WALTHAM — For four rising seniors on the Hingham High field hockey team, including all three captains-elect, 95-degree temperatures were not enough of a deterrent to miss the first day of the four-day/three-night Elite Field Hockey Camp Sunday afternoon at Bentley University.
A trio of forwards — Julia Genovese, Catherine Linehan, and Tori Messina — along with midfielder Katie Sullivan, stepped onto a turf field scorching in the sun, joining roughly 150 other girls at the camp.
Cheryl Murtagh, who has won 347 games in her 25 years at the helm at Northeastern, is back for her 24th year as camp director (her first head coaching position was at Bentley, in the 1982 and 1983 seasons).
Originally, Murtagh ran a one-week session, but to meet the demand of 1,100 campers seeking to polish their skills and attract the attention of college coaches, the Elite Camp now offers four sessions.
“I know there was White Mountain Sports camp and to be honest with you, that’s the only one I can really remember,” said Murtagh of the competition early on. “It was very different back then to be one of two camps.”
In addition to Hingham, Sharon High and Thayer Academy in Braintree were also represented as this week’s session.
Linehan, part of a Hingham High squad that finished 15-3-1 last season and lost to North Attleborough in the first round of the Division 1 South tournament, said the Elite Field Hockey Camp “is a different kind of camp than I’ve been to. It’s run by the college coaches, the ones I’ve been to have been a lot of high school coaches.”
Sullivan, a returning captain, said the desire to improve her skill level and her passion for the game prompted her to attend her third, and final, camp this summer after attending sessions at two other colleges, Dickinson and Hamilton, late last month.
Undecided on her college choice, she said her second trip to Bentley is an opportunity to showcase her talent via video recorded during game play.
Genovese is considering Bentley as a college destination; her older sister, Rachel, will be on campus this fall after her transfer from Ithaca College, where she was a freshman last year.
“I love the campus so far,” said Genovese, a likely business major who is hoping to play field hockey at the next level. “It’s really pretty. I get to see all the facilities, use it, and I get to be around people who coach here and go to this college, so that’s going to help my decision.”
She said she feels that it is important to make an impression because this is her first Elite camp.
“It’s your first year and nobody really knows you,” said Genovese, who is determined to play an integral role at Hingham in her final season. “You’ve got to show up and get noticed. Can’t really fall behind.”
She noted one drill, unique at the camp, that featured featured reverse passing and shooting (using the same concept as a backhand in ice hockey).
Genovese, and a number of her teammates, signed up for the camp at the urging of their coach, Susan Petrie.
“It’s good to see a bunch of girls from our [Hingham] team; there’s about 17 of us here,” said Messina. “It’s good to see that half of the program is here to get better and work for it.”
Linehan, who is considering attending a New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) school, will captain the field hockey team, as well as the ice hockey team, at Hingham as a senior.
A 5-foot-5 forward on the ice who also suits up for the Rockland-based Bay State Breakers, she is interested in pursuing two sports at one of the “little Ivies.”
“They’re a lot more flexible,” Linehan said. “And the seasons aren’t as long, so you’re able to do two sports in different seasons. But the academics are also really good, difficult, and competitive.”
She said summer months are stressful as a team leader between organizing practices for two sports, attending multiple hockey tournaments, and going to recruiting camps for both field and ice hockey.
Linehan said the work piles on, but it translates to more opportunities.
“It’s a learning experience,” she said. “It’s eye-opening because I feel like a lot of my focus has been on hockey, and from a field hockey perspective, it’s seeing what I need to do to get to that next level.”
Linehan said she tries to take some of the drills she has learned from the college coaches back to Hingham.
As a striker on penalty corners, Messina came to the session looking to improve the speed and accuracy of her shots, and how fast she gets to the ball.
“In Hingham, we’re getting a turf field,” Messina said. “So we’ll be able to use more of the college-level skills that we wouldn’t be able to use on grass.”
Kate Shafter, who will transfer to Thayer from Hingham for her junior year, said “playing all day really makes an impact [on improving my skill].”
Abby King, an incoming freshman at Thayer from Milton who was attending the Elite camp for the second year, said her focus was on improving her ball control, becoming a better hitter, and refining the accuracy of her shots.
Murtagh said that in addition to the tactical approach to teaching, she also incorporates video as a visual aid, just as she does for her own squad at Northeastern.
With campers leaving to eventually join schools like Michigan, Northeastern, University of New Hampshire, and University of Connecticut, among others, she said she believes the camp has successfully maintained a competitive level.