By Jim Sullivan
---- — Having just qualified for the state tournament by beating Shawsheen Tech last Wednesday, the Masconomet girls hockey team (10-3-1) has been having a breakout season skating players from competing River Rival schools.
“Our team has been successful because we’ve played as a team,” said Masconomet coach Nicole Twomey. “We have overcome a lot of obstacles and challenges that have faced this very unique team. And of the six different schools, we were able to take something from that and make something positive.”
Those six schools forming the Lady Chieftains’ co-op — Masco, Georgetown, North Andover, Hamilton-Wenham, Newburyport and Triton — are not only battling their opposing teams, they’re battling their home schools’ attitudes toward each other.
“You pretend to not even know where they’re from,” said senior forward Kendra Dow, who hails from Newburyport. “You just get to know them and say, ‘Oh, you’re from Triton. Do you know so and so?’ Instead of, ‘Oh, you go to Triton. I don’t even want to talk to you.’”
Dow is the Chieftains’ leading scorer and is joined by fellow Clipper sophomores Molly Kelley and Ashley Hodge and freshmen Olivia Mombello and Meghan Hubbard. Those five Clippers also play with a trio of Triton freshmen, Lily Dow, Emma McGonagle and Sydney Sheerin. Making the drive from Georgetown are sophomore Jensena Moner, along with freshmen Katie Terban and Tracy Long.
“There’s still rivalries between those schools,” said Twomey. “When you look at Newburyport and Triton, they are huge rivals. And I think that this team is unique in that those girls from those two schools have to come together, and they certainly do.”
Getting any team to jell is tough enough, so Twomey and her assistant coaches have made sure team-building has been a priority from Day 1.
“We’ve definitely made an effort to put in more team-building activities, at least once a week,” said Twomey. “We also knew that the girls would be fighting for playing time, which is something unique this year because we’ve had so many girls coming in. So we wanted to make sure that it didn’t turn cut-throat. It’s a varsity sport. But it’s a team varsity sport.”
Sheerin, for her part, believes those activities have worked out well. But the fact that these Chieftains are a team trumps all.
“Everybody gets along, there’s no rivalries between the players,” said Sheerin. “Because we’re on a team together, you put those things away.”
But sometimes, not everybody is able to put their hometown pride aside.
“Every practice, at the end of practice, we all come together,” said Twomey. “Without fail, Kendra Dow will come into that circle and say, ‘OK, Clippers on three.’ But that’s just her, she’s such a jokester.”
“It only worked once,” said Dow.
With six games to go in the regular season, the Chieftains have come a long way, currently skating four lines this year as opposed to two in 2012. Girls hockey, in the area and in general, has a ways to go, but according to Twomey, signs are pointing to a bright future for her sport.
“I do think that this area will have its own team someday,” said Twomey. “There is a tremendous amount of interest, and if you look down at the youth hockey programs in this area like Triton, Amesbury and obviously Newburyport, there is a huge amount of girls who play hockey and obviously want to play hockey in high school. And I have a feeling it’s going to be sooner rather than later.”