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Field hockey notebook: Establishing a family tradition at Dover-Sherborn

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Field hockey notebook: Establishing a family tradition at Dover-Sherborn

Molly McGill has wanted to be head coach at Dover-Sherborn ever since she was a junior playing for legendary coach Dara Johnson.

Over the next eight years — from finishing high school, to playing at Holy Cross, to coaching the Raiders’ junior varsity squad — she had a running joke with her father that if she took control, he would be her first choice as an assistant.

When Johnson surprisingly decided to step down and hand the reigns over just a week into practices, though, Molly figured out how little she meant it as a joke. And just as quickly as she asked him to join her, Thom McGill said yes.

“He’s always just kind of been a soundboard behind the scenes with me as a player,” Molly said. “When I stepped into this role this season, it was a no-brainer. I’m like, ‘Yup, easy money. Thom — my dad — (he’s) coming in.’”

“It’s just incredible,” Thom added. “It’s really just a dream come true for actually both of us. It’s awesome.”

The Raiders started the year 3-0 entering Friday while defending their Div. 2 state title from 2019. They have a young team, but there is plenty of the talent you would expect from a squad that just went the distance two years ago. Dover-Sherborn is buzzing.

What makes it even more exciting for the McGills, though, is how well the team is doing despite the frenzy the year started with.

Molly entered the year expecting to be a part-time JV coach while in a graduate program at Framingham State. Just like that, she was vaulted into the leading role. Molly has wanted it for a good while, but it caught her by surprise as she navigates a hectic schedule that prevents her from coaching on Mondays.

Bringing on Thom has been a stabilizing force. She is still working out kinks as a first-year varsity coach, so the support and trust of the team and having her father there has made a world of a difference.

“It’s just super supportive and somebody comfortable, and I can give my crazy ideas behind the scenes and not feel judged,” Molly said. “It’s definitely a little crazy. But the girls have been great, my dad — again — I’ve been leaning on him heavily.”

Thom has never officially coached, but has mentored Molly very closely throughout her entire athletic career. He quickly transformed from No. 1 cheerleader to field hockey fanatic as he helped Molly transform her game, so much that Molly never doubted his potential to be an effective coach alongside her.

Neither has the team.

“He’s super knowledgeable of the game, he’s watched more field hockey than anyone I can think of, and I think he’s got great perspective,” Molly said. “(The players) enjoy his humor, they seek his feedback sometimes even before mine. … I’ve just been so blown away with how articulate he is with the girls and he’s just got a good demeanor.”

For Thom, he loves every part of coaching with Molly. He loves doing it for the school he graduated from, too. But he’s equally excited for the opportunity his daughter and Dover-Sherborn has to continue growing together.

“The team is young and everything, but what an opportunity,” he said. “The girls are awesome, they’re really receptive.”

Quick Spotlights:

Before Nauset senior Lauren Knight committed to Quinnipiac, she was asked who her role model was. She was quick to bring Falmouth star Katie Shanahan’s name up. Little did Knight know then that she was talking up a future Div. 1 teammate, and as the two battle it out in a loaded Cape and Islands League, they can each look forward to teaming up at Quinnipiac after spending four years together playing for Cape Cod Field Hockey Club. The competition between the two of them is fierce for now, though, with Shanahan’s Clippers already having a leg up with a 3-0 win over the Warriors. As each team keeps pace with Monomoy and Sandwich as well, the Cape Cod standouts are enjoying competing against each other for now while still looking forward to joining forces down the road.

“We’ve always had a great dynamic,” Knight said. “I’m just really excited to play with her, she’s one of the best teammates I’ve ever had.”

“It’s great that we’re going to the same school. … To go in already knowing I have a friend of the team (is comforting),” added Shanahan. “It’s always fun playing high school though because there’s the rivalry along with the friendship.”

They’ll play each other again Oct. 20.

Maggie Sturgis is on fire for an equally scorching Masconomet team, blasting out the gates for a 4-0-1 start and a 32-3 goal differential entering Friday. Sturgis has erupted for 18 of those goals, including a career-high six scores in a 6-0 win over Marblehead.

• After five years of varsity play, a young Bishop Feehan program finally got over the hump against the school’s longtime rival by beating Attleboro 3-1 for the first time. Sophomores Kay Murphy and Ava Meehan have starred in a 6-0-2 start, leaving plenty of room for growth while the Shamrocks play at a high level.

• The first Hockomock League bout between King Philip and Franklin on Oct. 8 looks like a must-watch. Panthers head coach Michelle Hess praised her strong defense before the season but wasn’t expecting the offense to take the flight it has. Kaitlyn Carney and Payten Crandall are two of many pieces flourishing for Franklin (5-0) as it rivals King Philip (6-1).

• In its 20th anniversary, Bentley honored the 2001 Division II national champion Falcons team on Saturday. The team had 18 former local stars, led by captains Allyson Bunce (Dennis-Yarmouth) and Alicia Cabrera (Lexington).

• Methuen is making some noise in the Merrimack Valley Conference alongside Andover and Central Catholic, cruising to a 3-1-1 start entering Friday. Natalia Fiato has seven goals over her last three games to lead the way.

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