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From an early age, Pingree School’s Sadie Canelli found her comfort zone in net as a goalie

Senior goalie Sadie Canelli backstopped Pingree to the NEPSAC Class C title last fall. Next year, she will play at Indiana University.Laurie Swope

When Sadie Canelli was in seventh grade, she really wanted to learn how to do a backflip.

She had already been playing field hockey for six years, so when her class was faced with the task of learning a new skill, she wanted to try something different. When her parents and teachers advised against unsupervised gymnastics, however, she picked up a set of goalie pads.

“I always leaned towards goalie in other sports,” said Canelli, a three-year starting goalie at the Pingree School in South Hamilton who has committed to play at Indiana University.

“I played out [in the field], but if the goalie was sick, I’d be the first one to jump in and say, ‘I’ll be in net.’ So I put on the pads for the very first time and loved it.”


The Boxford resident started playing the game at age 7 with Seacoast United. Once she hit middle school, Canelli traded in her stick for a soccer ball, but she quickly returned to field hockey.

Canelli leads the Highlanders (6-3) with fellow senior captains Allie Smail and Georgia Rossetti. She has backstopped Pingree to two consecutive NEPSAC Class C tournament appearances, the first a 2-1 in double overtime loss against Newton Country Day School in the 2021 semifinals. Last season, Canelli led Pingree to the title with a 3-1 triumph over New Hampton School.

‘She’s the fastest, most agile goalie I’ve ever seen.’

Pingree School senior field hockey captain Allie Smail, on three-year starter Sadie Canelli

Before Monday's 4-1 setback against an agressive Noble and Greenough team, Pingree field hockey goalie Sadie Canelli had posted 41 saves for a .840 save percentage.Laurie Swope

Following her sophomore season, Canelli was invited to the 2022 U16 junior national selection camp for her silver-medal performance at the 2021 NEXUS Championship. She returned to Pingree for her junior season, where she posted 14 shutouts through 24 games and lifted the Highlanders to an undefeated mark in the Eastern Independent League.

Before Monday’s 4-1 nonleague loss to an aggressive Noble and Greenough team, the 5-foot-2-inch Canelli had posted 41 saves for a .840 save percentage.


Along with fellow Pingree field hockey captains Allie Smail (left) and Georgia Rosetti (center), goalie Sadie Canelli (right) has helped to guide the Highlanders to a 6-3 start.Laurie Swope

Though the program graduated nine seniors, Canelli’s reliability has helped keep Pingree competitive in every match. Her specialty lies in her ability to read each play and reorganize the defenders in front of her on the fly.

“[She can] look at the field from the defender’s point and readjust her teammates into positions that are most advantageous to getting the save,” said Pingree coach Jen Richardson, a four-year player at Hamilton-Wenham who went on to a Hall of Fame career at Northeastern.

“She’ll call a ball when she needs it if she knows she can take the shot. She’s confident.”

Pingree three-year starting goalie Sadie Canelli (center), an Indiana University commit, was drawn to the position from an early age. "I put on the pads for the very first time and loved it,” she said.Laurie Swope

Canelli’s communication and poise puts her defense at ease, according to Smail, a defender.

“She’s the fastest, most agile goalie I’ve ever seen,” said Smail, who has played with Canelli since the summer before their freshman season. “She’ll run out and stop the ball, which not all goalies do, and then she’ll be right back in the goal two seconds later . . . She’s everywhere all the time, saving every ball, coming from every direction.”

Canelli’s ability to anticipate and adapt on the fly comes, in part, from her experience playing forward in ice hockey. Although the surface upon which each game is played is wildly different, Canelli gained a greater respect for both positions and a better understanding of how to respond in each situation.More importantly, she is able to advise the forwards playing in front of her on the turf more accurately.


