year. … Windsor next hosts Rutland on Saturday. The Wasps entertain Springfield on Monday.
Greg Fennell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 603-727-3226.