By BOB YORK –
Through the first two months of its 2012 campaign, the word “awesome” had become synonymous with the Deerfield Academy field hockey program. It owned a 10-2-1 record and had already secured an invitation to postseason play for the 19th time in its 23 years of existence.
Then, the Big Green ran into some turbulence – in the form of Hurricane Sandy. “The result being that we were forced to cancel three of our last four games,” said coach Kristen Veiga of a 15-day layoff that took her team out of competitive play from Oct. 26 to Nov. 10. “And that’s a long stretch, especially when you’re preparing to head into tournament play.
In Deerfield’s case, it proved to be too long a layoff. It would return to action on the final day of the regular season and drop a 4-2 decision to a Choate team that the very next day would receive a fifth seed in the upcoming tournament. Deerfield, meanwhile, which now stood at 10-3-1 would earn a seventh seed and be in the unenviable position to take on second-ranked Greenwich Academy in first-round play. Unfortunately for Deerfield, the Gators had a date with destiny this fall, as they bounced the Big Green big time in the opener, 7-0, then ended up snapping a 10-year title run by Hotchkiss via a 2-1 final-round victory in overtime.
“This was a special team,” said Viega, who owns a 20-9-2 record through two years as the squad’s head coach. “We only had five seniors on this year’s team, so although we went 10-5-1 last year, I feel as though we exceeded expectations this season because of some great senior leadership … especially from Kelsey Gallagher (13) and Louisa Hanson (13) … and some outstanding play from many of our younger players. The big thing is that we put together a solid effort during the regular season and earned another tournament berth.”
This was a team roster that was cut into quarters: five seniors, five juniors, five sophomores and six freshmen, so three quarters of them return and half of them already have 20 victories under their belts.
“It’s exciting about what we have going on here,” said Viega, whose team outscored its opponents by a better than 2-1 margin during the regular season. “We’ve got a great blend of youth and experience and talent and we’re hoping we can continue to get some new faces in here every year to continue to build on this success we have had.”
Mettler Growney (13), who received this year’s Deerfield Hockey Cup as the team’s Most Valuable Player, is one of those key contributors who won’t be around next season as she capped off her four-year career with the Big Green by leading it in scoring with 19 points on 15 goals and four assists. Lucy Lytle (15) will be on the scene for two more years, however, as the talented sophomore was second in scoring with 11 goals and five assists for 16 points. She now has 21 points in two years, having netted three goals and two assists as a freshman. Emily Yue (16), meanwhile, helped out with the scoring with three goals and a pair of assists for five points.
While the Growney-Lytle combo was accounting for nearly two of every three goals the Big Green scored this season, down at the other end of the field, a young freshman phenom goaltender by the name of Katherine Heaney allowed no more than one goal in 10 of 13 regular-season games. In all 13 games, she gave up just 13 goals for a 1.00 goals against average, with five shutouts and five one-goal games. Julia Hamilton (14) was one of the big keys on defense.
While the Big Green outscored its opponents by a commanding 42-12 advantage this season, that didn’t mean they were void of any close encounters. Deerfield knocked off Taft, 2-1, on goals by Kate Swindell (14) and Lytle and bested Westminster by the same score on a pair of Mettler Growney tallies. And, thanks to second-half scores by Elizabeth Growney (16) and Lytle, Deerfield battled back from two goals down to tie Andover, 2-2.