Molly Breen making most of chance in goal for Walpole field hockey team

Molly Breen started playing field hockey in fifth grade with the intentions of one day starting for perennial powerhouse Walpole and coach Marianne Murphy. In a clinic run by the Porkers, the young Breen decided to put on the pads and try her hand in goal. After a few years playing goalie and defense, Breen decided to pursue goalkeeping with the help from Murphy.

“They needed a goalie,” said Breen, now a senior at Walpole. “When Mrs. Murphy said she saw something in me in eighth grade, I thought it was a big deal.”

But Breen knew she would have to put in a lot of work if she wanted to see the field. She attended the White Mountain Sports camp that summer, focusing on goalkeeping. She also attended clinics through Lead the Way, a competitive field hockey club to prepare her for the high school level.

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Knowing how strong the Walpole program is motivated her to work hard.

“I knew I had to step it up,” said Breen. “Our town is so competitive, I knew I had to be good.”

After backing up All-Scholastic Katie Kelley for two years, Breen earned the starting spot between the pipes for her senior year.

Murphy stressed how crucial it is to have a good goalie.

“An experienced goalie is really important,” she said. “It solidifies the defense. It takes a lot of self-discipline to be a goalie.”

Breen has been solid her first year as a starter. In seven games, she hasn’t let in a single goal. The Porkers have only allowed 17 shots on net and thanks to strong defense and offensive dominance have outscored their opponents, 56-0.

Although Breen hasn’t been tested much in games, it doesn’t mean she’s not up to the task. In practice she’s constanly under pressure from her teammates, some of the best forwards and midfielders in the state.

“Molly works hard in practice against her teammates,” said Murphy. “She’s in a ton of drills at practice with everything on goal and different situations. She’s in the cage against our forwards on penalty corners, it’s a tough spot for a goalie.”

Breen said that practicing against her teammates has helped her and she always practices like it’s a game. In some of the drills she’s forced to stop six shots in less than 30 seconds.

But in games it’s been a different story. With most of the play down the other end, Breen sometimes never sees a shot. Although the ball is in the opposite circle, she has to maintain her focus.

“It’s hard sometimes but I’m used to it now. I won’t have a shot sometimes and then all of a sudden there’s a breakway towards me. I always have to be thinking and watching all the time,” she said.

To help keep her in the game Breen said she yells at her teammates to mark up and tell them what she sees. She said Murphy also helps by calling out to “see if she’s awake.”

Breen and the defense should see their first real test Wednesday against No. 15 Weston, and again in the home showdown against No. 2 Andover on Columbus Day.

“Being a goalie you have to put in so much effort for your team. That’s why I grew to love it,’’ said Breen.