By Dan Harrison
---- — The Danvers field hockey team lost a lot of experience from last year’s squad.
And not just in terms of players.
Longtime head coach Barbara Damon hung up her clipboard in the offseason, leaving a legacy as one of the North Shore’s best ever field hockey mentors. Her departure also opened for Danvers native and former assistant coach Jill McGinnity to take over the Falcons’ program.
McGinnity, who has coached at Bishop Fenwick and Salem State, knows she has some big shoes to fill but is excited of being part of the Danvers field hockey tradition.
“It’s going to be difficult; she’s a Hall of Fame coach,” McGinnity said of Damon. “I think the field hockey tradition in Danvers is really big. It’s the reason why I got into field hockey in the first place.”
McGinnity was a youth soccer player initially, but made the switch to field hockey after watching her four older sisters go through the Danvers High program. The 40-year-old Bishop Fenwick graduate went on to play at UMass Lowell before finishing her playing career at Salem State.
For the last 15 years, McGinnity has run the Top Notch Field Hockey Camp and now, as she prepares to re-enter the high school coaching world, she’s focusing on developing a positive rapport with her players.
“Mutual respect between players and coaches is huge. I think you get a lot out of how you present things,” said McGinnity. “Determination, commitment and education are crucial to having a successful season, and I think team chemistry is very important. I have a good coaching staff with me, too, which I’m excited about.”
So far McGinnity has relied on the maturity of senior captains Catie Lamoly (midfield/forward), Nicole Kamens (midfield/forward), Katherine Leonard (forward) and Rachel Trocchi (forward). The group has been key in getting the rest of the team ready for the regular season, where the four girls will be even more valuable considering they’re the most experienced Falcons and all play midfield or at forward.
“They’ve been showing good leadership in helping the team to focus and getting them pumped up,” McGinnity said of her captains.
She also remarked how the Falcons will be looking to move the ball upfield as quickly as possible, be it through passing or getting instant breakaways. In other words, McGinnity wants her squad to take advantage of its speed — meaning the midfield will be crucial.
“For me personally, the midfield is the strength of a team. It controls how well you get the ball up the field,” explained McGinnity. “Our midfield is learning, but they’re strong players. They are getting used to a different system. “
On the defensive end, the Falcons will look to perfect their positioning and play a patient game. Senior Amanda Ward and juniors Lauren Johnson and Raquel Leslie have been strong in the preseason in front of goalkeeper Nicole Papamichael. McGinnity has been impressed with the play of her senior in the cage and expects her to progress even more as the season goes on.
“A goalie needs to be agile, aggressive and vocal to her defensive teammates because she’s the one who can see the field. And she needs to be confident,” noted McGinnity. “I feel like she’s building toward that. In the short time in preseason I’ve seen a change from Day 1.”