Field hockey notebook: King Philip now expects success

King Philip field hockey coach Kaitlyn Wilder wasn’t really surprised. She actually kind of called it.

With a 3-1 first-round win over No. 10 Natick as the 23rd-seed in the Div. 1 state tournament last year, the then first-year Warriors coach knew heading into the second round there was a lot she could count on from her top players.

No, she didn’t predict rallying twice in the second half to eventually overcome sixth-seeded Bishop Feehan in overtime, 4-3, and advance again. She didn’t even necessarily predict a win at all – a 23-seed beating a six is quite the upset.

But for star midfielder Kelly Holmes to be the one who tied the game at 2-2 in the third quarter, and 3-3 in the fourth? Both on corners?

Yeah, Wilder spotted something like that coming.

“(How the Natick game ended) was one of the things for me where it was, ‘OK, (Holmes is) ready,’” Wilder said. “She basically called game (against Bishop Feehan). … She wanted it. And they knew it was going to her, but she wanted it.”

It was the most fun game fellow star Mara Boldy said she’s ever been a part of in any of her three sports, a memory that teammate Abby MacDonald’s game-winner prevented from spoiling. The joys of advancing twice despite the rankings suggesting it won’t happen even once is quite the elation, especially when it gives the program just its second trip to the state quarterfinals over the past 15-plus years.

That unit accomplished a lot, underdog or not. But with Holmes, Boldy and a bevy of other key players still on the team this year, the journey they started didn’t end with their 4-1 loss to eventual state champion Andover in the Elite Eight.

Don’t call it a Cinderella story – but instead a breakout.

“Going into this year, where we ended (and) knowing the group we had coming back, we felt very confident with them,” Wilder said. “You always want to ride on that momentum. Yes, there are some times, when you end, it is with a sour taste. But when you end in a good note (like we did), you always are looking forward to that start again.”

Now seniors, Holmes and Boldy lead an experienced group in a good position to build on last year’s successes when the state tournament starts this week. The year didn’t come without individual accolades, as Boldy scored her 50th goal in the second-to-last week of the regular season, and Kelly tallied her 100th point in the regular season finale

Together, alongside fellow senior captains Nikki McDonald (midfield), Bridget King (defender) and Meg Dowling (forward), they’ve led the team to a 14-4 record entering Sunday’s cutoff date. Holmes has over 40 points this season, while Boldy has over 30. Makenzie McDevitt and Ella Morgan have been critical scorers around them by combining for 40 goals, while MacDonald, Addison Lewis and defender Caitlin O’Brien have also played big roles.

Only one of their losses is by more than a goal, and all four (Franklin twice, Uxbridge, Foxboro) have been to legitimate title contenders in their respective divisions. They even lost 5-4 to Uxbridge, which shut out Div. 1 state title favorite Walpole, and beat Div. 1 contenders Bishop Feehan and Acton-Boxboro convincingly.

“I feel like because a lot of our team was here last year, we kind of know what it’s like and what it takes to make it to the point that we did,” Boldy said. “So having people with that experience, but also having a lot of younger girls who kind of just want to have it too – hearing our experience, how much fun we had – it’s kind of fueling them to pick up their game and kind of meet us where we left off.”

Holmes and Boldy have left a remarkable impact on the program in the meantime. Holmes’ playmaking and versatile skill in any position pairs well with Boldy’s scoring touch, which they’ve shown off together as starters since their sophomore year – Holmes since freshman year.

They’ve been teammates since they started youth sports in ice hockey and lacrosse, and that love has only transferred over into field hockey. Passing on what they loved about the game and the program is quite meaningful to especially Boldy, and she’s enjoyed her role the last few years.

“Just seeing how strong everyone else is, knowing that we’re kind of helping lead that,” Boldy said. “I feel like it’s definitely just – being one of the leaders on the team is just a great honor because everyone else is so great too.”

But the message shared with all the seniors so far has been that there’s still a lot of time left amongst one another. It’s not over yet. And it seems as the No. 12 seed in the latest MIAA power rankings, they might have to lead another underestimated postseason to prove they belong with the best.

Nobody is shying away.

“I hope we win,” Boldy said. “It’s going to be tough, it’s going to be tiring. But I think if we just stay true to ourselves and our love for the game, and keep going, we can go as far as that takes us.”

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