A team is only as good as its goalie, and Walpole’s Bethany Welch has raised the bar, on and off the ice.
Welch takes six (out of seven) honors classes, and plays lacrosse in the spring and field hockey in the fall, keeping her mind and body in top shape.
“My average day is school, hockey, homework, bed. Then school, hockey, homework, bed,’’ she said.
Along with her teams’ practices, Welch takes a different approach to training. For 15 years, Welch has performed ballet. She said it keeps her in shape and gives her flexibility, which is essential for goaltending.
Despite her many interests, hockey has always been Welch’s focus. With the Bruins’ Tim Thomas as her idol, Welch is aggressive between the pipes, and has allowed only 11 goals this season.
With Welch in net, and potent first and second lines, Walpole into one of the top teams (ranked No. in the Globe’s Top 20) in the state.
Aside from their skill level, the Rebels (7-1-1) play with heart, and it was their dedication that earned them the top spot in the Bay State Herget over rival Norwood. After Norwood shut out the boys’ team, 6-0, a chain of negativity swarmed Twitter. It inspired the girls to win.
“All the tweets about how bad they were inspired us to play better and it really motivated me,’’ said Welch. “Norwood is a huge rivalry and they’ve always been talked about as the biggest game.’’
The teams’ statistics were similar, the difference was goaltending.
Norwood started a first-year goalie, giving the Rebels an edge with Welch, a three-year starter and who had faced Norwood before.
Welch remembered her first Norwood matchup during her freshman year, when she was pulled for an extra attacker, and Walpole produced a goal on stellar goaltender Christina Frasca with 1.8 seconds left. Welch said it was something she will never forget, at that it motivates her to get better.
With Welch holding down the fort, the Rebels’ offense was paced by Brooke Matherson’s three goals.
“It was big because it boosted a lot of people’s confidence and it determined first place, so now we’re more motivated to stay,’’ said Welch.
After graduating eight seniors, the Rebels were not anticipating such a strong performance this season.
“We struggled on defense the first few games, but we have broken [our offense] and they’ve really stepped up,’’ said Welch.
Freshman forward Olivia Knight (19 points) and junior forward Michaela Tosone (17 points) lead the team in scoring.
“I didn’t expect anything good after all the seniors graduated. I thought we were done,’’ said Welch. “But we’ve all proved to ourselves and each other we can stay in it to win it.’’
To Welch, commitment and dedication are key, and hockey is truly her calling.
Welch grew up watching her brother play hockey, and in second grade she knew she wanted to play. It was not until fifth grade that her parents let her play youth hockey, and in net is where she wanted to be.
When asked, “Why goalie?’’ she said, “I just always knew.’’
“I don’t think I’d ever want to play anything else. I love the pressure,’’ she said. “You need to be committed to be a goalie because at the beginning it’s exhausting. The thing people don’t get is that it looks a lot easier than it is. If you’re not committed, it’s not going to work.’’
In one of her first starts, Welch remembers a Dedham player taking a shot from near the blue line that slipped past her glove in a 3-1 loss. Welch said it was her most embarrassing moment, but it motivated her.
Since then, Welch has attended a number of camps and clinics that have improved her technique, athleticism, and mental toughness.
As one of the veterans on the team, her leadership has been essential, and she has noticed the boost in confidence and skill.
“Last year I just sat back and watched everything happen,’’ Welch said.
This year, she’s on top of her game.
Games of the week
No. 20 Watertown/Melrose at No. 1 Woburn, Wed., 6 p.m. - Senior forward Erika Kelly leads Watertown/Melrose with 15 goals and six assists and freshman forward Emily Loprette’s seven goals and nine assists add fuel to this Middlesex Small and Large matchup.
No. 12 Dedham at No. 17 Wellesley, Wed., 6:40 p.m. - Dedham dealt Bay State Herget rival an 8-4 loss Wellesley early in the season, and look for the sweep behind freshman Samantha Girard (22 goals, 14 assists) and sophomore Colleen Downing (13 goals, 15 assists).
No. 3 Duxbury at No. 16 Sandwich, Wed., 4:40 p.m. - Duxbury has yet to lose (8-0) but going against scoring machine Sandwich should make for its closest game of the season.
No. 5 St. Mary’s at No. 13 Fontbonne, Thurs., 4 p.m. - St. Mary’s had a shaky start to the season, but since its pair of losses has ripped off seven consecutive victories. Alison Butler and Brittani Lanzilli have anchored the Spartans’ comeback and will be a tough duo for Division 2 contender Fontbonne.
No. 5 St. Mary’s at No. 18 Winthrop/Lynn, Sat., 6 p.m. - Winthrop/Lynn advanced one round further than St. Mary’s in last year’s state tournament. The Bulldogs will be a test for the Spartans.