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GROTON — Mary Ruggles has added an infectious enthusiasm during her first two seasons as coach of the Groton-Dunstable field hockey team, and the fortunes of the program have been on the upswing. Despite graduation losses that cost the services of talented Crosby Enright, Kasey Pelletier, Breezy Riposa and Megan Johnson, the forward progress should continue in the 2010 season.

“We hope to continue off the positive momentum that we built toward the end of last season,” said Ruggles. “We are playing like a team and have shown a lot of cohesiveness. I like the offensive capabilities that we have at midfield and forward, and the attitude of the girls and the chemistry of the team is excellent. The girls are playing hard and having fun.”

At midfield, two of the starting berths are set with senior captain Marisa Benson in the center and junior Erika Eipp on the left, while the right side is a three-way battle among seniors Mary Killian and Emily Kmetz, and freshman Olivia Penney.

“Marisa is the core of what we do,” said Ruggles. “She has a lot of responsibilities both offensively and defensively and she has improved since last season. She has good stick skills, she is aggressive and quick, and is a smart player. Erika is a very solid player who is quick and aggressive. She does a nice job of controlling the ball and distributing it to the right place. Mary is experienced, hard working and has a great attitude. Emily is another hard worker who is still learning but is improving all the time. Olivia has been impressive and plays with a swagger. She is aggressive and confident and is a quick and fearless player who carries the ball well.”

Just as at midfield, two of the three starting forwards are set with a battle for the third slot.

Senior Alicia Herlihy will start on the left side while junior Kelly Corey gets the nod in the middle.

“Alicia put in a lot of hard work in the off-season and is much improved,” said Ruggles. “She came off the bench last season but is much more confident and playing much more in control this year. She is also making better decisions. Kelly started at midfield last season and has moved to forward. She aggressive, likes the sport and puts the time in required to improve. She is quick, has good stick skills and is a dual threat with the ability to score a goal or set up a teammate.”

Battling for the starting berth on the right side are sophomore Lauren Kraemer and freshman Lauren Johnson.

“Lauren Kraemer played on the junior varsity team last season and she is a quick player who continues to learn,” said Ruggles. “Lauren Johnson put in a lot of hard work in the off-season and also has good quickness.”

There is also a three-way battle for the starting goaltender position among juniors Prachi Joglekar and Elizabeth Gonzalez, and sophomore Lauren Zanotta.

“Prachi is the goaltender on the lacrosse team and is playing field hockey for the first time,” said Ruggles. “Elizabeth and Lauren both played on the junior varsity team last year. It is a three-way competition and all three have an equal opportunity to win the job.”

Defensively, the four starting backs will be senior captain Amanda Riposa, senior Jess Plause, junior Amory Willcox, and sophomore Allie Baxter.

“Amanda is a determined player who is strong defensively and she has good recovery speed,” said Ruggles. “She is our leader in the backfield. Jess was a part-time starter last season and she understands our system. Amory is a returning starter who understands the position and is playing with more confidence. She is persistent, has a lot of endurance and is always hustling. Allie is a strong defender who is becoming more aggressive. She can be counted on for strong hits and she has stepped up.”

Providing additional options in the defensive end will be sophomore Sara Tometich, and seniors Nozizwe Buthelezi and Brenna McCabe.

“Sara is a smart player who is aggressive and has good natural instincts,” said Ruggles. “Nozizwe and Brenna add depth and are working hard to gain playing time.

“My concern heading into the season is staying healthy,” said Ruggles. “Our goal is to make the Districts and I think it is a realistic goal. The key to the season will be controlling the ball and maintaining a positive chemistry.”