AMHERST - Field hockey teams from across southern New Hampshire gathered on the front lawn at Souhegan High School for the second annual Sabers Field Hockey Jamboree.
For most of the teams it was the first chance to play against live competition from all three NHIAA divisions and take stock of what is working and what isn't.
Manchester Central's Mikayla Nguyen scores a goal against Hopkinton goaltender Emmy Campbell during their preseason jamboree meeting in Amherst. (HARRY KOZLOWSKI/Union Leader)
Manchester Central High School took part along with Goffstown and Bedford high schools, as well as host Souhegan, Bishop Guertin of Nashua, Merrimack Valley, Pelham, Nashua South, Hopkinton and ConVal of Peterborough. Between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. each team played three games 11-on-11 and three 7-on-7 games.
For Central coach Dan Larkin it was a chance to see players he expects to lead the Little Green squad. "We've got a great returning core, some strong forwards like Mikayla Nguyen, Abby Jackson and Jenna Chrablowski," said Larkin. "The team is starting to jell, some good chemistry is going on."
This was the second time Central took part in the jamboree and Larkin feels it's valuable. "One thing is getting used to playing together 11-on-11. A lot of tactical and strategic stuff." Larkin added his squad played better and better with each game.
Some schools look to the jamboree to evaluate new talent or to rebuild a team with holes left by graduations. Amy MacLean of Merrimack was upbeat. "We lost some seniors but this year I think we'll be really strong. We have some new players that are really scrappy. It'll be fun to watch."
Kathy Campbell Kelly, Bedford's JV coach, was filling in for varsity coach Steve Connors. She said her team had some rebuilding to do. "We have some holes to fill. Some underclassmen are looking good but it's still a work in progress," said Campbell Kelly.
Goffstown head coach Jess Brown was very pleased with her girls' effort, winning their first three matches against Merrimack Valley, ConVal and Nashua South. For her, the jamboree offered a chance to see how her team translates against live competition.
"You can look good in practice so you hope it translates against other teams," said Brown. "We can see what we are doing well, and what we still need to work on."Most teams will kick off the regular season on Sept. 2.