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Balance Helps Nipmuc Field Hockey to Deep Tourney Run

The Nipmuc field hockey team came into the Division II Central Sectional tournament seeded 14th and made it all the way to the semifinals, but don't call them a Cinderella team. "People were saying we were the Cinderella team, but I knew we played our game, we could compete with anybody," said head coach Bill McInnis. 
The Warriors won a preliminary round game over Tygnsboro before hitting the road to beat Blackstone Valley Tech - admittedly a short trip - and Littleton before bowing out to Lunenberg in the semis.
"It was a great year for us," McInnis said. "It will definitely show the kids and especially the underclassmen what hard work will do for you. As I coach, I know what it takes to put yourself in a position to win and I think we took on that mindset of winning one-on-one battles and staying balanced on offense and defense. It was a team effort all the time. In order for another team to score, they had to go through all 11 of us and it took all 11 of us to score a goal."
The balanced showed in the numbers. Nipmuc didn't have one dominant goal scorer, but a trio of underclassmen - Bailey Lynch, Lea Peterson, and Jill Carey - all chipped in with consistent offensive production. Sophomore Maya Ostoin also "came into her own" as a defensive stopper, McInnis said, putting in a particularly impressive performance in a late-season 0-0 tie against the Dual Valley League champions from Hopedale. Ostoin was able to keep the Blue Raiders top scorer, Lucy Murphy, off the scoreboard entirely.
"She couldn't believe how hard she had to work against Maya," McInnis said, getting his Intel from Murphy's mother, who works at Nipmuc. "Maya was always the one to confront or slow down the opposing team's counter attack. She gets into those 1 v. 1 battles and she is so confident."
Junior Rebecca Rausch made the transition from soccer to field hockey and strapped on goalie pads for the first time at McInnis's urging. The head coach, who comes from a baseball background, told Rausch playing goalie would be a lot like playing catcher in softball. 
"I told her 'you're big, you're strong, think of it as having runners on base, just don't let the ball get by you," he said. "Of course, it's a lot harder than that, but she did really well. It will be nice to have her coming back along with a lot of our pretty young defense."
Meg Mcelreath and Brittany Lunny are among the players who McInnis said stood out on the defensive end. Senior captains Sam Capalucci, Kelsey Woods, and Carley Thibodeau lead the 2015 squad with one goal in mind, making the tournament.
"It didn't matter where we were seeded, as long as we got in," McInnis said.
As it turned out, it didn't matter. Nipmuc turned the double-digit seed into a pair of road wins over higher seeded foes and a spot in the district's final four. The most memorable victory came in the first round - Nipmuc's second tournament game - when they walked across the street and beat Valley Tech.
"I think the girls really respect each other, I know I do. [Valley Tech head coach] Laurie Borek was my mentor and she knows field hockey really well, she is a class person who puts together a class program and her girls played hard," McInnis said. "Looking back on it, the atmosphere of that game was something the kids will always remember. It was a lot of fun to be a part of."




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