Cohesive captains have been key for Shrewsbury's red-hot field hockey program

Shrewsbury's Lexi Kent has been a key cog in making sure the Colonials have stayed atop the elite field hockey programs in the area.
Shrewsbury's Lexi Kent has been a key cog in making sure the Colonials have stayed atop the elite field hockey programs in the area.

SHREWSBURY — Fourth-year Shrewsbury field hockey coach Courtney Lavin, recalling and respecting the Colonials' rich reputation in all sports, knew she had big shoes to fill when she took the job.

Fast forward to the present, and with an eye towards Shrewsbury's red-hot start, and it becomes abundantly clear that the fit has been a good one.

"This team has exceeded my expectations far beyond what I could have imagined," Lavin said. "Coming into the program, I realized it would be a big undertaking in the sense that the school is known for having great athletic programs, great athletes, great coaches, supportive staff, and incredibly committed and supportive families and community. I felt it was my responsibility to put forth my best in developing a strong field hockey program; one that would stand out and hopefully one day be one of the best in our league, in Central Mass. and in the state."

"And I truly feel as if we have been making progress toward these goals each year," Lavin added. "However, this wouldn't be possible without the trust, commitment, hard work, and dedication put forth from each player and their families."

The Colonials' fast start, their best under Lavin, is basically a continuation of a good thing. Last year, Shrewsbury won the Central Mass. Tournament and later finished eighth in the state. Prior to that, the Colonials finished second in their pod during the COVID-19 season.

No matter what the year, Lavin doesn't take any shots or make any defensive stops. Instead, she's on the sidelines with assistant coach Kylian Kelly, shouting instructions and encouraging her athletes on. And Lavin is aware that it starts with those athletes.

"The best part about this program is the young women that I get to coach every day, and in my mind, this is a team like no other," Lavin said. "Not only are they talented athletes, but they are also incredible people. They dedicate so much of their free time off the field to bonding with each other and creating friendships. They respect one another, they communicate, and they support one another. They are selfless and share a mutual love for the game. All this transitions into positive results on the field."

Wachusett's Kate Louder battles Shrewsbury's Olivia Connolly, right, for control of a loose ball during a game last season.
Wachusett's Kate Louder battles Shrewsbury's Olivia Connolly, right, for control of a loose ball during a game last season.

The Colonials get good production from all their players, with senior captains Maddie Mrva, Lexi Kent, Olivia Connolly, and Taylor Ryder leading the way. Each captain has a good take on the team's effort to date and each is well aware that field hockey at Shrewsbury is more than just whacking a ball and running up-field.

"I think part of our fast start can be traced to our team culture," center-midfielder Mrva said. "We work well together, as a team, on and off the field. We have a lot of pasta parties, and we also do other things as a group, and I think that really brings us together when we're on the field. This helps improve our team chemistry, too, and that's very important in field hockey."

With the chemistry situation in good shape and the talent in good supply, the Colonials can confidently insert a ritual or two into their pre-game endeavors.

"The day before a game, we'll have a pasta party at somebody's house and this often consists of some bread, some pasta, some juice and chocolate milk," Mrva said. "Before a game, we have this chant (and a dance that loosens the players up) that we made up last year. All four captains sing, and the rest of the team repeats after us. We also have a victory chant that we sing on the bus. And we're good – we have great vocals."

On the field, Mrva is all business and is effective both offensively and defensively. A four-year player, Mrva is committed to play field hockey at Bowdoin College. She plans to study economics.

"We've had some big games and that includes wins over Nashoba Regional, Wachusett Regional, Marlborough, and Grafton," left forward Kent said. "We're playing well. This team exemplifies the strength of unity. We have a real strong passing game and that reflects our chemistry. Our defensive line, midfield line and forward line are all strong. We do a great job transitioning and we get the ball up-field well."

"But we can definitely get better and that's why we're working hard at each practice," Kent added. "You have to keep working on things like communication, passing and agility, and to just be in shape on the field. It's really important for us to be first to the ball, and that is what gives us that competitive edge."

Kent plays field hockey because she enjoys being active. She got started because she and friends didn't want to run cross country. But she added, with a laugh, that field hockey involves plenty of running.

"This year is a little different than last year, as we started slow then," center defender Connolly said. "But then we had like 10 wins in a row and did well in the postseason, and really came together as a team. And good things continue this year. We're all very united and we stick to the team approach. There are no individuals on this team. Passing and communicating are two big keys."

"I just love playing this sport," Connolly added. "There is nothing like being out there on the field during a game. I also play lacrosse and I like it, but field hockey is my favorite."

All the captains are optimistic that the Colonials will continue to improve as the season grinds on.

"We lost our last game (to Andover), but it was a really hard-fought contest," Ryder, a forward, said. "We had opportunities to score – we just were unable to finish. But we'll bounce back – we've got good players and we're resilient."

Ryder, a two-year varsity field hockey player, is a three-sport athlete who also plays ice hockey and lacrosse. She is a captain in ice hockey.

"Although we've started the season very strong, there is still quite a bit of field hockey to be played," Lavin said. "We're in a tough league with teams that have very successful field hockey programs, extremely talented players and accomplished coaches."

"Our goals are simple – take it one game at a time, respect our opponents, celebrate our accomplishments and always continue to look for areas of growth," Lavin added. "Focus on making sure we play Shrewsbury field hockey any time that we step on the turf and appreciate the time we spend together."

Contact Craig Holt at

This article originally appeared on Telegram & Gazette: Cohesive captains have been key for Shrewsbury's red-hot field hockey program