HIGH SCHOOL FIELD HOCKEY
Debee Tlumacki for The Boston Globe
When the clock ran down to two seconds, freshman backup keeper Maeve Tierney and others on the Plymouth North field hockey bench were bursting to break the sideline.
“We almost ran early; we could have gotten carded,” she said, referring to penalties that might have been imposed.
The bleachers were stuffed with teachers and fans. Cheerleaders lined the field.
“More people in the stands on the senior night than soccer’s senior night,” said Jeff Yang. A sophomore striker, he’s the only boy on the team.
The team was an instant away from defeating its crosstown rival, Plymouth South, Oct. 18 to qualify for the postseason. No Plymouth North team has reached November since 1986, when the varsity team was called Plymouth-Carver.
On the field, the ball was technically still in play, but before the buzzer sounded, Plymouth North’s forwards were already done.
“Then I just see my team start jumping up and down,” said Ariana Bremis, senior captain and starting goalie. “You see one of the girls, three seconds left, just start booking it and leave the ball.”
When the clock finally stopped, it was 2-0. Varsity players rushed Bremis, joined by the junior varsity players, the coaches, and from those packed bleachers, the fans.
The team’s postseason lasted all of one game, a 1-0 defeat Nov. 2 to North Attleborough, but just getting to that game after 31 years was an accomplishment to savor.
“It was magical,” said Plymouth North head coach Kristen DiGravio.
Her daughter, Caroline, a left wing and senior captain, was the first to crash into Bremis and hug her.
For Caroline DiGravio and the other 10 seniors, the last few seasons had been rough.
“We got made fun of,’’ she said, “because the field hockey team didn’t have a good rep.”
In the past, when the football and soccer teams were on postseason hunts, the field hockey team was often pushed to the softball field for practices. For games, including on the varsity level, the players were regularly forced to play on the baseball diamond.
“We always made it work, said Caroline DiGravio. “That’s the thing: We picked up our stuff to go and worked.”
It’s been a long time since things worked for the Plymouth North field hockey program. When Kristen DiGravio moved up from Plymouth Community Intermediate School, in 2012, she inherited a program in disarray.
“My first year here, we did not win a game and scored one goal,” she said. “This year . . . we are 10-5-2, [and] we’ve scored 37 goals.”
The turnaround involved many contributors beyond this year’s talented crop of players, including Paul “Spanky” Demanche, the school’s new athletic director, who insisted field hockey not be accorded second-class status.
“All of our varsity teams should be playing in the best place possible where fans can see them,” said Demanche.
On that field, the team’s offensive punch was spread across the roster, with players averaging five goals each. A notable exception was Maeve Reynolds, a 14-year-old forward who had never touched a field hockey stick before. She finished with 15 goals and 8 assists.
Not, Coach DiGravio insists, that individual stats are emphasized.
“That’s the key to success on this team,” she said. “We don’t talk about stats. Everyone has to win together.”
To accomplish that, starters abandoned positions they’d held since middle school for the good of the team. Caroline DiGravio shifted from offense to defense, Julia Zaniboni from forward to the midfield.
“We all left our egos at the door,” said the younger DiGravio.
One roster move was forced by injury. After shutting out Whitman-Hanson, 5-0, Sept. 14, her third shutout, she woke up with a sharp pain in her knee and was sidelined for four games.
In came Tierney, who’d only played junior varsity games to that point. She blanked Norwell, her first opponent, 6-0.
Silver Lake, favored to win, was up next.
“We ended up winning, 3-2,’’ said Caroline DiGravio. “That was our turning point.”
Teachers stopped the players in the hall. Principal Kathleen McSweeney announced their names and accomplishments over the morning intercom.
For this year’s seniors, it was a sea change.
“Before this season, we’d get down [in a game] and our whole posture would change,” said Coach DiGravio. “You could see their presence on the field: They looked defeated. This year, they had fire.”
Bremis, healthy again for the postseason, agreed.
“We said, ‘Let’s throw away tournament [talk] right now and focus on our first game, and then the next one.’ And we got there.”
The team was able to challenge formidable opponents for the first time in years. Besides edging Silver Lake, it defeated Hingham, 3-1.
“Our motto all throughout the season was ‘One game at a time,’ ” said Caroline DiGravio.
It was an approach that brought the team to the preliminary round of the Division 1 South playoffs.
For Plymouth North, though, a larger battle had already been won.
“As a captain, I encourage my teammates to keep going, keep going,” said Bremis. “But they’ve already given me the world. They’ve given us the greatest gift we can ask for.”
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