By Mike Flanagan
Hometown Weekly Sports Editor
It’s been nearly two years since real high school field hockey was played here in Massachusetts.
The uncertainty of each day, with positive COVID tests and contact tracing having the potential to derail all plans, made it difficult for many fall athletic teams in 2020 to get into a consistent rhythm. While field hockey players were still able to play their beloved sport, it was far from a full and enjoyable experience.
In 2021, field hockey players will finally get their shot at playing a real and full high school season.
In Needham, the expectations remain high, as always. Led by three senior co-captains, defender Maeve Hymovitz, forward Lucy McHugh and forward Emma Ferrara, the Rockets enter the 2021 season with high hopes of winning the Bay State Conference and making a long run into the Division I playoffs.
Another key player returning for Needham in 2021 is midfielder Lily Schmalz. Just a sophomore, Schmalz had breakout freshman seasons as a three-sport star for Needham field hockey, ice hockey and lacrosse in 2020-2021.
"A goal for our team this season is to win the Bay State [Conference]," said Schmalz when asked about her team's general goals heading into the new season. [We want to] compete in states and keep everyone healthy throughout the season."
With field hockey back to its normal 11-on-11 format, training methods for the 2021 season will be more standard than 2020, when teams were preparing for seven-on-seven's without penalty corners. Schmalz admits that the gear-up for the 2021 season has been a lot more intense than last year, when team gatherings were limited. However, Schmalz also says going back to 11-on-11's and getting in an intense preseason is what she and her teammates want and need.
"Our captains have been holding captains practices every week this summer and we are starting tryouts much sooner. It'll be more intense this year," said Schmalz. "The coaches have encouraged the players to do a bunch of camps and clinics to prepare for the season. We are super excited for a great season ahead and to be back to 11-on-11s."
For funny and incisive sports analysis as well as video highlights of games, follow Mike Flanagan on his personal Twitter and Instagram handles @flano0.