Pingree goalie Sadie Canelli (center) has been a three-year stalwart in net. But she owed her ability to anticipate and adapt on the fly to her experience as a forward in ice hockey.Laurie Swope

“I love having the perspective of the other person. If a goalie makes a great save in ice hockey . . . or if a forward makes a nice shot in field hockey . . . I respect that because I’ve been on both sides,” Canelli said. “I tell my forwards, ‘If you shoot here, or here, it’s harder for a goalie to see that because of the angle,’ and the [ice hockey] goalies I talk to tell me the same thing.”

For three years, the Highlanders have counted on Canelli’s speed, agility, and raw athleticism to lead them through the season, and they’re hoping she will guide them through another NEPSAC title campaign.

“She’s our rock back there,” said Pingree assistant Taylor Farrin, a former goalie at Bishop Fenwick and Endicott College. “Next year, we’re going to be rooting for her.”

Corner hits

▪ Two teams from the Cape & Islands, St. John Paul II (Hyannis) and Nantucket, are achieving new heights thanks to the longevity of their core players.

In its fifth varsity season, St. John Paul II (10-2-2) has juniors and seniors who have been with the program from the start.

“Developing the program together has given them confidence in their teammates and knowledge of what their strengths are and how to use them to the best of their abilities,” said coach Megan Shortt.

Her squad is ranked 16th in the MIAA’s Division 4 Power Rankings, and Shortt is not surprised with the success. Her daughter, Maeve, a center midfielder, is highly skilled on both offense and defense, and fellow co-captain Kaylee Anthony has solid speed. Junior defender Shea Ryan and goalie Madi Ross shore up a strong defense.


“The girls have been waiting for the chance to showcase their talents,” said the elder Shortt. “I think the timing is perfect and they have been building up to this moment for quite some time.”

▪ Nantucket is in a similar spot. The Whalers made the best of a bad situation when their season was cancelled by COVID in the fall of 2020; thee current juniors and seniors are still benefiting from the experience.

Dan and Elizabeth Weber, husband and wife who serve as co-coaches, ran what they call an intramural “skills boot camp” that fall, including eighth graders. It introduced some of the island’s best young female athletes to the sport. The eighth and ninth graders who benefited most from that program make up what the Webers refer to as the “core” of this year’s 5-4-3 squad.

“It really allowed us to focus on basics and it is paying off right now,” said Dan Weber.

The Webers point to senior captain Caroline Allen as one of that core. A starter her entire career, she has played all facets of the field for the Whalers, and has six goals so far this fall.

“She has put bigger teams back on their heels,” said Elizabeth Weber.

Games to watch

Wednesday, Dartmouth at Durfee, 5:15 p.m. — The undefeated No. 13 Indians (13-0-0) are averaging five goals a game, but the last time they faced their Southeast Conference rival, Durfee (7-2-2) held them to just one tally.


Thursday, Westport at Joseph Case, 3:45 p.m. — The No. 16 Cardinals (9-0-0) are undefeated thanks to senior captain Megan Smith, but Westport (10-2-0) has shut out all but two foes this season — the last a notable 3-0 win over St. John Paul II (10-2-2).

Saturday, Uxbridge at Acton-Boxborough, 6:30 p.m. — Uxbridge (13-1) had its 67-game winning streak halted Monday at Andover. The No. 17 Revolution (10-1-1) have scored fewer than four goals only twice this season.

Monday, Central Catholic at Andover, 6:30 p.m. — The top two teams in the Merrimack Valley Conference go head-to-head for the second time this season. The No. 3 Golden Warriors (10-2-0) look to even the score after a tight 2-1 loss to No. 7 Central (12-1-0) Sept. 19.

Tuesday, Gloucester at Danvers, 4 p.m. — Sitting atop their respective divisions, the Northeastern Conference foes fight for the regular season title in a rematch of a Sept. 26 1-1 tie.

Correspondent Kat Cornetta contributed to this story.

Julia Yohe can be reached at julia.yohe@globe.com. Follow her @juliacyohe.