NHIAA Field Hockey Preview: Exeter, Pinkerton girls thinking big
Pinkerton's Kaylie Decosmo, right, will be among the leaders of the Astros as they seek a return to the top in Division I. (Bruce Taylor/Union Leader File)
The ScoopDefending champs: Exeter (Division I), Windham (Division II) and Berlin (Division III).
Teams to watch: There are always new challengers ready to rise, but the top teams from last season should all be back in the hunt again.
-- Division I: Exeter, Pinkerton, Bishop Guertin, Londonderry.
-- Division II: Windham, Merrimack Valley, Lebanon, Milford.
-- Division III: Derryfield, Berlin, Hopkinton, Gilford.
Players to watch: Jordan Teixeira (Exeter), Kaylie DeCosmo (Pinkerton), Julie Downs (Berlin goalie), Cassidy Huckins (Merrimack Valley), Emily Perryman (Lebanon).
The answer will begin to take shape today when the season opens with action in all three divisions.
Last season featured two first-time champions in Exeter in Division I and Windham in Division II and the ousting of a three-time defending champion in Division III when Berlin upset Derryfield School of Manchester.
The defending champion Blue Hawks have just two seniors on the team this season, Jordan Teixeira (forward) and Kelly Moran (midfield), who will act as team captains.
“We have a strong underclassmen group, including freshmen, we are very excited about,” said Exeter head coach Deb Grott. “This entire program I have sitting in front of me wants to play field hockey.”
“They know how it is to win. There are only four or five players from that championship team, so the kids from last year only know the feeling of losing the last game,” Pinkerton coach Jen Resmini said. “They’re all hungry, but they know it’s an uphill battle to get there.”
“This is a very hard-working group. They take the information and turn it into progress,” she said. “We’re building every practice.”
Resmini said she expects Bishop Guertin of Nashua and Londonderry to challenge Exeter at the top of the division.
“Winnacunnet, Pinkerton, Timberlane, they’re always strong programs who produce very strong teams,” Grott said. “But you can never push aside the rest of the Division I contingent. They all play strong and on any given day, anything can happen.”
Defending champion Windham remains the favorite, according coach Kim Kenney, whose Merrimack Valley squad was the DII runner-up in 2013.
Windham coach Amanda Ward says her team has a quiet confidence about it that she likes.
“Merrimack Valley and Lebanon are historically very good programs,” Ward said. “The thing I love about Division II is the feeling that on any given day, any team can win. That’s why I love being a DII team. It makes for great field hockey.”
Len McCaigue’s Derryfield squad entered the championship game having won the previous three DIII titles and was undefeated at 17-0.
Derryfield lost key players Lainee Shaughnessy, Berklee Vaillancourt, Theo O’Leary, Colbi Vaillancourt, Zoe PiSierra and Johnson to graduation, but the Cougars should be right back at the top of the heap once again thanks to a deep and experienced roster.
The other two semifinalist teams from last year, Hopkinton and Gilford, are also expected to field strong teams once again this year.