Shaunessy Saucier grew up playing field hockey in Maine, first at Old Town High and then at the University of Maine. Then she coached at UMaine.

Now in her second season as head coach at Bryant University in Smithfield, R.I., she’s tapping into her roots to help the program continue its move from Division II to Division I.

“It was hard enough for me to leave Maine,” said Shaunessy. “I had to take some of it with me.”

That would be her four freshmen: forward Kayleigh Ballantyne of Gorham and the Hancock triplets, Mallory, Makayla and Megan, from Skowhegan.

“I’m thrilled with them,” said Saucier. “They’re all working hard and that’s very important for us. I really think that’s the key for us in our transition to Division I, we have to have kids who want to work.

“When we’re playing teams that are more skilled than us, and have a longer tradition in Division I, we have to work hard and play with a lot of heart.”

Mallory Hancock has started every game at forward and has one assist. “She’s smart, a great defending forward,” said Saucier.

Ballantyne, playing anywhere from the midfield to forward, “plays with a lot of intensity.”

Makayla Hancock is a back and has become a steady defender. (“She makes big plays and kind of lights our fire.”)

Megan Hancock, meanwhile, is just returning from a foot injury and will be playing in goal soon.

“I think we all know where our places are on the team,” said Ballantyne. “We encourage each other to do our best and we all help each other through the hard times.”

And there have been tough times. The Bulldogs have started 2-9 and none of the freshman are used to losing. The Skowhegan trio was part of three Class A state championship teams.,

“We’re getting there,” said Makayla Hancock. “I think the first couple of games, we had more goals scored on us than we had in our entire high school career. But I’ve talked to a lot of people from Skowhegan who have gone on to play in college and it’s a lot similar to them.

“They weren’t used to losing, but they lost too. Everyone keeps telling me it will get better.”

Bryant actually played in Orono earlier this fall and, Makayla Hancock said, it was emotional for them.

“The trip to Maine was like heaven,” she said. “When we crossed the bridge to enter Maine, I had tears in my eyes.”

The four Mainers are all experiencing the same challenges.

“You have to definitely push yourself and be mentally challenged,” said Ballantyne. “It’s definitely tough. You have way more of a work load and you really have to manage your time with field hockey. It can be done.”

As far as field hockey goes, the four Mainers feel they were adequately prepared coming in. They played on two of the top field hockey programs in the state and participated in U.S. Futures programs, as well as their travel teams.

“I knew coming in it would be different,” said Ballantyne. “In high school I had started since my freshman year. Division I is totally different. You have to push yourself very hard. I don’t start, but I knew I wouldn’t. I do play a lot and in practice I work my butt off to make the starting team.

“Having the Skowhegan girls helps a lot. I can talk to them and when we’re on the field we click pretty good. It’s nice having them here.”

And Saucier said she plans on bringing more Mainers down I-95.

“She likes her Maine,” said Ballantyne.

CROSS COUNTRY

Keene (N.H.) State College freshman Nikki Leeman of Round Pond (Lincoln Academy) finished 23rd in the 16th annual Keene State College Invitational last Saturday. She covered the 5-kilometer course in 21:13.

In the men’s race, Owls freshman Ryan Widzgowski of Camden (Camden Hills) finished 15th on the five-mile course in 27:03.

Bentley University sophomore Craig Robinson of Scarborough finished 27th in 25:45.7 in the recent Greater Louisville Classic. He was the third Bentley finisher.

FIELD HOCKEY

Plymouth (N.H) State University’s Annabelle Frenette of Old Orchard Beach was named the Little East Conference Rookie of the Week. She scored three goals in two games and, after nine games, had scored six goals on the season. Frenette is joined on the Panthers by three other freshmen from Maine: forward Jackie Morin of Scarborough (four goals, two assists), midfielder Natalie Harkins of Windham (three goals) and back Alyssa Audet of Biddeford (Cheverus).

Keene State senior Meghan Ledoux of Standish (Bonny Eagle) was named the LEC Goalkeeper of the Week. She had two shutouts and stopped all 11 shots she faced.

University of Massachusetts freshman defender Hannah Prince of Gorham has played the third-most minutes (697) for the 4-6 Minutemen.

Freshman forward Hilary Bouchard of Wells has one assist for 1-7 Rivier College.

FOOTBALL

Senior defensive back Jordan Fields of Biddeford is starting at Endicott College and has 19 tackles (13 unassisted). He’s joined on the Endicott roster by junior running back Topher Pochebit of Portland (Cheverus), freshman quarterback Stefan Jensen of Brunswick and freshman offensive lineman Alex Gatzogiannis of Wells.

MEN’S SOCCER

Senior goalkeeper Brian Pearsall of Sanford has a 1.71 goals-against average in eight games for 5-5 Wentworth Institute of Technology. He has made 50 saves. Pearsall is joined on the Leopards’ roster by senior forward Jesse Paolella of Portland (one assist), senior back Anthony Berntsen of Portland and sophomore midfielder Richie Harvey of Standish (Bonny Eagle).

Senior midfielder Todd Shigo of Naples (Lake Region) has two assists for 4-3-1 Stonehill College.

Sophomore midfielder Amory Houghton of Cape Elizabeth has three goals and two assists for 8-1 Franklin Pierce. He was recently named to the Northeast-10 weekly honor roll.

WOMEN’S SOCCER

Clark University grad student Joanna Clark of Windham was recently named the New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference Player of the Week. She went 1-1 with four saves in a shutout of nationally ranked Wheaton.

TENNIS

Gettysburg (Pa.) College sophomore Kelsey Boyce of Arrowsic (Morse) had a win in both singles and doubles as the Bullets defeated Shippensburg recently. Playing No. 3 doubles, she and her partner had an 8-1 win. Boyce won her No. 6 singles match, 6-0, 6-2.

 

Staff Writer Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or at:

[email protected]