Westfield field hockey looks to take next step

WESTFIELD – Making the western Massachusetts Tournament is nice, but Karen Gomez and the Westfield High School field hockey team want more.
Five years ago when the Westfield Athletic Director took over the field hockey program as head coach, she started setting goals. Her first goal, like any other head coach in her league, was to make the western Massachusetts Tournament. Once her team made it to the preliminary round, Gomez set her sights on the quarterfinals. Now, coming off a tough, 2-0 loss to Agawam in last season’s tournament quarterfinals, Gomez said she won’t be happy with anything short of a berth in the semifinals, or even the final.
“Every year, we’ve gone to at least the preliminary round,” Gomez said. “Last year we fell short to Agawam in the quarters, and now we need to work, and we need to take that extra step. We want to make it beyond the quarters, get to at least the semis if not the final. Last season was our best season so far, but we’re ready to go forward and build off that.”
Gomez and Assistant Coach Linda Rowbotham have created quite a program in Westfield in the hopes of building a powerhouse that will stand the test of time. Instead of separating junior varsity and varsity, the two coaches believe in letting the players practice and play against each other, creating a strong sense of competition and giving some much-needed experience to the younger players.
“We have a lot of players that have moved up to varsity from junior varsity this year, and we have 18-19 girls that came over from the Westfield Warriors youth program, so I think it gives us a really nice, strong core and a great feeder system,” Gomez said. “Linda and I have a different philosophy because we look at field hockey as a program. It’s not, this is the varsity team, and this is the JV team. We have two different teams, yes, but we practice together and we work together. It makes it so everything is pretty interchangeable. If I need to look down and I need a JV player I need to come up for a game, they know all of our plays, and they are familiar with the terminology, so it’s a nice transition.”
Rowbotham said that Westfield’s JV field hockey team has been one of the tops in the league, which she attributes to the concept of running a program.
“We don’t separate the girls, so the younger players are forced to play with the older players,” Rowbotham said. “When you play against tougher competition, you’re forced to play at a higher level, so it helps the younger players get better.”
While the Bombers lost four juniors who decided to pursue work or focus on academics, a handful of sophomores have made their way up the ranks through junior varsity to the varsity team.
“We have a bunch of rising juniors and seniors,” Gomez said. “We’ve got a solid core of seniors leading us, like Madison Brockney and Amanda Boudreau in the midfield, and the Onyski twins (Cara and Christina) along with Liz Marcyoniak and Des Otero. Karly Mastello is a four-year varsity keeper who will be between the pipes for us again, and she’s going to be our backbone. I think she is the most talented goal keeper in our league.”
Gomez said Westfield’s biggest challenge this year will be on offense, as Lexi Minicucci and Ashlee Owen, the leading scorers on last year’s team, are now both in college.
“We need to work on our offense and we need to work on our scoring,” Gomez said.
But despite that, Gomez said she’s ready for her team to start making some more noise in western Massachusetts.
“I think the league’s pretty much wide open,” she said. “Obviously, (defending Western Massachusetts Tournament Champion) Longmeadow is going to be very strong, but I think we will be able to hold our own.”
The Bombers open the 2014 season at 4 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 2 vs. South Hadley at Westfield High School and close out the first week of the season with a rematch of last year’s tournament quarterfinal game against Agawam at 4 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 5 at Agawam High School. The schedule doesn’t get any easier to start the second week, as Westfield will host Longmeadow at 4 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 8.

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