Skip to main content

Hopedale - Local Town Pages

Hopedale Girls Lacrosse Looking to Get Back to the Tournament

By Christopher Tremblay
Staff Sports Writer

Three years ago, Kayla Merrigan took over a program whose main focus was to go out and have fun. The Hopedale girls’ lacrosse team was not used to winning and having success on the high school level, but Merrigan was looking to change all that.
“The sport was a placeholder, a place for the girls to have fun,” said Merrigan. “When I first met the team, I was impressed with the girls’ skill level and I was hoping to expand upon that while starting a winning tradition at Hopedale.”
Under the guidance and tutelage of Merrigan, the Blue Raiders finished the regular season at 9-8 capturing not only their first winning season in school history but also earned their first trip to the Division 2 east State Tournament; unfortunately, they fell to Groton-Dunstable.
With Covid putting a stop to al of last year’s sports seasons, Merrigan has not been on the field with her team for almost two years. As the 2021 abbreviated season approaches, she, as well as the team, is more than anxious to get back onto the field and compete once again.
Hopedale will play a 10-game season in a pod with schools relatively close and although the Blue Raider Coach likes to gauge her team’s performance after playing a team for the second time around, it will not happen this year.
“Playing 10 games we will only being playing teams once this year. It will be a challenge, but the coaching staff will look at our opponents’ stats prior to playing them and figure out what we need to do to win,” she said. “With the talent on our team I am looking at winning 75-85% of our games this year which should put us in second or third place in our pod. After having our first winning season we were looking to improve the next season, but Covid put a stop to that, so here we are.”
Returning for their senior season Merrigan will have Maeve Griffin (defense), Mykenzie Black (midfield) and Maddie Sullivan (attack) as this year’s captains. Each girl will bring a senior presence to a specific area of the field as Hopedale looks to get back on track from two years ago.
“Having such a young team there will be a lot of pressure on the captains to reach out to the girls and make sure they are all on the same page,” Merrigan said. “I will do all the coaching on the field and the captains will be my eyes off the field. Thus far they have done a good job at getting the girls ready for the season.”
According to the Blue raider Coach, the girls showed up to tryouts in condition and ready to go. After working extremely hard in the off season in hopes of getting back onto the field and with that now a reality the team is excited for that first game.
In addition to the senior captains, Merrigan will also be looking for juniors Liz Marois and Kate Hevey to have an impact on this year’s squad. Marois is a true leader that will play in the midfield and has a beautiful cradle. She is also a club lacrosse player giving the Blue Raiders experience. Hevey will play the attack position and provide the team with a scoring spark. During her last season she was among the tops of Central Mass in scoring.
“Kate is a great scorer, and we will rely on her heavily to do that again this year,” the Hopedale Coach said. “She is a tall girl that commands presence in front of the net and we will feed her the ball in that position.”
One other key component if the Blue Raiders are to have success will be first year varsity goalie Nicole Zhang. The junior has never played lacrosse on the high school level, only for the town programs. Hopedale’s previous goalie moved away and at that point the girls on the team knew they didn’t have a goalie, so they went looking and recruiting for the position.
“Nicole is a very aggressive individual and well aware of the field in front of her,” Merrigan said. “Being a first-year player, I will be making sure all our drills incorporate her. There is no use having her sit on the sidelines,” she said. “We have had numerous scrimmages at the end of practices, and I have told the girls do not go easy on her in practice; challenge her but with safe shots.”
The Blue Raiders were scheduled to open the shortened season in early May and Coach Merrigan is hoping that they girls continue to grow each game as the team gets better. Her expectations are to have a successful season with a better won/loss differential than their last season. In addition to winning her goal is advance into the tournament for the second time in school history and this time win a playoff game.