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TMHS Field Hockey Team Looks To Keep Its Streak Alive

Coach Pat Ryser must replace 10 graduating seniors if the Redmen are to return to the state tournament for the 15th straight year.

When you've been around has, rebuilding seasons are nothing new.

The veteran Tewksbury High field hockey coach, who is entering her 16th season at the helm of the Redmen, has led her team to 14 straight MIAA state tournament appearances, regardless of who has graduated the year before.

This year, however, Ryser's task maybe tougher than usual. TMHS boasts only two returning senior starters, co-captains and Sarah Hogan, and the list of graduates is long and impressive.

In particular, two names from the field hockey team's Class of 2011 stand out. Ally Greene and Leanne Tucker both left legacies as two of the best athletes ever to play at Tewksbury High. Greene was a Merrimack Valley Conference all-conference selection in three different sports; field hockey, track and softball last year. She now attends UMass-Lowell where she will play softball.

Tucker, also a field hockey all-conference selection, claimed most of her glory on the track. The school record holder in the 800-meter run, Tucker earned High School All-America honors in 2010, finishing sixth in the nation at the New Balance Nationals. Tucker holds five different school records in indoor and outdoor track. She will run track for Villanova University this year.

"Those are two big losses, that's for sure," Ryser said. "They were both great all-around athletes with excellent speed."

In addition to Greene and Tucker, Tewksbury graduated eight other seniors including Lauren Andella, Shelby Madore, Carolyn Phaneuf, Ali Russell, Michelle Tully, Brianna Budryk, Christina Tamboli and Liz Connolly.

But finding players to fill big shoes is nothing new to Ryser, she's seen players like Sammy Macy and Lauren DiCredico graduate in recent years.

"Every year it seems like we lose one or two that were outstanding," Ryser said. "But every year some others come up."

Liggiero and Hogan top this list of potential stars this fall. Liggiero, a midfielder, is a three-sport star, having lettered in basketball and started in center field for the softball team last year. Hogan, a back, is an accomplished sprinter on the TMHS indoor and outdoor track teams.

"Those two give us a lot of speed," Ryser said. "We're hoping to build around them."

Junior goaltender Rachel Pendleton, who started last year as a sophomore, also returns, as do seniors Natalie Bourne (forward) and Adriana Brown (midfield), who both saw significant playing time last year.

Ryser will also be looking for several juniors to play an expanded role, including backs Nicole DiPierro, Abby Donoghue and Nicole McKenna. Promising newcomers to the varsity include a strong group of sophomores led by Kelsie Bradley, who should start at forward, and Hayley Sutherland, who earned a varsity letter last fall as a freshman. Sophomores Taylor Lirakis (back), Ashley Kelly (forward), Cassie Russell (forward) and Bridget Casey (mid) will also compete for playing time.

"I think we have some very good athletes and I think we have some speed," Ryser said. "Those things will be our strength."

As usual, Chelmsford and Andover will provide the toughest competition in the MVC. The Redmen open their season Tuesday afternoon at Bedford in their only non-league game of the year. Tewksbury opens its MVC schedule with a Sept. 12 night game at Andover.

 "The goal is the same as always -- to make the tournament," Ryser said. "I told them that, even if you don't have as much skill as the other team, if you play smart and play hard it can get you pretty far."

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