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Walpole field hockey tries to keep its focus on business as usual

From left, Natalie Griffin, Molly Weiand, Caroline Whelan and Jessica Tosone have propelled Walpole to an 8-0 start.
From left, Natalie Griffin, Molly Weiand, Caroline Whelan and Jessica Tosone have propelled Walpole to an 8-0 start.Matthew J. Lee/Matthew J. Lee/Globe staff

The void of not having the opportunity to play for a Division 1 championship has not changed the outlook, or commitment for the Walpole field hockey team.

The Porkers, a proud program with 12 state titles, have treated the fall of 2020 as business as usual, as much as it can be in this season like no other. At 8-0, Walpole is dominating the Bay State Conference, outscoring foes 42-5.

In her fourth season, coach Jen Quinn cited the play of senior Molly Weiand and juniors Natalie Griffin, Jessica Tosone, and Caroline Whelan as steadying forces for the Porkers, whose main goal this season has been to live up to the program’s lofty standards.

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“It’s definitely been difficult, but I think we all adjusted very well this season,” said Griffin, who has a team-leading 10 goals. “Even though we didn’t have a state title to win, we continued to play hard because we knew at the end of the day, we’re a winning team.”

Quinn described Griffin as a “game-changer,” an intelligent player with great skills.

“She’s so composed,” Quinn said. “Everything about her, she’s the whole package.”

Walpole, which generally plays one of the most challenging nonleague schedules in the state, hasn’t had that luxury in 2020. Like many programs across the state this fall, the Porkers have been confined to a strict league-only schedule which has featured several repeats, including three matches against Weymouth and Milton in the Herget Division.

On Monday, Walpole was able to cross divisional lines for the first time with a 5-2 win over Natick.

The monotony of the schedule hasn’t bothered Griffin, who said she’ll look back fondly on sharing this “crazy experience” with her teammates.

Walpole  MA  11/10/20    11FHOCNOTES Walpole High field hockey stand out senior Natalie Griffin during practice at Walpole High.  (photo by Matthew J. Lee/Globe staff)
Topic:
Reporter:  Jake Levin
Walpole MA 11/10/20 11FHOCNOTES Walpole High field hockey stand out senior Natalie Griffin during practice at Walpole High. (photo by Matthew J. Lee/Globe staff) Topic: Reporter: Jake Levin Matthew J. Lee/Matthew J. Lee/Globe staff

“We’re such a close group of people, which ties into our dynamic on the field,” Griffin said. “We show up every day like we have every other year, looking to continue our Porker legacy, even with the changes.”

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The matchup against the Redhawks was not part of a conference tourney, however; the BSC is not running an end-of-season tournament. The same is true in the Middlesex League, where Lexington is currently unbeaten (6-0) with 44 goals for and zero goals against.

Due to a scheduling quirk, however, the Minutemen are poised to finish their season with de facto league title games against Winchester, which is also 6-0 and vying for control of the Liberty Division.

“This is our state final right now,” Lexington coach Laura Galopim said of next week’s two-game set against Winchester. “We’re heading into the state final. There’s always been a friendly rivalry between the two teams.”

Galopim, in her seventh season, has received stellar play from her three senior captains, Katie Devine, Isabel Larrabee, and Annabel Cincotta, a trio that’s combined for 25 goals and 19 assists. Goalies Sophie Ortyl, a sophomore, and Hannah Elfante, a senior, have combined for the season-long shutout for Lexington.

“I feel like the kids have been waiting all season to get to this point, kind of like you do to get to tournament,” Galopim said. “Even though you don’t want to wish your season away, you certainly are building on that and every game is important. We talk about seeding usually during the year, so there hasn’t been that rhetoric, but it has been exciting for us.”

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▪ Two years removed from a 16-4 mark, the best in program history, Plymouth North is vying for a Patriot Cup title to go along with its third straight Keenan Division crown. The Blue Eagles are 9-1-1, their lone loss a 3-2 decision against Fisher Division champion Scituate last week.

Coach Janet Veracka said defending the league title served as the team’s primary motivation this season.

“Coming into the season and knowing there was no state tournament . . . or not knowing what a Patriot Cup tournament would end up looking like – we took it as, ‘We have to do the most we can with our regular season,’” Veracka said.

Sophomore Maeve Campbell (15 goals, seven assists) and junior Emily Jenkins (14 goals, four assists) have paced the attack. The Blue Eagles host Pembroke in the opening round of the Patriot Cup on Wednesday at 4 p.m.

▪ In its first season in the Northeastern Conference after departing the Cape Ann, Masconomet enters Wednesday morning’s finale against visiting Danvers with a perfect 9-0 mark. One year removed from a 16-0-2 mark in the regular season, the Chieftains are outscoring their competition at a 55-4 clip. Sophomore Maggie Sturgis has 20 goals and 10 assists for Masco.

Other than travel time to games — a tick longer in the NEC than in the CAL — it’s been smooth sailing for Masco.

“When I talked to the kids about the season, I expressed to them that this year is really about the seniors and that each game is a gift and not to take it lightly,” said coach Maggie Bridgeo.

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The captains are seniors Cally McSweeney, set to sign to a letter of intent with Merrimack College this week, and Andrea Walker. Kate Zagmani, Nina Morris, and Mia Koutoulas complete the senior class.

▪ Oliver Ames (8-0-2) will get a chance to cap an unbeaten season in the Hockomock Cup, a tournament which has shuffled the top four finishers in the Hockomock League’s Kelley-Rex and Davenport divisions to determine the league championship.

Already armed with their first Davenport title since 2015, the Tigers have been riding otherworldly goaltending from senior keeper Peyton Phillips, who’s given up just six goals in 10 games. Most remarkable about Phillips, however, is that she shifted to goal just last season after being a field player.

“She’s crushing it,” OA coach Sharon Lawrence said.

The Tigers, as the No. 1 seed in the Davenport, open up Hockomock Cup play against Mansfield, the No. 4 seed in the Kelley-Rex, on Wednesday at 5 p.m.

▪ Sandwich has been one of the few teams lucky enough to get a taste of nonleague action this fall, playing a single game vs. South Shore League power Cohasset on Nov. 2 – a 2-0 loss for the Blue Knights (8-1-1), their lone setback of the season to date.

Sandwich, which won the Cape & Islands Atlantic Division, is also participating in the league tournament beginning Wednesday against fifth-seeded Dennis-Yarmouth, whom the Blue Knights already have defeated twice this season.

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Coach Kelsy Beaton said that the league tournament will be nothing like the state tournament for Sandwich, but after the entire spring season was wiped out — Beaton coaches lacrosse at the school as well — both she and her players are glad to be on the field at all.

“More than one girl has said to me, ‘I’m so happy we got to do something,’” Beaton said. “That, as a coach, is all you need to hear.”

Andover, Cohasset, Franklin, Holliston, Watertown, Weston, and Westwood have also racked up undefeated seasons.