×

Belchertown High School to offer varsity field hockey for the first time

  • Belchertown varsity field hockey coach Kara Drake, right, works with a group of girls during a field hockey clinic in Belchertown. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Belchertown varsity field hockey coach Kara Drake, left, works with a group of girls during a field hockey clinic in Belchertown. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Alison Montemagni (left), 11, of South Hadley, and Clara LaChance (center), 13, of Belchertown, work with Emma Rothstein, 15, of Belchertown, during a field hockey clinic in Belchertown. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Hailley Boutin, 15, of Belcherown, works with Edith Audette, 9, while helping to run a field hockey clinic for Belchertown youth players. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Emma Rothstein (left), 15, of Belchertown , runs a drill with Alexa Karabetsos, center, and Mya Philpott during a field hockey clinic for Belchertown youth players. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Hailley Boutin, 15, of Belcherown, works with Edith Audette, 9, while helping to run a field hockey clinic for Belchertown youth players. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Hailley Boutin (right), 15, of Belchertown, works with Mya Philpott while helping to run a field hockey clinic for youth players in Belchertown. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS



For the Gazette
Friday, August 11, 2017

BELCHERTOWN — The new school year will bring a new opportunity in Belchertown, as the high school will boast a varsity field hockey team for the first time this fall.

Field hockey has become increasingly popular in Belchertown over the past several years. The movement began seven years ago when Kara Drake, Lindsay Wright and Kathleen Terry partnered with the Belchertown Recreation Department to bring a youth program to the town.

In 2010, the program had just 14 players, relied on donated equipment and was forced to play only away games because the department didn’t own goal cages. Drake, Wright and Terry made an agreement to funnel any money they earned through the recreation department back into the program so that they could eventually supply the basic necessities to play.

Fortunately, what the program lacked in equipment and experience, it made up for in enthusiasm.

“We only scored one goal the whole season,” Drake said. “But they loved it, and they kept coming back.”

By 2017, the field hockey program has grown to include over 80 players in grades 2-12. Many of those players were involved in the high school’s junior varsity program that began in 2015.

“Someone had come to the previous AD and said they wanted to start field hockey, so we literally did a sign-up to see what the interest was,” Belchertown athletic director Bruce Hastings said. “The first year I think we had 14 or 15 girls come out. Last year there was a few more, there was close to 20.”

The Orioles’ lacrosse program also started in the recreation department before making the jump to the high school level. It became a varsity program in 2010.

“I think that really helped pave the way for the field hockey program to start,” Drake said.

Drake took over as head coach of the JV field hockey team in 2016 and led the Orioles to a winning season (7-2-3). This fall, she will take on the role of head varsity coach, assisted by Wright. Whether or not the program will include a JV team this season is dependent on turnout.

Normally, a new varsity team must play two seasons independently before it is eligible to join a conference. However, since it happened to be a realignment year for the Pioneer Valley Interscholastic Athletic Conference, Belchertown will join Amherst Regional, Athol, Central, Franklin Tech and Pioneer Regional in the Tri-County League in the fall.

Many of the prospective varsity players have played under Drake, either through the youth program or on last year’s JV team.

“This year we have I think eight freshmen who have been playing for years, so we’ve got definitely a great foundation going on,” Drake said.

She is optimistic about the implications that an underclassmen-heavy team has for the long-term future of the program.

It is harder to predict how the team will perform in the immediate future.

“You know, we played all JV games, and last year we did pretty well,” Hastings said. “But we also had seniors and juniors playing JV, which is pretty rare. So it will be a learning experience and we’ll see how it goes.”

The Orioles begin preseason practice on Aug. 24. They will face varsity competition for the first time at 3:30 p.m. on Sept. 7 at South Hadley High School.