Porter steps up with shift back to blue line
Playing forward and defense for the Massachusetts Spitfires as a teen has proven invaluable to Rachel Porter , a senior captain on the women’s hockey team at Salve Regina University.
A Globe All-Scholastic and three-time team MVP at Franklin High, Porter was a double-digit goal scorer in each of her first two seasons at Salve Regina while skating on a forward line.
However, midway through last season, with the Seahawks short on defense, coach Mike Cox called on Porter, the team’s best offensive player, to shift back to the blue line. She transitioned into becoming the team’s best defender.
“I like playing up front and on defense, and being an impact player at either position, and that goes back to my time with the Spitfires,’’ said Porter, who holds the program’s career record for assists. “Wherever my team needs me is what’s most important, not the stats or the individual honors.’’
Cox, a Westborough resident who played hockey at Shrewsbury High and Merrimack College, said the 5-foot-5 Porter has solidified the defense and “really taken’’ to her new role.
“What’s remarkable is she’s still putting up the points,’’ said Cox, whose team is 7-5 (4-3 in the ECAC Women’s East Conference) entering the holiday break. “She can go end to end, she outlets the puck so well and she makes others around her so much better. That’s pretty remarkable.’’
At the holiday break, Porter was leading the team in scoring (3 goals, 9 assists). Sophomore right wing Sarah Markey of Ashland, who starred at Hebron Academy in Maine, was tied for second with 11 points (3 goals, 8 assists).
Last year, Porter set program records for points (33) and goals (17) in a season, while also tying the school mark with 16 assists. She was named to the ECAC Women’s East and New England All-Star teams. Her 86 career points are nine shy of the school record.
Porter played from the U-14 through U-19 levels with the Walpole-based Spitfires, and her experience benefited the Franklin High program.
“Some of the girls at Franklin had never played hockey before,’’ she said. “And I remember helping them put on their pads and jerseys and explaining the rules of the game. Skating to me then was like walking, so I give them a lot of credit.’’
Porter also deserves credit: She has battled back from foot surgery her sophomore season, and from a concussion suffered in the closing minutes of last season’s final game — a 3-2 overtime loss to visiting Castleton State in the conference tournament — when she was elbowed in the back of her head while trying to break for the net late in regulation.
“I didn’t skate until July, but I’m pretty much back to where I used to be, and after the break I’m looking forward to helping our team improve,’’ said Porter.
Markey (13 goals, 6 assists last season) is Porter’s close friend and traveling companion.
“We found out that we live about 15 minutes from one another and our families sit together at games,’’ said Porter, who envisions a career as a physican assistant.
Cox calls Markey, a recent selection as ECAC Women’s East Player of the Week, “a Brad Marchand type of player,” referring to the feisty Boston Bruins forward.
“She’ll dig in the corners and get in front of the net to cause traffic. Sarah also has the skills to back it up, which makes her tough to play against,’’ he said.
Markey played in a boys’ league at age 5, then with the Minuteman Lady Flames out of Marlborough before enrolling at Hebron, where she was a soccer captain and played varsity lacrosse as well as hockey.
A team MVP for soccer and hockey, Markey centered the first line at the Maine prep school.
“Hebron was a small school and so is Salve, which I like and I also wanted to go a hockey program where I could make an immediate impact,’’ said Markey, whose style reflects her training with her father, Tom, and older brother, Brian.
“I still play with my dad’s adult league team at the New England Sports Center when I’m home. Brian was a hockey captain at Ashland High and he taught me a lot,’’ said Markey, whose favorite hockey memory was participating in an annual hockey game at Hebron to support breast cancer research and awareness.
“It’s something not everyone gets an opportunity to do,’’ she said. Markey called Porter “an awesome captain and teammate. We’re on power play together and we read each other’s moves well.’’
Here and there
Worcester State University senior Graham Asum (Marlborough High) was named to D3football.com’s All-American third team. He averaged 31.7 yards on 30 kick returns, tops in Division 3. His 952 return yards is a New England single season record for the division.
Four years ago, Hallie Vitagliano hit a buzzer-beating half-court shot — still featured on YouTube — that lifted the Newton North girls’ basketball team to an improbable win against Newton South. Vitagliano, a three-sport athlete for the Tigers, still has the shooting eye as a reserve guard and women’s captain at Wheaton College in Norton. Vitagliano was hitting 47 percent of her field goal attempts and was 5 for 5 during her team’s victory over Mount Ida College.
Patrick Benzan of Wellesley and Ryan Sewall of Newton have been named captains of the boys’ varsity soccer team at Roxbury Latin School. Globe All-Scholastic Andrew Wheeler-Omuinu of Bellingham and goalkeeper Will O’Sullivan of Needham were captains on this year’s squad, which captured the NEPSAC Class B title.
Dennis Baker Jr., son of Bellingham High softball coach and retired athletic director Dennis Baker Sr., has been hired as softball coach at Hopkinton High.
Marvin Pave can be reached at email@example.com.