NEWPORT–The North Country field hockey team has potential. They have fourteen seniors returning in 2011, and they have set some high goals for themselves.
"The girls are really excited," said returning coach Chantelle Bouchard, "I think they will do well, and their goal is the states."
It is a lofty goal, but not one that is unobtainable.
What must occur in order for this to happen will be the emergence of players that are ready to take their game to the next level in order to fill some pretty important shoes that were vacated by last years' departing seniors.
Only five girls were lost to graduation, but those five logged a lot of minutes, and were the heart and soul of the Falcons in 2010.
Starting from the back and moving forward, one of the toughest holes to fill will be that of departing goaltender Emma Ste. Marie. Junior Danielle Gabucci will get the nod from Coach Bouchard to take over in the nets this season, and although a veteran in the program, there are a few kinks that still need to be worked out.
"She's not new (to field hockey) but she is new to playing at the varsity level. She gets a little nervous, and we have to work on that, but she can definitely stop the ball."
On defense, the twin towers of Jane Foster and Katelyn Degesse will sorely be missed.
"It will be hard (playing without these two), but I have seen some potential, but they are definitely going to be missed, especially Katie's drives," " said the coach.
With these two gone, Allie Punt and Sam Collins are now brought to the forefront as the top defenders with the most varsity experience. Collins, who finished last year with her hand in a cast, will get a chance to showcase how well she can perform with two good hands when the season opens up next month.
The Falcons will use a 4/3 line to mount their offensive attack this season. On the wings, Lindsey Cotnoir, who as the coach puts it, "has speed to burn" , along with Melina LeMay, a senior who took last season off, will be asked to get the ball into the middle of the field to generate scoring chances.
In the middle, Kelsey O'Donnell and Molly Manning are the ones who are going to have to get the ball past opposing goalkeepers if North Country wants to be competitive, and their growth as players has not been lost on Bouchard.
"It has really been exciting watching them improve."
Finally as the Falcons get ready for next Tuesday's season opener at Rice, Bouchard believes that the maturity of a senior laden class will help them adjust and be ready for 2011.
"It will be a lot different. We are an older team, much more seasoned, and they know how to play the game."
After starting their season on the road, North Country will open the home part of their season on September 14th at 4:00 against Lyndon Institute.