October 31, 2014
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Female Athlete of the Year
Susie Cavanagh
Pilgrim - Forward - Field Hockey

Susie Cavanagh is from an athletic family, and she’s always played sports. When she got to high school, she didn’t hesitate to fill up her calendar. Field hockey in the fall, ice hockey in the winter and golf in the spring.

“I wouldn't really want it any other way,” Cavanagh said. “It's fun. I feel like I was kind of born to play sports. It runs in the family, so why not play?”

And in Cavanagh’s case, why not play well?

Every step of the way, that’s what the 2012 Pilgrim High School graduate did. She was a first-team All-Stater in field hockey, she was a key contributor on the Pilgrim boys’ hockey team, and she finished second at the girls’ state golf championship.

It was a fitting senior year for one of the best athletes the school has ever seen.

“She’s one of the most talented female athletes Pilgrim’s ever had,” said field hockey coach Nisa San Giovanni. “I’ve been here 27 years and I could put her in the top two or three. She’s one of those kids who can just do anything. If she had played softball, she’d probably be first-team All-State.”

Cavanagh grew up playing a lot of sports, but as part of a family full of hockey stars, she gravitated to the ice. At Pilgrim, though, she wasn’t content just focusing on one sport.

She went out for field hockey as a freshman and made the varsity squad right out of the gates. She’d never played before, but her hockey skills, for the most part at least, translated well

“You could see it right away,” San Giovanni said. “It took her a little while to get used to the game, and she wasn’t used to the rules. It’s a lot slower, and she liked the speed of ice hockey. But it didn’t take her long.”

Cavanagh became a standout immediately and helped the Pats to a 12-2-2 record as a sophomore. After that, Pilgrim was moved up to Division I. It was a challenge, and the Pats won three games each year. But Cavanagh still made an impression, earning All-State honors in spite of the team’s record.

“She basically carried us,” San Giovanni said. “When she wanted to take over, she could.”

In the winter, Cavanagh returned for her third year as a member of the Pilgrim boys’ hockey team. She had played for the Warwick girls’ hockey co-op team in her freshman year, but she decided before her sophomore season that playing boys’ hockey gave her a better chance to improve her game.

It was a decision that still sticks with her head coach at Pilgrim, Dave Tober.

“She just has this unselfishness,” Tober said. “She basically passed up three years of accolades, scoring titles, All-States to play on a boys’ Division II team, and it was all because she wanted to better herself as a hockey player.”

After not making a huge splash in her first two years, Cavanagh became a key part of the team this season. She centered the second line for the Pats, and helped lead the team to an 11-6-1 regular season and a spot in the Division II semifinals. She finished the year with six goals and four assists.

“That was awesome,” Cavanagh said. “I got a lot better as a player and to have the boys accept me was cool. It's good hockey. It's fast.”

In addition to her contributions on the ice, the fact that she was part of the team at all set the tone for the rest of the squad.

“The message she sent by being willing to give up the personal accolades just sticks with everybody,” Tober said. “There’s no question she became a better player, but it’s hard to sell that to a lot of kids. She bought in. She had a great attitude and she was an absolute pleasure to coach.”

Cavanagh followed up her hockey season with a solid golf campaign in the spring. She qualified for the co-ed state tournament and just missed the cut. At the girls’ championship, she finished a close second to Prout’s Nicole Scola.

Now Cavanagh will turn her attention to a post-graduate year at Cushing Academy, where her calendar won’t clear up much. She’ll play all three sports there, and then will see what her options are for playing at the Division I college level.

“I’ll play all three there and then see what happens after that,” Cavanagh said.

As for which sports she prefers, it depends on the calendar – the very full calendar.

“I can't really pick,” she said. “It changes with the season.”


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