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Beverly’s Katie Pietrini an impact freshman for Salem State field hockey

Freshman shines for Salem State

Jessica Mirisola , the women’s field hockey coach at Salem State University, had been seeking a capable left wing forward, one able to produce goals on a consistent basis.

When she took the helm in 2011, she inherited a roster, and recruiting classes already in place. She was in need of a player with the skill necessary to carry the ball up the left wing and into the strong side of opposing defenses.

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In freshman Katie Pietrini , she found the fit.

“Obviously, Katie is born to be a left wing,” said Mirisola of the former Beverly High standout. “From day one, she was extremely fast and in great shape.”

Pietrini has been a spark offensively, connecting for nine goals, which ties her for the team lead with senior captain Lauren Pazdziorny .

Together, the pair have propelled the Vikings to a 5-3 start (3-1 Little East Conference).

Pietrini netted the game-winning goal, in double overtime, of Salem State’s 3-2 win over Worcester State Sept. 28, and was named the Little East Conference Rookie of the Week.

“I’m glad I can contribute to the team this year; it’s been quite a change,” Pietrini said. “But I think I’ve adjusted well to it. I know the winning goal on Saturday was such a thrilling moment for me as a freshman.”

Pietrini admitted that when she arrived at Salem State, she was nervous about her offensive game. But she has proved she has what it takes.

“She’s definitely found her position and spot on the team,” Mirisola said. “She will continue to grow as a leading goal scorer.”

At Beverly High, Pietrini displayed an innate ability to score goals, netting 26 her junior year and 27 as a senior. Mirisola was impressed by Pietrini’s productivity, but it was her speed and knowledge of the game that stood out the most.

“I don’t recruit by position, but I look for a good athlete,” Mirisola said. “I am surprised how successful she can be so quickly.”

Mirisola employed a defensively balanced 3-2-3-2 formation last season, but switched to a 4-3-3 after losing the core of her defense to graduation, captains Courtney Lynch and Erin Wilson. With the 4-3-3 , she is capitalizing on the offensive skill of her forwards to push the tempo, but it also requires the front line to do more on defense.

That has been a challenge for Pietrini.

“I still have a lot to learn. It’s such a higher level than high school and a fast-paced game,” Pietrini said. “Getting back was one of my weaknesses. . . . But we’ve been working on that .”

Before losing Tuesday to Southern Maine, 6-3, Salem State had won five straight games.

But the true test will be Wednesday against visiting Keene State, which has won the Little East Conference six times since 2004.

After a highly anticipated match Saturday against defending champion UMass Dartmouth, playing against Keene State, the conference’s perennial power, will serve as the true barometer.

The game is also special for Mirisola, a Tewksbury native who starred at Keene State from 2003-06, helping the program capture three straight Little East titles.

“It’s really weird going back because that’s where my love of the game was grown,” Mirisola said. “They are always number one, or always one of the top two teams in the conference .”

Faradie to coach at Methuen

Last winter, Anthony Faradie guided the Medford High varsity boys’ basketball program to a 13-8 record and the Division 1 North tournament – a sparkling improvement for a struggling program that he took over in 2007.

This winter, he will have another chance to rebuild a program as head coach at Methuen, which was 4-17 a year ago under Matt Curran.

“I think we’re thrilled to have someone with Anthony’s experience,” said Methuen athletic director Jim Weymouth

“He took a program and turned it into a tournament-type team. I think that his style of coaching and style of play he wants his kids to exhibit is where we want to be in Methuen – tough, hard-nosed working kids.”

The 31-year-old Faradie was 2-18 and 3-17 in his first two seasons in Medford. The Mustangs’ recent success was based, in part, on a youth feeder program, and its tie as a foundation for the varsity program, which Faradie helped foster.

“I think Anthony was very pleased to find out we have, between boys and girls, over 800 kids playing youth basketball in Methuen. He’s eager to get involved and help out where he can.”

At Haverhill High, alum Melissa Tarpy is the new varsity girls’ basketball coach.

Tarpy, an assistant at Greater Lawrence, returns to Haverhill, where she helped the Hillies win a pair of Division 1 championships (1992, 1994). She went on to become a two-time all-conference selection at Endicott College and is the women’s all-time leading scorer (1,560 points). She was inducted into the Endicott Hall of Fame in 2003, and is the only female to have cracked the 1,000-point milestone.

Campus Corner

Senior goalkeeper Nicole Curtis was named the Northeast-10 goalkeeper of the week after posting a pair of shutouts for the Merrimack women’s soccer team. The Billerica native made five saves in a 1-0 win against Southern New Hampshire, and made three in a double-overtime draw against Le Moyne…

Winchester native Kayla Austin , a senior at Framingham State, scored a pair of game-winning goals for the Rams. She scored on a penalty kick in a 3-2 win over Worcester State, and had the game-winner and two assists in a 4-1 win over Rhode Island College.

Anthony Gulizia can be reached at anthony.gulizia@globe.com.
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