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Porkers ready to roll

Pictured last season against Braintree, Jess Tosone (3) will serve as one of three Walpole High varsity field hockey senior co-captains this fall. Photo by Mike Flanagan.

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 Walpole, the expectations remain the same as they are every year for this elite program: state championship or bust. Led by three senior co-captains, Jess Tosone, Caroline Whelan and Natalie Griffin, the Porkers enter the 2021 season as one of the favorites to win Division I.

"Every single year our goal is to win the state championship," said Quinn. "That goal doesn't change and I think whether we have a strong year or a weaker year, it is still attainable for us. Just like everything else though, we need to check off the boxes. First we have to win the league, and then after that we just have to go from there. This year its going to be different with the state-wide tournament format instead of sectionals, so it'll be interesting."

Last fall, MIAA field hockey was forced to undergo major rule changes in order to abide by the state's COVID guidelines. Two of those changes were the elimination of penalty corners, and switching to a seven-on-seven format in place of 11-on-11. Asked about her thoughts on going back to the normal rules, a relieved Quinn expressed excitement.

"Personally, I cannot wait," she said. "The seven-on-seven is a completely different game to me. It's so much slower and not nearly as exciting. So, as far as getting back to 11-on-11, I am thrilled and I think the girls are too.

Unfortunately, the 2021 season will not come without adversity for Walpole. Following a season-ending knee injury during a lacrosse game last spring, Natalie Griffin will be forced to miss the entire 2021 field hockey season as she recovers from surgery. A staple of Walpole's offense throughout the last several years, Griffin will be performing her leadership duties as a captain from the sidelines. Still, Quinn believes that even without Griffin's physical presence on the field, she along with Whelan and Tosone form an exceptional core of leadership.

"I think the three of our captains, while all different, are really strong leaders and excellent role models," said Quinn. "Not only skill and talent-wise they bring different things to the team, but just as far as motivation and demonstrating the right way to do things they form a really solid unit of leadership."

For funny and incisive sports analysis as well as video highlights of games, follow Mike Flanagan on his personal Twitter and Instagram handles @flano0.

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