There are many ways to tell the story of Watertown field hockey. But all of them must devote a fair amount of ink to the 1986 state championship squad. And therefore, ail of them must discuss Lisa Berardinelli – halfback anchor of Eileen Donahue’s defense, which allowed just seven goals in twenty-three games en route to glory.
That isn’t all there is to Lisa’s story of course. She was a three-sport standout at Watertown High. On the track, she was a stellar miler and a force in the two-mile run, the discus, and the 4×440 relay, captaining the squad her senior season and earning mention as a Middlesex League All-Star. On the basketball court she started at guard, leading the 1986-87 squad to a 1 S-3 regular season record. She scored 23 points in the season finale against Belmont, clinching a tournament slot; the Raiders made it to the Division II North Sectional quarterfinals before being knocked off in a second-round nail biter.
Still, without field hockey the town would have missed a great performance by a great player for a great team. Lisa had been captain of the freshman team and a star in the Bay State Games (her squad won two gold medals and a silver in statewide competition from 1984 to ’86). Her junior year WHS made it into the state tourney, only to be knocked out in the first round. But then Coach Donahue came to town. “They didn’t know how good they were,” Donahue recalled; but under her team-oriented system, soon they – and the league, and the town – began to realize just that. With tri-captain and All-Scholastic Berardineili at halfback, providing leadership, chipping in six goals and, most crucially, shutting down opponents’ offensive sets, the Raiders turned in a 12-1-5 regular season. The only loss was to Division I powerhouse Melrose.
In the first game of the state tournament, Lisa scored the only goal in a 1-0 win over Ipswich. The Watertown Sun positively gushed as it recalled the contest: “she excelled at both ends of the field throughout the day…. When Ipswich tried to mount an attack, Berardinelli was there. When Ipswich got close to the Watertown net, Berardinelli was there. When Watertown needed to keep the ball in the Ipswich zone, Berardinelli was there. She always seemed to happen upon the scene at precisely the right moment.”
In the next round, the Raiders bumped off top seed Amesbury 2-1, and the march was on. In the semifinals, Wilmington fell 1-0; Lisa, along with Nancy Burke, was the “anchor of a stingy defense” – ditto the next time out, with a 2-0 blanking of Manchester that was not as close as its final score.
The state title game against Milton (which entered the contest 20-1-2) was one for the highlight reels. After a scoreless first half, Milton broke through late for a 1-0 lead. But with the defense holding firm, the offense kept the ball alive in the Milton zone- and with just four seconds to play, Jeannie Minelli redirected a Cathy Guden shot into history. Then, in the third overtime, Julie Mandile scored, and Watertown rejoiced. As the Watertown Press’ Bob Ford put it, the team had “an impossible dream, that by intensity and drive became the possible and realized dream.”
After graduating from WHS in 1987, Lisa went on to join the University of Massachusetts’ perennial top-ten field hockey program. The results were a little predictable, which is to say they were outstanding: in her four years, one as co-captain, UMass made it to four NCAA tournaments, gaining the Final Four in 1987 and finishing third in the nation. Lisa was named the team’s MVP to the All-Atlantic 10 tournament team, and as a regional All-American. She participated in the Olympic festival in Oklahoma City and was thrice invited to the national team selection camp.
These days Lisa is still heavily involved in field hockey, though from the bench. She served as head coach of the Northeast squad in 1997 Bay State games; and is currently coaching in the U.S. Field Hockey Association’s Futures Program. Further from 1994 to present she has rejoined Coach Donahue as an assistant coach to the Watertown field hockey program – which means she has been a part of two more state championships over those four years.
Lisa’s dedication to sport is to a common purpose; even today she will only say “I was just a team player; on Eileen’s teams there were no stars.” But that’s the way the best stories come about. That’s how you end up with, as one local scribe described that memorable season, “bloody knees, dirty faces – and smiles.”