Lost in the shuffle of last year’s three state titles won by DHS was the valiant effort put in by the Lady Dragon field hockey team in the opening round of last fall’s MIAA playoffs. In one of the most hard-fought and entertaining games of the year, Duxbury lost a double-OT game to Sandwich, 2-1, and had its season end at 10-5-4. While the loss was hard for the players to accept at the time, it has become a rallying cry for Coach Pam Manley’s squad and a memory they have no intention of repeating.

“That game has really stuck in our craw,” said Manley. “And the tie to Hanover at the buzzer that cost us a chance at the Patriot League title is right up there with it. That really felt like a loss.”

While Manley did lose some key personnel in Heidi Nichols, Tracy Clough, and Anie Grunwald, the third-year Duxbury coach feels this could be her strongest team yet.

“I really feel like we don’t have any weak areas,” said the Duxbury coach. “We’ll be tested along the way, but this is such a cooperative bunch of kids that is moving in the same direction with one goal in mind.”

Over 70 candidates came out for the team this year, and the 2009 squad will be captained by seniors Julia Hannon, Mimi Smith, Katie Griffin, and Lyla Haffey. That quartet is enough of a foundation for any team to inflict some damage, and Manley thinks she has a slew of players that will compliment them nicely.

Smith was one of the league’s top scorers in 2009 and will be looked to again to provide scoring punch up front with her speed and strong shot, while Haffey’s talents are coming together just at the right time, as her skills and break-away speed should make her a dangerous threat all the time.

Sophomore Grace Nissi will join that duo up front and has a goal scorer’s mentality said Manley.

“She is a very competitive player and is strong around the net. She just has a knack for scoring.”

Adding to the depth of the front line will be seniors Chandler Vieullimier, Sami Siciliano, and Caitlin Jones.

“Chandler has good speed and is an excellent crosser, while Sami is good at breakouts and is a good dribbler. Jones is just so fast that she can take the ball deep into the corners and cross the ball from both sides of the field.”

Manley plans on playing a 4-3-3 offense with juniors Briana Connolly and Siobhan McCarthy, along with Griffin and Cassandra Nissi manning the midfield.

“Briana has a great feel for the game,” said Manley. “She knows how to get to open space or find players with passes.”

McCarthy’s play in last year’s loss to Sandwich labeled her a future star and her coach agrees.

“Siobhan is such a hard worker. She is a solid two-way player and one of the few kids on the team I don’t mind sending up because I always know she’ll get back on defense when you need her to.”

Griffin is a strong all-around athlete who gives a consistent performance with her patience and ability to read the field, while senior Cassandra Nissi is a smart player with the ability to dish the ball at the right moment.

Seniors Monica Devereaux, Cory Tucker, and Paige Locke lead a defensive corps and are joined by juniors Keri Gould, Kristen Garvey, and Maggie Dunn.

“Devereaux and Tucker have really big drives and can send it, while Gould might be the most athletic on defense. Keri never gives up, works hard, and always gets back on defense.”

Garvey has shown good stick skills with her one-touch, and Dunn and Locke really don’t seem afraid of sticking their faces in there on defense and keeping intruders away from goalkeeper Julia Hannon.

While most coaches long for one solid goaltender, Manley is blessed with two.

“Julia just has a goalie mentality (field hockey, ice hockey and lacrosse). She has strong vocals and feels very comfy back there directing the defense.”

Sophomore Sophie Fitzpatrick made a fast jump from the freshman team to JV last year and seems to have solidified her spot as the heir apparent to Hannon.

“Sophie is working hard on her speed with her pads on. She’s moving well and is really feeling more comfortable out there all the time.”

The one thing that Manley thinks will make her team hard to beat is its speed.

“When we are in control of the game we should blow right by people. Our whole team can push the ball up field and into the corners. Everyone is offensive minded.”

While Duxbury appears to have the talent for a serious run at a league title and post-season play, nothing is automatic. Having tied for second place with Hanover last year right behind Hingham, Manley is well aware of who her challengers will be.

“Hanover lost a lot of seniors, but they’re always good, and Hingham is the defending champs. We’ve played Hingham a lot in a summer league, so we seem to be developing a pretty intense rivalry that you’ll see once we get into the regular season.”

The regular season is scheduled to start on Sept. 11 at 3:45 p.m. on the new turf field where the Lady Dragons will take on Marshfield in non-league action, hoping to avenge last year’s double loss to the Rams.