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Acton-Boxboro, Walpole coaches stick up for multi-sport athletes

Emma Kearney (left) netted 26 goals for Acton-Boxboro as a sophomore, but she is on the sideline this fall while she rehabs her left knee after tearing her ACL playing lacrosse last spring.ROBERT E. KLEIN/FOR THE GLOBE-FILE

Acton-Boxboro did not lose a game in its run to the Division 1 state field hockey title last fall.

Dealing with graduation losses and a few injuries, the Colonials are still trying to establish a new identity. The result: a 3-3-1 mark through seven games.

Junior Emma Kearney, a returning Globe All-Scholastic in field hockey and lacrosse, is sidelined with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee that she suffered last spring, during the lacrosse season.

Despite the loss of a talented player with 42 career goals — including the winning tally in last year’s state final — A-B coach Mae Shoemaker strongly encourages her athletes to play multiple sports.


“I wouldn’t want it any other way,” said the coach.

“More injuries happen when athletes keep using the same muscles, like you might see with a baseball pitcher. My athletes who play other sports have a great game sense. Ice hockey players have great stickwork and lacrosse players have more longevity.”

Kearney, who has verbally committed to play lacrosse at Harvard, said “a lot of my teammates play two or three sports.

“I think playing multiple sports contributes to athletic success.”

She has attended all the home games, even though she is not sure if she will be fully healthy until January, calling it a “slow progression.”

“It’s been difficult,” she said. “It’s tough to watch, especially because we’re not winning all the games this year.”

Walpole senior Melanie Weber, the reigning Bay State Herget MVP, was also a conference all-star on the lacrosse field last spring.

“When I was playing in the 1970s, field hockey and lacrosse coaches were the same,” said Walpole coach Marianne Murphy.

“Field hockey coaches would come from England and also teach us lacrosse. We’d play lacrosse in between, learning a more aerial sport like lacrosse and a ground game like field hockey.”


While there is a risk of injury playing multiple sports, Shoemaker and other coaches are more concerned with overspecialization and athletes spending time wearing themselves down with one activity like field hockey.

“I gave them the day off [Sunday] and they don’t want it,” said Shoemaker after A-B’s 1-0 loss to Westford.

“They want to stay together and practice shooting at the net. When I give them a day off, I tell them I can’t have them going to their club teams and getting beat up when they need a day off, that’s the hard balance. I’m for relationships with club teams, I tell players to come back with ideas and what they learn. I take exception to club teams that say ‘don’t play high school,’ just like I wouldn’t say ‘don’t play club.’ That’s not fair to the girls.”

Kearney said that both the Acton-Boxboro coaching staff and her future coaches at Harvard have emphasized the importance of versatility, and not confining her talent to one sport.

Meanwhile, Murphy’s concern for her athletes is players participating on different sports in the same day and wearing themselves out, citing a more serious injury risk.

“Parents should be watching, I had kids in all-day lacrosse tournaments who then went to [field hockey] practice at night,” said Murphy.

“Injuries happen with more than one sport on the same day. On an off day, they can play another sport, but should not do it on the same day. That’s when they get tired and are prone to injury.”


The Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association dictates that athletes should prioritize their games and practices in-season before focusing on their club teams in other sports — though Murphy noted that players can receive waivers for events such as basketball showcases, if that is their main sport.

In the end, it’s up to the athlete to make her own decision.

“I say do what’s right for them,” said Shoemaker. “I warn [the players] not to spend so much on expensive [field hockey] showcases in the offseason. Pick wisely. I don’t see the longterm benefit, you don’t need to be in [field hockey] tournaments all year long.”

Sticks down

Lincoln-Sudbury junior Keira Semerjian tallied three goals on her 17th birthday Friday afternoon as the Warriors blanked Dual County League rival Newton South, 9-0 . . . Shoemaker said her A-B squad is “not playing poorly, the struggle has been getting the ball in the net and the team is young and expects to win, the patience is not there yet.” . . . Walpole got off to a 5-0 start, but Murphy said the Porkers have yet to face any adversity. “We haven’t been challenged yet, our closest game was 4-1,” she said. “I’m hoping we have a few strong games and see how we perform under pressure. We overachieved last season (18-2-2) I feel. We’ve changed some positioning and are still getting used to it. I’m optimistic.” Walpole faces Needham, Norwood, and Franklin this week.


Players of the Week

AnnMarie Habelow: The senior forward netted three goals in a 9-1 win over Stoneham, part of the Marauders’ 3-0 start.

Sammy Shea, Andover: The senior scored three goals in a 4-0 victory over North Andover.

Melanie Weber, Walpole: A returning Globe All-Scholastic, she fired in seven goals in a pair of Bay State Conference victories over Brookline and Dedham.

Games to watch

■  Tuesday, Needham at Walpole (6:30 p.m.): The Bay State Conference unbeatens clash under the lights.

■  Wednesday: Weston at Acton-Boxborough (3:45 p.m.): After mustering just one goal in back-to-back defeats to Lincoln-Sudbury and Westford, the Colonials aim to get back on track against another Dual County League foe, Weston.

■  Hopkinton at Dover-Sherborn (3:30 p.m.): The Hillers have not allowed a goal in a 3-0 start.

■  Monday: Winchester at Belmont (6 p.m.): In a matchup between Top 20 teams, the unbeaten Marauders take on a Winchester squad that has registered consecutive shutouts against Woburn and Burlington.

Marisa Ingemi can be reached at