McSweeney ranks among elite goalies

As a freshman at Acton-Boxborough Regional High School, Shannon McSweeney did not hesitate in choosing a position when she tried out for the junior varsity field hockey team.

“I had been a softball catcher and I figured if I could keep a ball from hitting the backstop, I’d have a good chance of keeping one out of the goal,” recalled McSweeney, who as a sophomore at Brown University this fall has emerged as one of the nation’s elite goalies in Division 1.

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Entering Saturday’s season finale against visiting Yale, McSweeney was the national leader at 10.94 saves per game, and also ranked 9th with a .792 save percentage.

A two-sport captain at Phillips Academy in Andover, she also has set a Brown single-season record with 175 saves. Fourteen of them came in a memorable 4-3 double-overtime victory over Cornell, Brown’s first Ivy League win since the 2010 season.

“After we scored the game winner, a lot of thoughts go through your head. It’s extremely exciting, the greatest feeling in the world to get your first league win in two years, but especially fighting so hard with your teammates to do it,’’ said McSweeney, a Boxborough resident.

She followed that performance with a career high 22 saves in the Bears’ 2-1 dispatching of Rutgers on Oct. 21 and was named the league’s Player of the Week.

McSweeney backstopped Brown (6-10, 1-5 Ivy) to a third straight win Oct. 24 with her first career shutout, 4-0, against Holy Cross, and then stood tall in defeat last Sunday with 18 saves in a 2-1 overtime loss to Penn.

“Shannon has a young backfield in front of her and she sees a lot of shots, but her steadiness and maturity have kept us in games. She’s been a huge part of all our wins because she consistently rises to the occasion,’’ said Brown’s second-year head coach, Jill Reeve.  

“Beating Cornell and Rutgers was a huge challenge for her and for our team, which rallied around her.’’

McSweeney repeated her freshman year after shifting from Acton-Boxborough to Phillips Andover, where she was a four-year starter in field hockey and softball. She had 36 career shutouts to help lead the private school to the NEPSAC Class A semifinals three times, and to the quarterfinals once.

Reflecting on her freshman year at Brown, when the team had four wins, she said, “I think I made more saves last season than in my four years at Andover. But it was still a lot of fun. I had the opportunity to improve and see a lot of action.’’

Last season, she earned All-Ivy honorable mention and received Brown’s Outstanding Rookie Award.

“It’s a lot different this year,” she said. “We’re an improving team, I’m stronger and quicker, and I’m more comfortable communicating with our D-backs.’’

A five-time National Futures Championship selection by USA Field Hockey and a member of the 2010 U-19 Olympic Development Select squad that toured Argentina, McSweeney also played seven seasons with the Cape Ann Coalition club team.

McSweeney, who worked at Phillips Andover over the summer as an office intern and kept in shape at the school gym, plans to try out in the spring for USA Field Hockey’s high-performance team, made up of current and former collegians who play against each other on regional squads.

Natick Racquet teams bring home US titles

A pair of women’s teams based at the Natick Racquet Club captured US Tennis Association national championships last month, in the open and senior 4.5 divisions.

The open team, captained by one of the club’s teaching pros, Erin Reeves of Framingham, wrapped up its title Oct. 28 in Tucson. Its five matches included a semifinal win over Southern California, and the championship decision over Eastern-Metro, from the New York-New Jersey area.

The senior team (50 and older) won its championship a week earlier in Palm Springs, Calif.

The teams earned berths in the national finals by winning their New England sectional tournaments.

Area players on the open team included Davida Dinerman of Ashland, Gail Warden of Sherborn, Alison Albers of Wellesley, Needham residents Maureen Sumner and Hope Pascucci , Janet Khaemba of Framingham, and Brookline resident Katie Pasciucco, who was 5-0 for the tournament in singles.

The senior team included Warden, captain Sue Corey (Newton), Ann Knoblock (Sudbury), Judy Fledderjohn (Sherborn), Brenda Schafer (Southborough), Jean Osachuk (Belmont), and Sheila Weinstock (Framingham), the manager and a teaching pro at the Natick club.

The seniors also won five matches, with Schafer-Warden and Knoblauch-Osachuk going undefeated in the all-doubles format, en route to the national title.

Here and there

Kelly McGowan , who founded the Bentley University women’s lacrosse program and was the Waltham school’s field hockey coach from 1995 to 2008, is among 12 inductees to the New Agenda: Northeast Hall of Fame. The 25th anniversary ceremonies honoring women in sports will be held Sunday from 1 to 3 p.m. at Newton’s Woodland Golf Club. McGowan was a four-time Northeast-10 Conference Coach of the Year, and NCAA Division 2 Coach of the Year in 2001 when Bentley won the national championship.

Endicott College senior captain Ashley Norley of Sudbury has been honored as the Commonwealth Coast Conference Libero of the Year. Prior to the conference volleyball championships, she had played in 137 career matches and ranked second in the CCC in digs.

Another Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High graduate, former soccer All-American Cole DeNormandie, is the leading scorer for the men’s team at the University of Cincinnati. Entering the Big East postseason tournament, he had three goals (including two game winners) and four assists, and was recently honored as the conference’s Player of the Week.