By Jean DePlacido Correspondent
The Salem News
---- — The field hockey season came to an abrupt and very early ending in the state tournament for the Northeastern Conference champions from Beverly High, but junior captain Nicole Woods is still competing.
Woods is heading to Florida early next week to play for the Northeast Elite team in the prestigious USA Field Hockey Festival, which attracts close to 4,000 athletes on 230 teams from across the country, as well as Canada, Europe and the Caribbean.
The world’s largest amateur field hockey tournament will be held at the International Polo Club in Wellington, Fla., where there will be 30 fields set up.
The 16-year-old Woods will be playing up a level with the U-19s. She tried out for the festival in August and made the team, which has several college-bound seniors on it.
“I played for Metro Northeast in the Bay State Games this past summer, and we won the whole thing,” said Woods, who will captain the Panthers again next fall. “We didn’t lose a game, and it was a lot of fun. It was my second year playing there, and two of the girls on my team were trying out for the festival. They sent me emails about the tryouts, and so I went.
“I’m playing up because I want to make my game faster. Everybody on the team is so good, way past fundamental skills. Because they’re advanced, it’s a lot harder to move the ball, and the speed of the game is so much quicker.”
After tryouts this summer, the names of players who made the team were posted online. For the past two months, the team has been practicing together once a week.
“Our coach, Chelsea Feole, played at Boston College and was an assistant at UMass Lowell, so we’ve had a lot of practices there,” Woods said. “We scrimmaged Seacoast United and had Tournament Day at Brown University to get ready. We played two teams that are going to Florida, one from Rhode Island and the other from Cape Ann.
“It’s going to be so much fun, but we’ll also be very busy with two games a day. My mother (Betsy) is going with me. We’ll all stay in the same hotel, and they’re going to have a big turkey dinner for us because the festival opens on Thanksgiving and goes for four days.”
Feole told the players to get in top shape by practicing dribbling and shooting on a field this week, Woods said. Going for runs was also recommended.
“Running isn’t my favorite thing, but I’ll do it,” Woods said. “There are going to be tons of college scouts there, at least one from each school, so I want to play well. I’ve been getting emails from some saying they’ll be at the festival.”
Woods, who has been starting at Beverly High since her freshman year, had 10 goals and 21 assists for the Panthers, who were the No. 1 seed in the Division 1 North state playoffs. She plans to go to the New England Premier Showcase at UNH again this summer.