The Toll Gate field hockey team took a big step forward last year, rebounding from consecutive two-win seasons with a six-win campaign that included the program’s first playoff appearance since 2008.
That season gives the Titans something to build on for 2012. Unfortunately for them, a lot of the people responsible for the construction last year won’t be around. Toll Gate lost 12 players to graduation and will be feeling those losses when the season gets underway.
“We’re on a little bit of a rebuilding year,” said Toll Gate head coach Sherri Boisvert, who’s beginning her third season at the helm. “It’s going to be tough. We lost almost all of them from last year. But we’ve got about 20 girls coming out every day and they look good. They’re excited and they’re working together well. We’ll see what we can do.”
The 12 players who graduated were all contributors, and Toll Gate essentially lost nine of 11 starters. The returning players will have to light the way, and the good news is that they should be ready.
Senior Molly Turner has emerged as a standout the last two years. While many of the seniors had great seasons last year, Turner was the only Titan to earn first-team all-division honors.
“She’s going to be the leader,” Boisvert said. “She’s a very good player. I’m hoping she gets some college looks because she deserves it. She’s really one of the top players around.”
Turner will carry a big load for the Titans this year. She can play both forward and midfield and she’s expected to provide a lot of the Titans’ offense.
“We’re expecting way too much from her,” Boisvert said with a laugh. “But she loves the pressure. She’s a competitor.”
The other returning starter is in goal, where two players return with a lot of experience. Senior Alyson Parry and junior Shanelle Lawson both started games last year. Lawson saw the bulk of the action as the season went on and she’ll be looking for another big year.
“It’s good to have the goalies back,” Boisvert said.
The rest of Toll Gate’s returning players have a mix of varsity experience, but they all know they’ll be taking on bigger roles this year.
Senior Emily Durand played some last year and will likely lead the Titans defense. Her sister, sophomore Jacqueline Durand, is also back after seeing some action last year.
Turner will probably lead the midfield. Jenni Sullivan and Megan Burns, who saw some minutes last year, will also be ready to go.
“It’s pretty much a whole new team,” Boisvert said. “Most of the girls coming back just kind of filled in last year so it’s going to be new for them.”
And in field hockey, new doesn’t just mean new to the varsity level. Many of the players on the team have never played before.
“There’s no Apponaug Girls Softball or anything like that for field hockey,” Boisvert said. “Some of the kids, our first day of practice was the first time they touched a stick. We have Injury Fund games on Saturday, and it’s like, ‘We’re supposed to teach the game in five days?’ It’s not a lot of time.”
On the bright side, the team has been eager to learn. Turner, Sullivan and Emily Durand are serving as captains and helping set the tone.
“We’ve got three great captains and they’re doing a good job of getting the girls to work together well,” Boisvert. “They’ve already planned their first pasta dinner. Everybody’s excited.”
And while there may be some growing pains, the goals remain high.
“I want to try and top last season,” Boisvert said. “I would love playoffs. It might be tough, but hopefully we’ll improve and pick up a few wins.”