Women’s field hockey JP II earns the team’s first win

As a bright sun disappeared behind the trees at Simpkins Field in Yarmouth, members of the St. John Paul II stormed the field to celebrate victory No. 1.

A goal from rookie Sophie Stanley, assisted by Ella Sassone and Ella Bartolomei, with 35 seconds left in the second quarter, got up behind excellent defense and goalkeepers Lili Crofford and Lylah Carli for a 2-1 victory on local rival Sturgis West on Monday.

It was a historic year for the field hockey program this fall, culminating in the first victory of the school’s first-ever year under coach Ted Guazzaloca.

“I’m delighted it was such a team effort, and the defense played was just phenomenal,” Guazzaloca said after the game. “They just went over there, we got good coverage and marked every girl green. When the game was on the line and we got that first lead, we were very determined to keep it.

St. John Paul fell behind 1-0 early before firing back to get Bartolomei’s batting equalizer.

“I really wanted this win because we worked so hard all season, and I felt we could score on this drive,” she said.

Bartolomei and Sassone teamed up to feed Stanley with the eventual winner of the match, but the team was then forced to play strong defense in the second half to preserve the win.

“All the girls gave 110 per cent in every practice, working towards that,” said junior co-captain Emily Gorsuch. “I think we really deserved (the win) because we’ve come so far. It was amazing and we were so excited.

Junior co-captain Kellyn Thayer added: “We’ve been preparing for this all season. I’ve seen this team grow since we started,” she said. “It’s amazing how much work everyone has put in and how strong we’ve become.”

Initially, St. John Paul was only supposed to release a JV team this season due to the inexperience of the freshman program. However, when Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard failed to make teams in the Cape and Islands League, the Lions were promoted to college.

“They asked us if we’d be willing to go to college this year instead. We thought, ‘Why not?'” Guazzaloca said. “The experience would be beneficial.”

Things were a little rocky at first, losing a one-sided game in their opener against mighty Monomoy before a 2-1 loss to Sturgis West, where Bartolomei scored the first goal in SJP II history on a assist from Sassone.

“It was really exciting because it was my first year playing field hockey and my first game,” Bartolomei said. “I was really focused, I saw the ball coming and I thought, ‘I know I’m going to score that goal.'”

As a freshman coach at St. John Paul, Guazzaloca has been involved in field hockey for 20 years. In 2000, he was approached by former Barnstable athletic director John Palmer to consider coaching the college field hockey team there.

“I didn’t know anything about field hockey. I had played ice hockey and (Palmer) said to me, “Come by my office, I have a field hockey stick for you, I have $25 for you, go get a book on field hockey practice and let me know what you think on Monday,'” he said.

Having previously coached football, basketball and lacrosse, Guazzaloca had never even seen a field hockey game until coaching his first game.

“I fell in love with field hockey,” he admitted. “It’s the sport I’ve coached that excites me the most.”

With 29 players showing up for the JP II first team, Guazzaloca’s philosophy from the start was to take baby steps with his fledgling squad.

“We had to start with basic skills and work on simple attacking and defensive techniques and patterns,” he said. “Every day I try to add something new and also encourage them to work on those skills at home.”

The front line consists of right winger Bartolomei; in the center, Lucy Barker, who is the team’s leading scorer; and Sassone on the left wing.

In midfield are co-captains Gorsuch and Thayer, while in defense are Alex Stampfl, the team’s only senior, as well as freshmen Maya Delancey and Erin Hatton.

Two eighth-graders who played well in goal are Lili Crofford and Lylah Carli, the time-sharing duo in the team’s first victory.

Other players on the team are sophomore Chloe Lawson, freshmen Sophie Stanley, Olivia Marchand, Maren Jones, Charlotte Sturgis and Maeve Shortt, eighth Michaela Stampfl and seventh Mia Curley.

The entire team honored their only senior Alex Stampfl in Monday’s game. The victory was the icing on the cake for her.

“It was so amazing,” Alex said after the game. “It’s so special, and we’ve worked so hard to get it.”

And for the first time this season, the Lion field hockey team left the field victorious on the scoreboard, but winners throughout the season.

“Everyone can go home now, and we’ll have sweet dreams tonight,” joked coach Guazzaloca.

Email Mike Richard at mikerichard0725@gmail.com.

Catherine J. Martinez