First-year Austin Prep Cougars coach Stephanie Wood knew that pulling off a win at the No. 4-ranked Hingham Harbormen’s home rink wouldn’t be easy. But Wood’s young team upset an experienced Harbormen squad Saturday night.
“We know that Hingham is a tough team,” Wood said. “They’re a lot more experienced. We’re playing bigger, stronger, more experienced girls, but our younger players aren’t afraid to challenge them.”
The No. 14 Cougars came ready for a battle, and eighth-grader Michaela Boyle got the Cougars (6-3-3) off to a flying start in the first period with an early goal.
“She’s a tough competitor, she’s strong physically and has tremendous offensive ability,” said Wood. “Having her [for four more years] is a huge positive for us.”
Wood’s young team, which includes 15 underclassmen and just five upperclassmen, put together a strong defensive display, too. Then Boyle scored another goal on a power play late in the third period to ice the win.
The youth of the team excites Wood, who is in her first season as the Cougars’ coach.
“It’s a good thing for the direction of the program,” she said. “Some of our younger players have flourished as the season goes on, and they aren’t afraid to challenge other juniors and seniors.”
Thankfully for the Cougars, the team has been learning from the leadership of goaltender Shannon O’Neil.
“Shannon has been the absolute backbone of the team,” Wood said. “The team knows when she’s on her game, she’s really hard to beat.”
Wood’s favorite part of her senior goalie’s game is the way O’Neil plays when the game’s on the line.
“She seems to thrive under pressure,” said Wood. “She made some big-time saves down the stretch.” O’Neil recorded 37 saves in her sixth shutout of the season and will attend Franklin Pierce University this fall to play hockey.
At the beginning of the season, Wood knew changes had to be made in her first year at Austin Prep. The first goal she set at the beginning of the season with her team was clear.
“We wanted to end the two-year playoff drought,” she said. “We need three more wins to qualify for the playoffs, but we’re trying to get the highest seed possible.”
And to Wood, the most exciting part of the season is still to come for her team that benefits and learns from each game.
“We still have nine games left,” she said.
Several reporters and editors contribute updates, news and analysis to the High School Sports Blog.
- Bob Holmes: A Reading resident (Go Rockets!) and Boston College graduate, Holmes is the Boston Globe High School Sports Editor. We remind you now that his weekly picks are often made in jest so everyone just calm down when he picks against Everett for 11 straight weeks. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeHolmes.
- Craig Larson: A native of West Springfield (Leo Durocher anyone? Tim Daggett?) and Curry College graduate (a proud Colonel!), Larson is the sports editor for the Globe's regional sections: South, West and North, as well as a frequent contributor on the college beat. Abington to Xaverian: it all starts with the schools. Have a compelling story idea? Contact him at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeLars.
- Zuri Berry: Berry attended the same high school as sports legends O.J. Simpson and Joe DiMaggio. (Guess which one is his hero.) He's a South Boston resident (formerly of Eastie) and the editor of the High School Sports blog as well as the go-to-guy for everything high school sports on Boston.com. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @GlobeSchools for all of the latest updates.
Then there are our fall correspondents:
- Anthony Gulizia | @gulizia_a | Div. 1 football
- Eric Russo | @erusso22 | Div. 2 football
- Stephen Sellner | @stephen_sellner | Div. 3 football
- Andrew MacDougall | @Andy_MacDougall | Div. 4 football
- Greg Joyce | @GJoyce9 | Div. 5 football
- Lorenzo Recupero | @LorenzoRecupero | Div. 6 football
- Liz Torres | @etorres446 | Girls volleyball
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