After Saturday’s 2-1 win at Martha’s Vineyard, a few players on the Bishop Stang girls’ hockey team headed back to the locker room with tears in their eyes.
With the victory, the Spartans (10-2-1) locked up the program’s first state tournament berth since the team was elevated to varsity status in 2013-14.
“We were all so excited,” said Bishop Stang junior defenseman Elizabeth LePage .
“We got in the locker room and we all just kind of sat there and took it all in. It was a really tough game. We really earned that spot and cemented ourselves in the tournament. It’s a great feeling.”
In 2016, the tourney was not on the radar for Stang, which recorded a 5-13-2 finish in its third season. The next year, it was 7-12-1. A year ago, the Spartans (8-9-3) fell 1 point shy after a season-ending tie against Cohasset/Hanover.
That season-ending loss, according to senior goalie Sierra Majewski , served as motivation for the Spartans.
“It really hurt,” recalled Majewski, a Westport resident who has posted a 2.19 goals against average this season.
“We took it personal. We always had it in the back of our mind. We were always so far away, and last year was the closest we had ever gone.”
Stang is following the lead of LePage, who skates on the first defensive pairing and paces the Southeastern Massachusetts Girls’ Hockey League (SEMGHL) with 18 goals and 12 assists.
LePage played a role in both goals Saturday, scoring one and assisting on the 10th goal of the season for junior Janey Silvia .
“She’s a very skilled player,” coach Bill Theodore said of LePage, a Swansea resident who attends Joseph Case High School.
“She’s a really good kid, whether she plays with the most talented or the least talented, she’s always giving up the puck, helping other kids.”
LePage deflected the praise to her teammates.
“Without those passes that they’re making, without these give-and-goes . . . you can’t play this game by yourself. It’s a collective team effort. We’re doing it together.”
The Spartans have outscored opponents, 57-27, and currently sit atop the SEMGHL standings with a 7-1-1 conference record. Stang will try to avenge its only league loss Wednesday against Norwell in New Bedford.
“We’re going to continue on and try to get as many points as we can,” LePage said. “Now that we’re in the tournament, we want to pull a high seed. We’re still staying strong. The foot’s on the gas.”
Theodore credited this season’s strong start to a natural maturation of his program, one that also hosts players from Case, Coyle & Cassidy, Dartmouth, New Bedford, and Somerset-Berkley.
And no doubt, Stang earning a spot in the postseason is a big deal for girls’ hockey on the South Coast. The Bourne/Mashpee/Wareham/Old Rochester co-op was the first, last season.
“Us making the tournament will make girls realize that we’re on the radar,” Majewski said. “We’re established as a team. We could hopefully bring in even more people that know how to play and want to play.”
“We’re definitely leaving a mark on the South Coast,” echoed LePage. “There’s going to be a lot of young girls hockey players coming to our team, seeing the success of our season. They will see a bright and promising future for the program.”
■ Last Saturday, Westwood hosted Dover-Sherborn in a game played to benefit the I AM Strong Foundation. The charity works to emphasize treatment for mental health issues in teens.
For the last four seasons, Westwood has chosen to play one game a year to support the local charity. This season, Westwood raised $800 for the I AM Strong Foundation.
“The charity is near and dear to our senior class,” said Westwood coach Ed Amico. “The game is [about] a lot more [than] winning and losing, it’s about making a difference.”
The foundation was started by Westwood resident Donna Medina. Her daughter, Isabelle, passed away in middle school. She would have been a senior this year.
“That’s what high school sports is all about,” said Amico. “It’s so powerful to know they can be great on and off the ice.”
■ Franklin senior captain Regan Paterson registered her 100th career point last week with an assist in the first period of a 4-1 win over Mansfield. Her 32 points (15 goals, 17 assists) lead the Panthers this season. “She’s been an impact player for me for four years,” said Franklin coach Margie Burke. “She’s a great leader and I’m very excited to see her accomplish this milestone.”
Games to Watch
Wednesday, Duxbury at Pembroke (at Bridgewater Arena, 4 p.m.) — With a state-best 14 wins, the Dragons visit 15th-ranked Pembroke looking to cement their status as the top team in the South.
Wednesday, Austin Prep at St. Mary’s (at Connery Rink, 8 p.m.) — Austin Prep took the first meeting, 2-0, on Jan. 12. Can St. Mary’s hand Prep its first loss?
Thursday, Andover at Westford (at Groton School Rink, 7 p.m.) — The Warriors were humbled in a loss to Methuen/Tewksbury last week, but get another crack at a ranked opponent with a trip to face the Grey Ghosts.
Saturday, Notre Dame-Hingham at Austin Prep (6 p.m. at Essex Sports Center) — Another clash between a pair of ranked teams. Austin Prep hosts an NDA squad which registered back-to-back strong performances against defending D2 champ Wellesley.
Saturday, Braintree at Needham (6:40 p.m. at Babson Rink) — For the fourth straight game, the Wamps take on a ranked opponent in conference rival Needham, looking to move a step closer to clinching the Bay State title.Dan Shulman also contributed to this story. He can be reached at email@example.com. Jenna Ciccotelli can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.