FOXBOROUGH — On a multi-use field tucked away on Payson Road, where the grass is a little too long and remnants of the long-closed state hospital stand eerily in the background, Katie Notarangelo put her scoring skills on showcase.
The Foxborough High junior midfielder netted three goals. But it was her third tally in a 13-3 win last Friday, when she deked around a pair of King Philip defenders before snipping the lower left corner, that served as a highlight-reel moment in a season that has, so far, seen many.
With a season and a half still ahead of her, Notarangelo recorded the 100th goal of her career.
“Katie is a freak athlete,” said Foxborough coach Brittany Jamieson-Sherry .
“She doesn’t flaunt it. She has 100 goals as a junior, and that alone is an accomplishment. She didn’t want to be recognized for it, but I said, ‘Katie, you’re going to be playing defense in college, so live it up while you can. Enjoy this.’ ”
Notarangelo had no problem doing just that, donning a big smile during a brief in-game ceremony and then again at the final buzzer, after Foxborough had locked up an 11-1 start, the best in program history.
After garnering Hockomock League all-star honors last spring, then again in the fall as a midfielder on the field hockey team, Notarangelo is leading the Warriors in goals (31).
Only sophomore attack Marybeth Sweeney (29 goals, 15 assists) has a higher point total than Notarangelo (38).
The result, according to Jamieson-Sherry, is a de facto leadership role.
“The other girls, even if they’re seniors, they look at her as a huge factor and a really hard worker,” the coach said. “She works hard in practice and she works hard in games. . . . If I could clone Katie, I would.”
Notarangelo is a force for an offense that averages 13.6 goals per game, which is not too far off last year’s pace (11.8 goals per game).
The biggest difference is on defense.
A year ago, in her first season as head coach, two years removed from being a student-athlete at Worcester State College, Jamieson-Sherry did not put a high priority on stopping opponents.
Foxborough won the Hockmock League’s Davenport Division, and even a first-round game in the Division 2 South tournament en route to an 11-8 record, but yielded more than 10 goals 11 times.
As an offensive player at Foxborough and then at Worcester State, Jamieson-Sherry had to overcome that unconscious personal bias.
“We just focused more on attack and we did more attack drills,” she said.
“When we did settled sevens, it was more me watching offense, then yelling at defense when I found out they didn’t do something right.”
Part of it was a numbers game. The Warriors just did not have a lot of bodies to put in the backfield in 2012, which forced the coach to move Notarangelo — who plays defense for her Team EVO club team — to the back.
But this season, with last year’s defensive core of sophomore Kiersten Warner , junior Brooke Buckner, and junior Carrie Long another year older, and joined by freshman Annie McGeary and junior Jaimee Lutz , Notarangelo transitioned back to an attack wing.
“It’s nice to be back on attack,” Notarangelo said, unable to hold back a smile. “I really missed it last year.”
The Warriors are reaping the benefits on both sides of the ball. Opponents are scoring only 5.3 goals per game, a far cry from last year’s 9.6 average. Not once has another team scored more than 10 goals.
Senior goalie Cici Lynch has noticed the difference. Last year, her first as the starter in the cage, opponents ran a “run and gun” type game; teams quickly took the ball down the field and fired shot after shot, most of them uncontested, on Lynch.
“We’d pick them up once in a while,” Lynch said. “But this year it’s definitely stopped at the midfield and settled down. It’s a lot better.”
Jamieson-Sherry said a turning point came March 30, in a preseason scrimmage against La Salle (R.I.) with no referees. The Warriors took advantage, pushing the envelope in terms of physicality.
“I said to them after the game, ‘Girls, that’s how I want you to play. Yes, we got away with a lot [because] there weren’t any refs, but that’s how I want us to play,’” Jamieson-Sherry relayed. “I want an aggressive defense that teams second-guess when making attempts on us. That was where it all clicked.”
For senior captain and midfielder Ellen Decker , third on the team with 24 goals and 12 assists, it is the last piece to the puzzle. With a sound defense, Foxborough is strong in all areas of the field.
“We’ve had a really good season,” Decker said. “We have a lot of strong players. A lot of times when you go against other teams, it’s more individuals that are the stronger players, but our whole team is very talented.”
Cohasset’s been red hot, but here comes Hingham
The Cohasset boys (8-2) will face their biggest challenge in about a month when they host Hingham Thursday night, putting their six-game winning streak on the line against a neighboring rival that also happens to be one of the best teams in the area.
“We’ve been waiting for a Hingham game since Marshfield [an 11-6 Cohasset loss April 11], a little bit closer competition,” said coach James Beaudoin. “They’re an old-school, well-coached team with some talented players.”
Cohasset has outscored opponents, 91-17, during its hot streak, which began right after the loss to Marshfield. Beaudoin said the change came when the team started to buy into the offensive and defensive schemes he was putting in place.
The Skippers feature a balanced offense but rely on seniors John Mills and Nick Tangherlini , junior Colin Whelan , and sophomore Cole Kissick to carry them most games.
“That’s what has made me happy; the offense is spread out,” Beaudoin said. “We have a deeper bench than a lot of teams. Kids are happy with their role and we find something for everybody.”
Winning has certainly played a role in that happiness. The Skippers were 3-10 a year ago, but under Beaudoin, a first-year coach who moved to the town right at the start of the season, they have turned things around.
“He’s a solid coach with a steady demeanor, and the kids have responded to him,” said athletic director Ron Ford .
The Plymouth South girls (4-5-2) have not had the strongest of seasons in the tough Atlantic Coast League, but Kara Hurley has served as a bright spot. The senior captain’s 48 goals and 10 assists are good for an ACL-high 58 points. . . . Leslie Frank has won more than 300 games in her tenure as the Westwood girls’ coach, and two of them have come against her daughter, Meredith . The Wolverines beat the Cougars, 7-4, last Tuesday to give Leslie the first two decisions in the mother-daughter series.Tim Healey can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @timbhealey.