By Dan Guttenplan Sports Editor
Newburyport Daily News
---- — NEWBURYPORT — Paige Hefferan didn’t exactly have the road to popularity paved for her as a freshman on the Newburyport field hockey team in 2009.
Hefferan’s mother, Lauren, was the Newburyport head coach, and she wasted no time in placing her daughter on the varsity team alongside elder sister Callie. The Hefferan sisters both received playing time over older, more experienced teammates.
“It was scary,” Hefferan said. “I didn’t know what to expect. I was one of two freshmen on varsity (along with Kendra Dow), and my mom was the coach. I was the youngest player on the team.”
Hefferan is the latest of the sisters to prove her mother correct. Three-plus years after breaking into the varsity lineup as a freshman, Hefferan was recently selected to the Massachusetts “Best of 60” All-Star Game. The game, which will include the top 60 seniors in the state as voted by the coaches, will be played Sunday at Bentley University.
“This was definitely a goal,” said Hefferan, who earned Cape Ann League Player of the Year as a senior. “I didn’t think I’d achieve it, but I’m happy I did.”
Hefferan led the Clippers to a 13-3-3 record this fall, after the team graduated its entire defensive backfield last spring. She cites a collection of Newburyport field hockey alumnae as being mentors on the field, including Cassaundra Davis, Haley Johnson and Mackenzie Maguire from the Class of 2010, and Molly Rowe from the Class of 2011.
Davis (St. Michael’s College), Rowe (Bentley University) and Paige’s sister, Callie (Salem State College), went on to play field hockey in college, although Callie has since retired from the sport.
Hefferan plans to continue her field hockey career in college. She is looking at St. Michael’s, UMass Lowell and Keene State, but has yet to make a decision.
“I had a lot of girls on the team that I looked up to,” Hefferan said. “The girls ahead of me were passionate about the team.”
That passion seemed to lead to positive results on the field. The Clippers logged a combined record of 46-7-8 over the last three seasons. This season was the first of the last three in which the Clippers did not earn a Cape Ann League championship. However, the team finished the regular season strong with a record of 7-0-1 in the last eight games. Newburyport did not allow a single goal in that stretch.
“It was different this year,” Hefferan said. “In the beginning, we all struggled to take on a leadership role. We discovered where the power lay, and we all came together. It was challenging because our younger girls are a little quieter. We didn’t do as well as in past years, but we did well given the situation.”
Hefferan started playing field hockey in fifth or sixth grade at a camp at St. Michael’s. She later played in an after-school program at the Nock Middle School in Newburyport before joining Seacoast United. Despite playing for several coaches with several different teams, she considers her mother her biggest coaching influence.
“She’s always pushed me ever since I started,” Hefferan said. “She knows how much I want this. Sometimes it’s frustrating having your mom be your coach, but she’s always a coaching influence.