Field hockey: At Chelmsford, the seeds of varsity success have been sown by a careful cultivation of talent at the grass-roots level

‘When you look at the tournament brackets, the teams with the feeder programs are usually the ones in the top 10’

Chelmsford coach Susan D’Agostino

Getting field hockey sticks into the hands of elementary school students and showing them that there is a fall sports option beyond soccer is key to both the sport at large and an individual high school.

“When you look at the tournament brackets, the teams with the feeder programs are usually the ones in the top 10,” mentioned D’Agostino.

The feeder program in Chelmsford, which D’Agostino directs in addition to her position as the head coach of the ninth-ranked Lions, has added a grade to their offerings each year for the past few years. They are currently running clinics and games for players from second grade up until high school. D’Agostino was involved with the Chelmsford youth programs even while she coached at nearby Dracut.

Chelmsford senior cocaptain Emily Stagnone (left) began playing field hockey at the youth level since fifth grade under varsity head coach Susan D’Agostino (right). “Getting to play with the recreation with the ladies that you will play with in highschool is vital,” Stagnone mentioned. Andrew Burke-Stevenson for The Boston Globe

The funding paid off. Not simplest are gamers coming to Chelmsford’s varsity squad with box hockey talents and sport revel in, additionally they know each and every different’s taking part in taste. It has paid dividends for the Lions (9-3), who’re these days 6th in the MIAA Division 1 Power Rankings.

“Getting to play with the sport with the girls that you are going to play with in high school is key,” mentioned Chelmsford senior cocaptain Emily Stagnone, who began taking part in at the early life level as a 5th grader.

That familiarity has helped create a sense of cohesion inside the crew.

“They are truly, truly supportive of each other on the field and off the field,” mentioned D’Agostino. “They want what’s best for each other. When you have that amount of positivity and unity, you are going to be successful.”

Noting the quantity of gamers that graduated from the 2021 squad, Stagnone mentioned “Everyone has stepped up and we are really working well together.”

Stagnone, who’s dedicated to play at Bentley subsequent 12 months, and fellow captain Remoré Serra, lead with “so much positivity,” mentioned D’Agostino.

Chelmsford senior cocaptain Remoré Serra (1), a UMass-Amherst commit who has been the Lions’ MVP since her sophomore year, has been described by coach Susan D’Agostino as an unselfish player. “She creates opportunities for everyone around her,” D’Agostino said. Andrew Burke-Stevenson for The Boston Globe

“But they also are members of the team. They don’t act like they are more important than anyone else.”

The UMass Amherst-bound Serra is as formidable of a player as she is a leader. She has been the Lions’ MVP since her sophomore campaign.

“She creates opportunities for everyone around her,” D’Agostino said. “That makes everyone better.”

Those opportunities have created a tight race for the team’s leading scorer, with the Lions’ 37 goals this season coming off the sticks of a wide variety of players.

“We’re very lucky to have so many players filter in and out of the offense,” D’Agostino said.

The Lions’ midfield and defense are seeing great contributions from junior Ava Balan and sophomore Jenna Nigro. Unlike her teammates, Nigro didn’t play field hockey when she was younger. Instead she played football.

Chelmsford head coach Susan D’Agostino praises and critiques her team’s play during halftime of the Lions’ Merrimack Valley Conference victory at Central Catholic on Monday.Andrew Burke-Stevenson for The Boston Globe

“There is a level of aggression from football you can’t teach,” D’Agostino said. “Having that as the heart of the defense is helpful.”

A strong defense has been crucial — Chelmsford’s schedule is one of the toughest in the state. Their wins include 1-0 shutouts of Nashoba, the 2021 Division 2 runner-up, and Concord-Carlisle, the team that eliminated the Lions from the tournament.

The Lions play three games this week, before closing out the regular season with North Andover and a huge non-league tilt against No. 7 Masconomet.

Then it will be onto the tournament and, D’Agostino hopes, a deep run into November. With a foundation of unity built upon years of playing together, the team believes anything is possible.

“This is the most positive and supportive team I’ve ever worked with, and that’s what it comes down to,” said D’Agostino. “I don’t want this season to end.”

Chelmsford coach Susan D’Agostino believes her hockey team, with a strong foundation of unity, is poised to make a deep run in the state tournament. “This is the maximum certain and supportive crew I’ve ever labored with, and that’s what it comes right down to,” mentioned D’Agostino. “I don’t want this season to end.”Andrew Burke-Stevenson for The Boston Globe

Free hits

▪ What’s in fashion this October? Pumpkin coffee, flannel shackets, and field hockey goalies with 20-plus save games.

Central Catholic’s Ava Perrotta made 30 saves last week in the Raiders’ 3-2 loss to Wachusett, and followed Monday night with a 17-save performance against Chelmsford. Also on Monday, Apponequet’s Allison Arruda made 22 saves in a 4-0 loss to Durfee.

One of the most talked about goalies of the season, Methuen’s Alex Tardugno, made 22 saves against Pentucket, one of multiple 20-plus save games she’s had this season. Speaking of the Cape Ann, Rockport’s Caitlin Moran made 23 saves in a 3-0 loss to Georgetown Friday.

▪ The regular season is drawing to a close. The cutoff for scores to be submitted to the MIAA for tournament seeding is Oct. 30th. The Division 1 Power Rankings might be the most interesting to watch in these final days of the season; Walpole held the top spot last week, but Andover reclaimed it in Tuesday’s release. Reading has taken over in Division 2, and while Watertown remains the leader in Division 3, Foxborough leapt to second. Uxbridge continues to lead Division 4.

Games to look at

Wednesday, Braintree at Needham, 4 p.m. — These two Bay State squads faced off on Sept. 7; a last-second goal from Braintree’s Callie Burchill lifted the Wamps to a 2-1 victory.

Wednesday, No. 7 Masconomet at No. 16 Danvers, 4:30 p.m. — The top spot in the Northeastern Conference is on the line. A Sept. 23 matchup on Masco’s grass field ended in a 2-2 tie, so look out for some home field advantage in Danvers’ favor as the season series moves to their turf.

Friday, No. 4 Franklin at No. 3 Walpole, 3:45 p.m. — Will a scrappy Walpole squad be the first team to procure a victory over high-flying Franklin, or will the Panthers’ potent attack prevail once again? This nonleague tilt will have huge Division I postseason implications.

Friday, No. 11 Westwood at Wachusett, 4 p.m. — The hosts are sitting pretty at No. 5 in the MIAA’s Division I Power Rankings. The Wolverines (9-3-2), the defending D2 state champion, is ranked No. 8 in Division 2.

Monday, Somerset Berkley at Durfee, 5:15 p.m. — Two of the states’ stingiest defenses face off in this nonleague battle. Both teams’ goals against marks are in the single digits, so it’s anyone’s game.

Correspondent Olivia Nolan contributed to this tale.

Kat Cornetta can also be reached at

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