Quaboag Regional drillmaster John O’Neill encourages his players and acceptance to “make every obstacle an opportunity.”
It’s one of his admired adorning quotes, and he has witnessed proudly as this year’s bristles seniors, Paisleigh Atwood, Abby Bouchard, Hannah Martin and Darian Shepherd, as able-bodied as Josh Gray, the team’s administrator of operations, accomplished its message.
“Of all the teams we’ve had,” said O’Neill, who is in his 37th season, “this accumulation has apparent a lot of altered things. They’ve affected some obstacles, and they’ve abstruse to handle them in a complete and developed way.”
The seniors were freshmen in 2017, and on the night of Nov. 7 that year, they should accept been adulatory the Cougars’ affecting 3-2 win over Littleton that propelled them to their additional beeline Central Mass. Division 2 final. Instead, they were aching the deaths of three schoolmates, Lena Noonan, Christian Congelos and Jaclyn Desrosiers, who were dead in a car blow beforehand that day.
“It was alarming for Quaboag,” Martin said. “It larboard its mark on us and fabricated us stronger as a team.”
O’Neill and the seniors accept reflected on the tragedy often, abnormally as the three-year ceremony approaches, and the aggregation has faced altered challenges this division due to the pandemic.
“We can bethink every additional of that night,” O’Neill said, “which led to area we are today and how the communicable has adequate these kids so much. They accept been able and resilient. Through it all, they accept been able to smile, amusement anniversary added with respect, breeding our adolescent kids and leave their mark actuality at Quaboag, which is so actually amazing.”
The Cougars won their aboriginal three amateur this division afore falling to Leicester, 1-0, on Tuesday.
Quaboag accomplished 4-12 in 2019 to column the aboriginal accident almanac in O’Neill’s illustrious career, which has included three accompaniment championships.
“Things are activity good, and we’re accomplishing a lot bigger than we did aftermost year,” said Shepherd, who has denticulate a team-high seven goals. “The masks accomplish it difficult, and aggregate is different, but I feel like our aggregation is absolutely advancing calm and administration all of the challenges. It’s allowance us abound as a team.”
Shepherd and Bouchard are sixth-year varsity players, Atwood has been on varsity back she was an eighth grader and Martin back she was a freshman. They accept all contributed to the program’s abundant tradition, and their administration as captains this year has been important for their adolescent teammates.
“I anticipate all of us accept been absolutely able arch the team,” Bouchard said, “and I anticipate it’s absolutely important for the adolescent kids to see the earlier kids set the archetype and chase that.”
The Cougars acclaimed Senior Day aftermost anniversary with a 3-0 win over Tantasqua.
“Our teammates did such an amazing job,” Atwood said. “We apperceive any bold could be our last. With the communicable aggregate could aloof stop, so we use that as motivation.”
The Cougars accept six amateur remaining.
“These (seniors) accept a lot of experience,” O’Neill said. “They’ve won games, some big games, and been allotment of some absolutely acceptable tradition. Then they had aftermost year, and they’ve accomplished some activity acquaint forth the way. The animation of these kids — they’ve absolutely stood alpine throughout this accomplished affair and sometimes we balloon that as adults.”
An ‘extra coach’
Gray has done a admirable job as Quaboag’s administrator of operations, a position that began as “team manager” and O’Neill acquired over the years.
During games, Gray keeps the scorebook and, at home games, operates the scoreboard. At practice, he helps run drills and balmy up the goalies, amid added tasks.
“Josh is so active,” O’Neill said. “It’s like accepting an added coach.”
Gray plays for O’Neill on the boys’ tennis aggregation at Quaboag. He is in his fifth division as acreage hockey’s administrator of operations, and is actual abundant allotment of the team.
“I feel actual included,” Gray said. “We’re a close team. It’s added of a family. Even admitting I’m not a player, there’s no absolute difference. The alone aberration is I’m not on the field.”
—Contact Jennifer Toland at firstname.lastname@example.org. Chase her on Twitter @JenTandG.
This commodity originally appeared on Telegram & Gazette: Acreage hockey: Quaboag seniors appearance animation in final season
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