State Champions, coach Eileen Donahue
Some things get old, but winning isn’t one of them. Good thing, too, because otherwise the Watertown High field hockey squad would have begun to get bored by about the middle of, say 1989. Back in 1987, the Raiders, trying to defend the state crown they had won the year before under freshman coach Eileen Donahue, actually lost three games – most bitterly in the state semifinals to Quaboag. But starting in 1988, they ran off an astonishing 77 games without a loss. That’s not a typo: 77 games, including back to back to back state championship squads in 1988, 1989, and 1990. It’s the first two of those teams – who shared a number of key personnel as well as near identical undefeated records, that will be inducted this year. They are the forebears of the state championship squads that would follow including the reigning champs of 2001.
The 1988 season began promisingly, despite the loss of ten seniors to graduation. Defending league MVP Cathy Guden, still just a junior had recovered from the broken hand that had sidelined her for the Quaboag game the previous fall and captains Kelly Khozozian and Cathy Mastroianni joined Susie Hauswirth, Sophia Geragonis, Carla lannetta, and Debbie Smith to bring senior experience to the squad. But the Raiders would rely on youth, too, especially on defense. Amy Guggina, Laurel Manzelli, Kristen McGrath, Meaghan Reilly, and Joanna Rudalevige would prove to be expert at smothering the ball before it reached standout goalie lannetta. Sophomore Lauren Khozozian proved an invaluable offensive addition. And they had their Hall of Fame coach on the sidelines, making sure that the squad was in top condition, never let up, and always played as a team.
Through that unselfish play and a lot of hard work the season began to take shape: by game twelve the Raiders were 11-0-1 and had already clinched a playoff berth. Their tenth win against Winchester was typical: a 4-0 victory sparked by two goals from Guden, one from Hauswirth, and one from Kelly Khozozian, putting 29 shots on net while allowing just seven. In a tough game against Lexington the next week the Raiders clinched the Middlesex League title, 3-1, behind two Guden goals and some nifty passing from Mastroianni and Geragonis. And in the season finale against Belmont, the Raiders got revenge for the only blemish on their record – a tie – by blanking the Marauders 1-0 as Mastroianni and Guden fed Lauren Khozozian nine minutes into the second half for the game’s only score, preserved by lannetta’s key save in the closing moments.
In the tournament Lynnfield was first up – and first down, defeated 2-0 by yet another lannetta shutout and a key insurance second-half goal by Lauren Khozozian. Then came election day – November 8 – and Amesbury. Twice Watertown took the lead, behind goals by Sandy LaVache and Lauren Khozozian. But each time Amesbury came back. The game went to overtime – and to double overtime. With just four minutes left Cathy Guden poked the ball past the Amesbury goalie with a shot the Watertown Sun likened to Bobby Orr’s famous dive. The defense, and lannetta, did the rest – and the Raiders were in the Division finals, beating Triton 2-1 and previously unbeaten Sandwich 3-2 (on another Guden goal in OT) to move to the state championship game. Their opponent? Old friend Quaboag Regional. It was time for revenge.
And revenge was sweet, all the sweeter because the game was so well-played. As Donahue said later “That’s what field hockey is all about.” The teams were evenly-matched and neither side could gain control of the fast turf at the Worcester Polytechnic field. Guden scored with 2:13 left in the first half, but the Cougars fought back hard. At times the lead looked very shaky. But as a local reporter commented, “outstanding efforts came from the entire defense – Khozozian, Rudalevige, Reilly, Smith, Geragonis, McGrath and the coaching wasn’t too shabby either.” The Girls of Autumn had arrived.