Every time Arieana Mathena picked up her field hockey stick, she was learning something new, or so it seemed.
She was two weeks late to joining the after-school field hockey program at Southeastern Regional Vocational Tech in Easton. And while the club was just that — a space to get some exercise, learn a new sport, and make some new friends — the then-sophomore from Brockton remembered feeling a little overwhelmed.
But with time, Mathena picked up the fundamentals. She learned the meanings of the many whistles. She learned to use the correct side of the stick. And eventually, she learned that she really wanted to play against other teams.
“I thought it was so fun,” recalled Mathena, now a senior. “I just want[ed] to take this to a real team and see how we’d do. A part of us always wanted it to be a real thing.”
This season, Mathena and her teammates are able to do just that. After two years as an intramural program, Southeastern is fielding a full, MIAA-recognized varsity program this fall.
Mathena and classmates Caitlin Feeney and Nelly Rios — who have also been with the program since it began — are captaining the first Southeastern field hockey team under coach Jenn Sousa.
“It’s kind of been a dream of mine to have a field hockey team at Southeastern for a long time,” said Sousa, who has worked as a math teacher at the school for 13 years. “It’s really like a home to me. It’s just nice to be able to bring something else to the table for them.”
A Sharon High alum, Sousa coached the junior varsity field hockey team there for a decade before giving birth to her first child. When chatter began about a field hockey team at Southeastern, the administration knew it had the perfect leader already walking the school’s halls.
Sousa is also the coach of the girls’ lacrosse program, which she introduced to Southeastern seven years ago. Her own experience playing sports fueled her desire to bring those same opportunities to her own students.
“Sometimes, as an adolescent girl, life can be a little bit tough,” Sousa said. “It’s nice to have a place where you can go and you feel safe and you feel happy. You feel like you’re with family. It’s been a nice thing to be able to start this for them.”
Mathena and Feeney never played a team sport before joining the field hockey team as sophomores. Their positive experience — along with encouragement from their coach — led them to join the lacrosse team that spring. Finally, the pair understands what it’s all about.
“Going into high school, I had no idea that field hockey would be something that I would like,” said Feeney, who is also a Brockton resident. “It makes me wonder if that’s something that I might want to do when I’m older — help kids get into sports, and bring sports where they really aren’t.”
Southeastern has played two games this season — a pair of 5-0 losses to Wareham and Fairhaven. But while the players admit that they can’t wait to see that first-ever Southeastern field hockey victory, this season isn’t about what’s on the scoreboard.
Coach and captains see improvement in the team — which has grown from a handful of players on the first day two years ago to 15 players at the varsity level — every time it takes the field.
In Southeastern’s inaugural game, Wareham scored four goals in the first half. Southeastern regrouped at halftime and only let up one more. After playing Fairhaven Monday, Feeney talked excitedly of a scoring opportunity. The Hawks couldn’t capitalize, but it didn’t matter.
“The first day of practice, it was like watching myself playing at first,” Feeney said. “Kids were kicking up grass. Now, we’re actually getting on our side of the field and actually being able to make things happen. It’s cool to see everybody make improvements like that.”
As seniors, Mathena, Feeney, and Rios are faced with the sobering reality of looking ahead to their last game in a Southeastern uniform. But the trio can take solace in the fact that their first game in a Southeastern uniform even happened at all.
“When it was [an after-school program], I would always tell my coach, ‘I love this sport more than anything. This sport means everything to me,’ ” Mathena said.
“It’s just always something that I wanted to put my all into. Now, this is it. It’s finally here. I get to be a big part of history. It’s the most amazing feeling.”
■ Two members of the North Andover team announced college commitments this week. Senior Anna Bono will play field hockey at the University of New England, and classmate Caitlin Panos will continue her basketball career at Macalester (Minn.).
■ Central Catholic’s Maddie DiPietro was one of seven Massachusetts athletes named to MAX Field Hockey’s All-American watch list. The returning Globe All-Scholastic, a senior, joins Piper Hampsch (Hopedale), Caylie McMahon and Madeline Zacchini (Nashoba), Maddie Mullaney and Alana Richardson (Pingree), and Katie Wimmer (Phillips Andover) on the nationwide list of 100.
Games to watch
No. 1 Somerset Berkley at No. 16 Cohasset, 4 p.m. — A nonconference game brings the top-ranked Raiders to Cohasset, where the reigning D1 state champions will face the 2018 D2 South finalists.
No. 8 Lexington at Belmont, Saturday, 4:30 p.m. — In the first Middlesex League contest of the season for both teams, the Marauders will host Lexington in an effort to earn its first win against the Minutemen since 2017.
Beverly at No. 15 Danvers, Monday, 4 p.m. — The Northeastern Conference strongholds battle for the first time this season in the first contest for Danvers since entering the Globe’s Top 20 rankings.
No. 13 Sandwich at Monomoy, Monday, 4 p.m. — In the Cape & Islands League inaugural season, the Blue Knights will play their first game as a member in this across-divisional road matchup.
No. 2 Andover at No. 10 Central Catholic, Wednesday, 7:30 p.m. — The Merrimack Valley Conference rivals face off under the lights in what will be just the second game of the season for the Golden Warriors.
Jenna Ciccotelli can be reached at email@example.com.