The Pembroke girls’ hockey program skated to a 7-13-2 finish in 2019-20, the first losing season in seven since ending its co-op agreement with Whitman-Hanson. The offseason was filled with uncertainty. The Titans were blanked, 2-0, in their opener Jan. 4 against Duxbury.
Since that defeat, however, Pembroke has been, well, perfect.
The Titans beat Plymouth, 3-0, in Wednesday night’s Patriot Cup quarterfinal, riding a 13-game winning streak, with their first Fisher Division title in tow.
Pembroke has parlayed a perfect blend of veterans and newcomers in success, relying heavily on the rosters’ lone seniors — captains Miranda DeMita and Hannah Gerlach — a battled-tested tandem of junior goalies, Kaleigh Murphyand Alison Stone, and eighth-grader Jennifer Birolini, the team’s scoring leader.
“The upperclassmen, led by Hannah and Miranda, jelled that whole team together,” said Pembroke coach Bill Flynn, who’s been with the program since its days as a co-op. “It’s important for the young girls, being able to stay together all the time and feel part of the team and feel like they’re contributing. I think that helps a lot.”
Birolini is one of five eighth-graders on the roster, along with four freshmen.
Her older sister, Carly, topped 100 career points for the Titans before graduating in 2019. The younger Birolini has in turn received rave reviews from both her coach and fellow teammates, averaging just under 2 points per game (13-12—25 totals in 13 contests) with a skillset and on-ice awareness that’s virtually unprecedented for a player her age at Pembroke, Flynn said.
“She’s kind of a replica of Carly … she does exactly what Carly does,” noted Gerlach, who has played with both Birolini sisters. “She knows where everyone else is on the ice.”
Juniors Erin Doran (8-10—18) and Megan Dorsey (5-11—16), as well as freshman Maria Cantino (9-6—15) and DeMatia (9-4—13) are averaging a point per game or more for the Titans, who’ve outscored foes, 54-11, during their winning streak.
Murphy and Stone, who both started on the varsity team as eighth-graders, have been part of a timeshare between the pipes that’s been split almost right down the middle, Flynn estimated, over the last four years. This winter, the duo has combined for five shutouts, never allowing more than two goals in a single game.
“It’s kind of a relief,” said Gerlach, the team’s No. 1 defenseman, of the stability in net. “We’ve played with them for so long; I know they’re both equally good so that no matter what happens, they’ll always be the backbone of the team and get us going.”
Pembroke has benefitted from a consistent string of games and practices since the season began, never having to shut down because of COVID-19 restrictions. Two opponentswere forced to go on pause just prior to a scheduled game, but Pembroke was able to fill the slots without any changes to their routine.
By opening up against an opponent like Duxbury, DeMita said, the Titans were able to learn their weaknesses quickly and realized what they needed to focus on in practice.
As the season progressed and the wins started to pile up, DeMita acknowledged that while there wasn’t going to be a state tournament for this Pembroke team, fine tuning basic skills now would be beneficial for the next generation of Titans.
“The initial goal was to start winning games and to fix the little problems,” DeMita said. “We wanted to cut down on those little things in practices like breakouts and shooting the net. We wanted to fix our imperfections. Since there wasn’t going to be a state tournament, we could really focus on the little things that could make the team even better in the future.”
▪ Nantucket has had a long road to winning its first game after making its debut as a varsity program last season and finishing 0-12-0. So the journey the Whalers took to get to Monday’s game against Martha’s Vineyard — in which they emerged with a thrilling 5-4 win — was symbolic.
Because there is no direct ferry from Nantucket to the Vineyard in the winter, the team boarded a ferry for Hyannis at 7:15 a.m. One hour later, they were on the mainland, then took a 45-minute bus ride to the ferry terminal at Woods Hole so they could catch another ferry (about a 45-minute trip) to Vineyard Haven. One final 10-minute bus ride brought the team to Martha’s Vineyard Ice Arena for the 1:15 p.m. start. When junior Evelyn Fey scored the winner with 24 seconds left in the game, elation filled the Whaler bench. Head coach Liz Collins turned to her assistant, Cassie Thompson, who was in tears.
“It’s an unbelievable feeling,” said Collins, who won four state championships at Duxbury, graduated in 2014, and played for Sacred Heart University until 2018. “These girls have worked hard ever since the program started. We put together a full 45 minutes. It’s the most rewarding feeling in the world.”
Nantucket is 1-6-2. Fey’s winning goal capped a hat trick and freshman Emerson Pekarcik scored the other two goals.
Then, the Whalers repeated the segmented bus-boat trip back home, arriving in Nantucket 13.5 hours after they left, this time much more jovial.
“There was plenty of yelling and screaming on the ferry,” Collins said.
▪ On Tuesday, Matignon advanced to the Catholic Central League Cup final and kept its undefeated season going with a 4-0 win over Arlington Catholic. Lizzy Greeley scored two goals for the Warriors (12-0), who will play the Austin Prep/St. Mary’s winner in Saturday’s final at Stoneham Arena.
▪ Westwood senior Hannah Blomquist is the newest member of the 100-point club, accomplishing the feat in a 4-1 win over Medfield/Norton last Thursday. Blomquist, also a two-time Globe All-Scholastic field hockey player, will stick with the fall sport at Bentley.
“For Hannah to have achieved this in such a weird year was something special to see,” said Westwood coach Lauren Hillberg in an email. “Entering this season Hannah had 78 points and we knew she was going to able to accomplish 100 points, but with games being cancelled [or] postponed there was a chance there may not have been enough time.
“Luckily, we were able to make up games and Hannah reached 100. What made it more special was that it was a home game and her family was able to be in attendance.”
Brandon Chase also contributed to this story.