New Lacrosse Coach Hoping to Develop Players and Bring Success to Hopedale
By Christopher Tremblay. Staff Sports Writer
Having played all kinds of sports for Hopedale while growing up, Maureen Hodgens was approached her freshman year during a basketball game and was asked to tryout out for the new lacrosse team at Hopedale Jr/Sr High School.
Participating in JV basketball and varsity soccer and track for the school, she was intrigued about this new program despite being played in the spring where she played softball.
“It looked like something that was fun and I wanted to try,” she said. “But I would have to come to the realization that it was played at the same time as softball; it was one or the other.”
Hodgens choose the up-and-coming sport. She was part of the Hopedale club team during her freshman year; the team progressed to a junior varsity team the following year and eventually named a varsity program her junior year. By the time she graduated from Hopedale she had played four years on the team — being named a captain twice.
The then-student athlete found the sport to be a blend of all the sports she had played in the past. It was a fast paced, high endurance sport that eventually became a passion of hers. She also found that her basketball abilities, the sport right before the lacrosse season, helped her to improve in the new sport.
“My basketball skills definitely helped my lacrosse game,” Hodgens said. “The defensive tactics, the games were similar in play, the movement of the ball and needed to work together as a team.”
While the sport was new to the area, not a lot of people took to it right away and Hodgens saw a lot of her friends stick with their existing sports instead of gravitating to the newer one.
“Katie Rizzo, a friend of mine who had been playing sports with me since a young age, decided to try out the new sport and when on the field we just seemed to click,” Hodgens said. “We knew that we were not going to be winning at first, but we would be part of a ground breaking sport and helping the town move in the right direction with it.”
Despite playing four years at Hopedale, Hodgens only had two on the varsity level. She firmly believes that if she had been able to play on the varsity level for all four years, she would have been able to play the sport on the collegiate level. Last spring the Hopedale alumni had the opportunity to coach the girls JV lacrosse program during a Covid shortened season. This year she has been elevated to the varsity head coach where she is not only looking to elevate the program but take ascend to the next level as a coach.
Hoping to help the new Coach improve the Blue Raiders squad will be senior tri-captains Sophia Garzoli, Kate Hevey and Nora Hodgens. Garzoli and Hevey will be playing attack, while Hodgens who has played defense in the past will be moving up to center to take the draws.
“These three having been playing since the seventh grade and will be some of the first athletes to go all the way through the program. They bring a lot of knowledge of the sport to the field,” the new coach said. “Sophia and Nora played field hockey together, so they have relationships with girls from other sports. They will become an extension of myself. They’ll defiantly be a help; my eyes and ears on the field.”
The Blue Raiders Coach will be looking for Garzoli and Hevey, who plays club lacrosse as well, to bring the offensive ability to the field for Hopedale. Hodgens will also be looking to senior Reece Slowick from Douglas, junior Bailey Laprade, and sophomore Emma Goselin to find the back of the net on a regular basis.
While the seniors may be doing the majority of the scoring it will be the sophomore class (8 athletes) that the coach calls the heart of the program, and she is hoping that they put in the time and step up their games this spring to put Hopedale on the map in terms of lacrosse.
On the defensive side of the ball two of those sophomores, Bea Hava and Delia McAllister will be looked upon to make major contributions. Hava, who was part of the Division 5 State Basketball Championship team this winter, brings a lot of knowledge to the field and the Coach is hoping that she can be vocal as well as a leader in the back field.
Protecting the net for the Blue Raiders will be senior Nicole Zhang, who has continuously improved over the past few years she has had the position, which has allowed Hopedale to advance into the State Tournament. Last year the Blue Raiders posted their first winning season going 9-8 and entered the Division 2 East Tournament, where they unfortunately lost to Groton-Barnstable in the first round.
In her first season as the varsity lacrosse coach Hodgens is hoping to develop the team, which has a wide range of ages, into some versatile players that will step up to the task and lock in their positions. She also wants to have the team chemistry gel into a team that are close on the field as well as off it.
While all this is happening, it wouldn’t be bad if the squad put together enough wins to return to the State Tournament and take it at least one game further than they did a year ago.