As with anything meaningful in life, winning the program’s 6th State title in 8 years wasn’t easy for the undefeated 1994 Watertown High Field hockey team, but it sure was satisfying. After losing in the state semi-finals the year before, the 9 seniors on the team were determined from day 1 to raise another banner before graduating. As a team they all bought into Coach Donahue’s mantra of “one practice at a time, and one game at a time.” The talented roster consisted of 2 key returning stars in All-Scholastic captains Bethany Rogers and Kerry Lessard, and the net-minding chores were handled by returning junior Lori Piscatelli. But after losing 8 seniors from the previous year, and having to replace 6 starters, Donahue concentrated in pre-season practice “trying to figure out who belongs where, and focusing on improving our game sense.” If the 1st four games foreshadowed anything: Reading 3-0, Stoneham 9-0, Lexington 4-0, and Woburn 5-0, it would be that the offense was powerful and diverse, and the defense was a brick wall. As Lessard blistered opposing goaltenders, Donahue began to identify her positional players. Rogers and her freshman phenom sister, Jane, began to find the back of the net on a regular basis, along with seniors Penny Fairbairn and Kendra Medville. The mid-field was patrolled by senior Meg Sullivan and junior Nicole Stark. In the win over Woburn the Red Raiders outshot the Tanners 33-2. With a 6-0 win over Burlington at the halfway mark, Watertown was 9-0, had not been scored upon, and Lessard, having already become the school’s all-time leading goal scorer earlier in the season, had scored 26, and was just 2 shy of 100 for her decorated career. To begin the second half of the season, Reading was determined to knock off its most bitter field hockey rival. Although the Rockets did manage to end the shutout streak, the undefeated season continued with a solid 4-1 thumping. Lessard scored 3 of the 4 to reach 101 in her career. This game provided a strong teaching moment for Donahue and her staff. When Reading tied the game at 1 apiece, thus scoring the 1st goal on Watertown all season, she thought of calling a time out, but decided against it. She “wanted to see how the team would react. They needed to show character.” Lessard scored 30 seconds later to break the tie. How’s that for character? It was at this point of the season that Donahue began to notice her captains’ “patience with the younger and inexperienced players, and how they picked up their level of play to support the players around them.” Lessard broke the State scoring record later in the season during an 8-0-shutout win over Winchester. Goal number 41 of the season was career number 113, breaking the Massachusetts record previously held by Walpole’s Hope Sanborn. As the regular season began to wind down, more and more players started to contribute. In an 8-0 win over Wakefield, sophomores Kyle Reilly and Julie Fantasia scored. “It was nice to see more names in the scoring department” said Donahue. “It is always good for your team when you have 6 different goal scorers.” With another shutout victory over Belmont, the 18-0 regular season was in the books. Lessard was named the Middlesex League MVP, and both Rogers sisters, along with Fairbairn and Medville were named League All-Stars. But as Donahue stated, “it was a good regular season, but that didn’t matter. The playoffs are what really count.” And wow, was she right. In their first tourney game, after allowing only 2 goals all year, the #1 seed Red Raiders trailed 9th seeded Manchester 2-0 at Victory Field just 11 minutes into the contest. The defense allowed 8 shots on net in the 1st frame, after giving up only 31 all year. But after a judicious time-out, and with an assist from Bethany Rogers, Lessard potted one before the end of the half to calm the locals, and spark the comeback. At the 13-minute mark of the 2nd half, Lessard assisted on freshman Bernadette MacDonald’s equalizer and Victory Field was buzzing. And finally, 12 minutes into the 2nd overtime, as dusk settled in, Lessard buried the winner. Game 2 of the playoffs was against Ipswich, another tenacious Cape Ann League opponent. Lessard buried 2, Piscatelli made 9 saves, and solid D from Sullivan, classmate Darlene Jigarjian, and junior Sarah Mack helped close the door for the 2-0 victory and a ticket to the North Sectional Final against perennial nemesis Georgetown. After bolting to a 2-0 lead, Watertown took their foot off the pedal, and Georgetown battled back to eventually tie the game at 2. With just 30 seconds remaining, Piscatelli faced a penalty stroke from Karrie Danilecki, the League’s leading scorer. But she read her opponent correctly and stifled the blast headed for the high right corner. It was onto OT, with Penny Fairbairn winning the game 25 minutes into extra time. Amazingly, the state semi-final match-up with Harwich, the #1 seed in the south with a 19-0-1 record, would go into OT as well. And the savior would be the talented junior Red Raiders net minder once again. “Our defense did a great job fronting them,” said Donahue. “Harwich tried a lot of crossing plays, and Lori has really learned how to be a big time player.” Watertown was outshot for the 1st time all season, 17-11. After Lessard’s 54th goal of the season gave the Red Raiders a 1-0 lead, Harwich battled back to tie it with just 7 minutes remaining. But just over 11 minutes into OT, goal number 55 by Lessard propelled the still undefeated Red Raiders to the Championship game. Not to say the title game was anti-climactic, but a 5-0 win in field hockey is pretty much a blowout, and that’s what Watertown accomplished against Quaboag. According to Lessard, the team “wanted no part of overtime! They were getting too hectic.” Her 56th (career goal #128) was the game’s first, and she got offensive help from Jane Rogers and Penny Fairbairn, who both scored twice in the win, the 18th shutout of the year. Finishing 23-0, Donahue remarked that “this team learned a lot about taking risks, never giving up, and playing with a lot of heart.” Three tournament overtime wins will do that for a team. For their season long accomplishments, Lessard and Bethany Rogers were named to the “Best of 60 Team, as well as the Globe and Herald “Super Teams,” and Donahue was named the Division 2 Coach of the Year.
Co-Captain Kerry Lessard, Co-Captain Bethany Rogers, Penny Fairbairn, Kendra Medville, Rebecca King, Darlene Jigarjian, Meg Sullivan, Chrissy Conneely, Amanda Finn, Nicole Starck, Lori Piscatelli, Michelle Deane, Sarah Mack, Kyle Reilly, Julie Fantasia, Bernadette MacDonald, Jane Rogers, Head Coach Eileen Donahue