Ipswich High grad Weagle netting early success for Franklin Pierce soccer

Weagle a real find
for Franklin Pierce

Hannah Weagle keeps finding herself with extra room on the soccer field and she can’t figure out why.

The recent Ipswich High graduate has been the third-most efficient shooter in the Northeast-10 Conference this year, scoring on 23 percent of the shots she’s taken and leading her Franklin Pierce squad (4-3-1) with eight goals in eight games.

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“I guess it’s just been happening that way,” said the freshman forward. “The defender may give me too much space so I’ll take a shot.”

She’s just being modest, assistant coach Amanda Kauffman assures, offering a different theory.

“It’s not that defenders are giving her space,” says Kauffman, a former NE-10 scoring leader at Franklin Pierce who graduated last year. “When you score as much as she has, she’s already been tagged in the league. Other teams are putting their best defender on her.

“She creates the space for herself. She’s great at faking the shot, pulling up, and getting that extra yard to get that better shot.”

For the first time in Jeff Bailey’s 17 years at the helm of the program, there has been a bit of uncertainty.

In six of the seven seasons from 1996 to 2002, the Ravens lost no more than one game. They were NCAA Division 2 champions three times, won at least 20 games four times, and advanced to the semifinal game every year.

Last fall was different.

As the injuries piled up, so did the losses. And for the first time in Bailey’s tenure, the Ravens failed to qualify for the NCAA tournament, winning six games (eight fewer than any team in the last 17 years).

They just couldn’t score goals.

It’s been a puzzling trend for Bailey’s squads over the last three years.

In 2009, when the Ravens finished 18-5-1, they averaged 3 goals per game. In 2010, that number slipped to 2.1 goals per game. And last year, in a 6-8-3 injury-plagued season in which even the backup goalies were asked to spend some time on the attacking unit, Franklin Pierce scored just 1.1 goals per game.

“It’s been difficult,” Bailey said. “Obviously, the focus this year was to bring in some goal scorers.”

Weagle has been just that.

Throughout her career at Ipswich, Weagle had usually played defensive midfield. The summers provided her a chance to play up top, where she feels most natural and was able to develop her tenacity, touch, and ability to shoot with both feet.

But even as a defensive player at Ipswich, she led the Cape Ann League with 22 points (16 goals, six assists) and was named the Globe’s Division 3 Player of the Year. “She was just on a different level,” Kauffman said.

Still, not even Bailey expected Weagle to be this effective, this quickly, while leading the Ravens offense.

“She’s playing every minute right now,” he said. “We can’t take her out.”

Kauffman says Weagle has that natural ability to see the field. It’s the soccer player’s vision that the coaches love because the college game, particularly in the NE-10, is much more physical.

At 5-foot-6, going against much bigger defenders, that physicality should have posed a challenge for Weagle.

“It was challenging, but not too hard,” she said.

“She has the Abby Wambach -style header,” said Kauffman, referring to the US soccer star. “She goes up with no fear. That gives her so much success in the box. She’s not afraid. She plays bigger than she is.”

Weagle didn’t always play with such fire.

When she was a sophomore in high school, she tore the anterior cruciate ligament in her knee and missed six months.

“That injury, it affected me so much,” she said. “I just felt I needed to give my best every time out.”

Her coaches took notice.

Weagle came into camp in top shape and never stops moving up front. She has formed a dynamic duo with junior Talita Pereira . The Ravens may not be winning like they have been in the past, with injuries now plaguing the defensive unit, but they’re scoring again, almost twice as often as they did last year.

“Hannah could be Rookie of the Year this year, if the goals keep going in,” Bailey said. “That’s how they’re judged anyway.”

“She potentially is an All-American down the road here. We need to keep strengthening the team around her but she’ll keep getting better.”

Field hockey coach ties win record

This season hasn’t been all flowery for the St. Michael’s College field hockey team, which sat at 2-8 through Wednesday. But coach Carla Hesler , a native of Lynnfield, tied the program wins record as the Purple Knights beat Franklin Pierce, 4-0, last week.

Hesler picked up her 127th career victory in her 14th season as head coach at St. Michael’s.

A 1982 graduate of the University of New Hampshire, where she played both field hockey and lacrosse, Hesler was also a member of the US national field hockey squad from 1979-1982.

Hesler, who has more than 200 total career wins combined over 25 years at Colgate, Yale, and St. Michael’s, also has 100 career wins as a college lacrosse coach.

Trinity’s Katz on fire

Trinity College sophomore goalie Jason Katz , a graduate of Masconomet Regional, had a remarkable weekend for the men’s soccer team, posting a clean sheet in a 3-0 win over previously-undefeated Connecticut College last Saturday before recording 12 saves to preserve a 1-1 tie against Tufts on Sunday.