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“Go Finish It.”

The Story of the RMHS Field Hockey State Championship
RMHS Field Hockey captains Natalie Wall, Autumn Mathews, and Myles Lakin collect the 2023 state championship trophy.

Senior Lily Stanton steals the ball from the stick of a Norwood player–it is the end of the fourth quarter in the Division II Field Hockey Championship, and tensions are high. After Norwood scored a goal at the beginning of the third quarter, the Reading Field Hockey team hustled to respond but hadn’t been able to even the score. Lily now passes the ball to senior captain Autumn Mathews who rushes it down the field. Mathews pulls the ball behind a Norwood defender, making a quick pass to sophomore Danielle Bowers who weaves through three defenders towards the goal. Bowers’ shot secures itself in the left corner of the net, whizzing past the goalie. The game is tied, and the Rockets will go into overtime.

Victory was within their grasp, yet the fight had just begun. The team gathered together on the Reading sideline preparing for the battle ahead. Concern was not a feeling among the Rockets, as this was an opportunity that they had been waiting for. Coach Taylor Reynolds reflected on past games, “We know that each quarter we get stronger, so sometimes we wish we could play a 5th quarter. I told the team that this was the 5th quarter.” The Norwood team they faced was ranked number two in the state, sitting right behind the Rockets whose strong season had positioned them at number one. With spirits high and energy low the team knew they must take advantage of this final opportunity. They took one last breath while Coach Reynolds gave her final words of wisdom: “Draw the energy and confidence from all the work we put in this season. Go finish it.”

Goalie and captain Myles Lakin walks towards the referees for the coin toss. Norwood has won and will begin with the ball. Seniors Autumn Mathews and Ava Goodwin position themselves surrounding the 50 yard line. The whistle is blown and the ball is passed down field. Overtime has begun.

Some brought the energy and spirit, some brought grit, some brought knowledge of the game and others brought endless effort.

— Coach Taylor Reynolds

“Mindset is key when entering a new season,” acknowledged Coach Reynolds. After winning the Middlesex League Championship then being eliminated in playoffs during their previous season, the Rockets were hungry for a win. “A big part of our success this season was not looking ahead too far and focusing on what we could do each day to improve and be our best,” said Reynolds.

Each practice began with a discussion of what needed to be improved upon from past games, followed by an in depth plan of the drills that would be covered that day. There were no complaints at practices according to  Mathews. “We knew we needed the intensity in order to keep us going, and there wasn’t a single person who didn’t want it.” The tight knit team knew when to balance having fun at practice with locking in on drills. “Practicing like this is the difference between tournament winning teams, and teams that fall off,” added another senior captain, Natalie Wall.

Norwood passes the ball into Reading territory. The ball is being dribbled downfield by one of the Mustang’s midfielders until it is stolen by junior Libby Quinn. She pushes it between the legs of the Norwood player, passing it off to nearby senior Caroline Gallegos. 

When thinking about the reason for their success this season, the first thing that came to Coach Reynolds mind was the senior class. “They anchor the team in all areas of the field. They step up and lead in hard moments and they work hard and lift up others around them,” Reynolds commended. Reynolds continued this praise. “This was one of the most special senior groups I have ever had the pleasure of working with. Not only did they live and breathe for Reading Field Hockey but they were strong, fierce, loyal and hard working leaders.” For some, a team of 10 seniors could prove to be difficult, but this group found a way to balance each other out. “Some brought the energy and spirit, some brought grit, some brought knowledge of the game and others brought endless effort,” shared Reynolds. “I knew from the moment they started as freshmen that this group was special.”

For many of these seniors, their time on the team was not a short one. Four of these players were chosen for the varsity team their first year of high school, marking the first time Coach Reynolds had even taken freshmen onto the team. Their veteran status has proven irreplaceable and they worked hard to lead this team to this pinnacle moment,” Coach Reynolds praised.

In an attempt to deflect a pass by Gallegos, Norwood receives a penalty; The Rockets keep the ball and take it downfield. Possession continues switching back and forth, but two crucial steals by Libby Quinn secures the ball for the Rockets. Quinn takes the ball downfield and passes to Mathews who makes an attempt at the net. 

There was already a strong connection among the team, as they had all played together before, but there was something special about this season that truly bonded them. “I swear we were with each other everyday.” recounted Mathews. “I think that our ability to mesh very well early on really helped guide us through the season.” This time together also proved to elevate their chemistry during games. “We’re a very close knit team, so our connection off the field, helped our connection on the field, which I think was evident when we played together,” shared Wall. This bond was also reinforced by the coaching staff who sought to channel it in a way that would bring the team together. While energy was low during half-time Coach Reynolds drew upon their relationship, “I always tell the team to go out and make each other look good. Work for each other. Norwood has some strong players, but we have a team.”

We knew we just had to make it to 7 on 7–then it would be our game from there…

— Natalie Wall ('24)

Again the ball is traveling up and down the field, moving back and forth between both teams. With a quick pass by Ava Goodwin to Caroline Gallegos, the Rockets are able to make a breakaway. Caroline takes the ball upfield and passes it to sophomore Kendall Graves. Graves makes a quick pass toward the left corner of the net where Mathews is prepared to score. Before a shot can be made the ball is lost in a jumble of sticks directly outside of the net.

There was no sign of giving up among the Rockets throughout the game. “When we met after Norwood scored the first goal, the team was not defeated, they were determined,” recalled Coach Reynolds. This drive carried the team through the second half of the game up to sophomore Danielle Bowers’ game saving score. “I knew once Danielle scored the first goal that we would have a little more drive, but I was nervous,” shared Mathews. The ability to keep energy up going into overtime, after 4 hard fought quarters, was something that many could not do.

“We knew we just had to make it to 7 on 7–then it would be our game from there,” stated Wall. When in overtime each team has 7 players on the field instead of the usual 11. This makes the game much more challenging as well as tiring, but it is something that the Rockets specialize in.

The Mustangs are bringing the ball upfield into Reading territory until Libby Quinn makes another amazing stop. Quinn takes possession and passes the ball downfield to Mathews. As two defenders approach her, Mathews makes a quick pass to an open Kendall Graves.

This team had three strong captains, Myles Lakin, Autumn Mathews, and Natalie Wall, all multi-year veterans on the Varsity Field Hockey Team. After a very successful season last year, the captains had big shoes to fill, and determination to do so. “We were so close last year that we had a drive to make it all the way this year,” stated Mathews. Much like their coach, the captains had agreed that they wanted to take this season one game at a time. It was crucial that they not overlook any opponent, and put their all in, throughout the season. The strong bond of the team can be much attributed to the leadership of the captains. “We all made sure to support and uplift each other, which paid off on the field,” Wall added.

Graves dribbles the ball through two defenders dragging them out to the right of the net. She passes through their sticks to the opposite side of the field where Ava Goodwin is perfectly positioned for a shot. The ball flies past the Norwood goalie into the back of the net. Goodwin and Mathews jump into the air screaming. Norwood players fall to the ground defeated with their head between their knees. The rest of the team sprints downfield falling to the ground, as they run into each other’s arms. The Rockets are state champions.

This team was composed of some of the strongest players to come through the program, many of whom gained recognition for their skills from the Massachusetts State Field Hockey Coaches Association. With a nearly perfect record, if there was one team that could do it, it was going to be them. So, with a final score of 2-1 they became the first Reading Field Hockey team to win the state championship. They had just made history. 

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