WALPOLE — Since his arrival 11 years ago, Walpole High girls’ hockey coach Joe Verderber has strived to create a family culture.
Perhaps it was only natural. Verderber’s father, Ted, has served as an assistant coach since the beginning of his son’s tenure with the Rebels.
But this season, with six pairs of sisters — including one set of twins — making up more than half of the Rebels roster, it’s more than a mantra.
“We always say the bond that our team has is different than the bonds other teams have at our school,” said Meghan Hamilton, a senior captain who is joined on the roster by younger sister Kiley, a junior defender. “You look at our team and it’s a bunch of different girls, but then you realize that it’s all sisters at the same time. It’s different, and I think we all like that.”
At 6-1, the Rebels are off to their best start since the 2010-11 season.
However, sophomore twins Emily and Elizabeth Desimone are quick to laugh off any mention of twin telepathy. Their teammates agree that team success has little to do with a sister connection but is more about talent and depth.
Since a 2-1 loss to Needham Dec. 19, Walpole has rattled off four wins, including an 8-0 rout of Milton.
In a 5-1 Bay State Conference win over Weymouth last week, senior captain Audra Tosone netted a hat trick and Meghan Hamilton tallied four assists. Senior captainOlivia Malone added a goal and two assists.
“We all have the same goal of what we want to do this year,” Tosone said. “This year, everyone wants to succeed and do well. We just have a lot of good people.”
The Hamiltons and Desimones are two of the six sets of sisters, alongside Malone and her sister, Jenna, a junior, and senior Kiera McInerney and her sibling Emma.
Emily Desimone returns to the second line, while Elizabeth works in the defensive end. Kiera McInerney splits time in net with senior Cam Murphy, while Emma prowls the offense for the Rebels,.
The elder Hamilton skates on a first line alongside fellow seniors Tosone and Malone. Freshman Jess Tosone is working her way back from a field hockey injury and will slip into the forward rotation, and Jenna Malone is a solid defender.
Audra Tosone and senior Madison Ryan are welcoming the opportunity to skate alongside their younger sisters, who are freshmen, after spending the majority of their careers split by different age brackets in youth hockey. Jess Tosone and Jamie Ryan agreed that having their sisters on the roster made the transition to high school hockey easier, while the elder Ryan admitted the feeling was mutual.
The Ryan sisters have often skated as the Rebels’ top defensive pairing.
“I had been by myself on the team for three years, and now I’m with my sister,” Madison Ryan said. “I always have someone. Not that my team isn’t there for me, but [Jamie’s] my sister.”
This familiarity, only tightened by the multitude of familial ties, is a major strength of the Rebels program, according to Verderber.
“Half the battle with a good team is the team chemistry and cohesiveness,” Joe Verderber said. “Everyone’s got each other’s back and that’s a good thing, not only as teammates, but as sisters and as friends.”
The benefits of having a sister out on the ice vary from pair to pair. A sister is a friendly face, a source of encouragement, a top competitor. But when there are 12 of them all vying together for the program’s first Bay State Conference Herget title since 2012-13 and a trip to the Garden in March?
“It makes things a lot less awkward,” said Madison Ryan. “It just makes the team so much naturally closer. That’s what makes us different than everybody else.”
Framingham is winless through six games, but thus far it’s been a proud homecoming for first-year coach Casey Diana.
“It’s an absolute dream come true,” said Diana, a 2013 grad. “Framingham hockey was one of the first things I ever knew and loved.”
There were a few friendly faces on the current Flyer roster for Diana. When she was a player, she helped out with the Framingham Youth Hockey program, coaching several of her current players, including senior Caroline Stacey and junior Georgia Parker.
“My juniors and seniors are kids that I’ve known for years,” Diana said. “It’s really special to be able to see them again and now coach them at the varsity level.”
Diana played collegiately at Franklin Pierce University, where she appeared in 41 games across four seasons as a defender for the Ravens. After graduating in 2017, Diana returned to Framingham as a volunteer assistant before taking over the program this year.
■ Matignon senior captain Carolyn Mahoney recorded her 100th career point last weekend in a 4-0 win over Leominster. As a four-year varsity player, Mahoney has been the driving force behind the Warriors’ rebuilding effort this season.
“Throughout her career she’s been a prominent player,” said Matignon coach Anthony Cornacchia . “We very much look to her to carry us offensively, and she’s a big part of how far we go.”
In Mahoney’s freshman season, the Warriors advanced to the state semifinals before falling to eventual Division 2 champion Notre Dame-Hingham. With varied success since, Mahoney now leads a young undersized Warriors team with only 14 skaters.
“There’s a lot of doubts about where we’re at as a program now,” Mahoney said. “All those comments motivate us to succeed. We have good chemistry and we’re all willing to set our hearts on the state tournament.”
Games to watch
Wednesday, St. Mary’s at Peabody (at McVann/O’Keefe Rink. 5:15 p.m.) — Is Peabody strong enough to take down third-ranked St. Mary’s, or will the host Spartans give the Tanners a reality check?
Saturday, Needham at Braintree (at Zapustas Rink, 5:30 p.m.) — The Rockets are stating their case for the best team in the Bay State Conference. So are the Wamps.
Saturday, Westwood at Canton (Canton IceHouse, 6 p.m.) — The first meeting went heavily in favor of Westwood (5-1 on Dec. 29). But the Bulldogs are looking to break out of a funk against their rinkmates.
Saturday, St. Mary’s at Austin Prep (at Essex Sports Center, 6 p.m.) — Austin Prep freshman Aylah Cioffi takes on her former team for the first time in a battle of top-three teams.
Monday, Austin Prep at Westwood (at Canton IceHouse, 5 p.m.) —
The top-ranked Cougars hit the road against the top team in the South. An intriguing matchup.
Monday, Notre Dame (Hingham) at Walpole (at Rodman Arena, 6:30 p.m.) — NDA believes it deserves to be in the conversation as a legit title contender in Division 2. A win at Walpole may help make their case.