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FIELD HOCKEY NOTEBOOK

Few coaches connect with their players like CeCi Hodgkins, who has Braintree field hockey off to a flying start

Junior Callie Burchill (13) and fellow captain Bridget Lee have helped propel Braintree to an 8-2 start with new coach CeCi Hodgkins.Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff

Her first love has always been field hockey, dating back to her days at Greely High in Cumberland, Maine, and then on to Saint Anselm College playing Division II in the Northeast-10.

Four years ago, after earning her master’s at Boston College, CeCi Hodgkins joined the math department at Archbishop Williams and jumped right into coaching.

“I was always hoping to coach field hockey,” she said.

But Archbishop Williams does not have a field hockey program, so she worked as an assistant with the girls’ soccer, ice hockey, and lacrosse teams at the school.

But when the varsity field hockey position was posted at Braintree High last spring, she wasted no time in applying. A week later, she had the job.

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Wellesley’s Kayla Bohlin challenges Braintree’s Maggie Carey during a recent Bay State Conference matchup at Braintree.Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff

With senior captain Bridget Lee (13 goals) the catalyst on offense, the Wamps are off to a strong 8-2 start.

“From the minute I had my first conversation with [Hodgkins], I knew we were in good hands,” said Braintree assistant CC Gonsalves. “I think the biggest part that I admire about her actually is her positivity, regardless of where we are in the game, the way that kids are playing. She has a great positive spin on any feedback that she gives to the kids.”

Added Lee: “I was going into [this season] with open arms, no judgment. Now, I know that she’s super nice and super dedicated, and just very bubbly.”

“I want the girls to leave the season and end the season feeling like a strong unit and a strong program all together," says CeCi Hodgkins, Braintree field hockey coach.Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff

Coming to a new team with fresh eyes, Hodgkins was not sure what to expect. There were key losses to graduation, and uncertainty.

“I came in just with the expectation that each day we were going to get better and grow as a program,” said Hodgkins.

‘I think coaches come and go because they’re not able to connect, and she does have a natural ability there.’

CC Gonsalves, Braintree assistant field hockey coach on first-year head coach CeCi Hodgkins

She has a penchant for bringing out the best in each player.

“By nature of just her being a teacher, I think she has a phenomenal way of connecting [with the players],” said Gonsalves. “She thoroughly enjoys being with the kids. She thoroughly gets how to relate to kids, and how to listen. I think coaches come and go because they’re not able to connect, and she does have a natural ability there.”

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Junior captain Callie Burchill said that Hodgkins is the coach first, but also a mentor.

“She can talk about Taylor Swift with us once practice is over, and just fun stuff like that,” said Burchill.

In the season opener against Bay State Conference rival Needham, Burchill scored the winner with five seconds left.

“It proved to the girls that they are contenders and that we can do great things and accomplish great pieces in the game if we just give it our full effort for the entirety,” said Hodgkins.

When the season is complete, Hodgkins will define success by a different metric than some.

“I want the girls to leave the season and end the season feeling like a strong unit and a strong program all together,” said Hodgkins. “I love seeing their smiles and their excitement for whatever we’re doing, and that truly makes it feel like all their hard work and effort is worth it and it just makes my job that much easier as a coach.”

Free hits

▪ The past few weeks have been filled with a number of games promoting causes near and dear to teams’ hearts.

On Saturday, Malden Catholic (3-4-2) earned a 5-0 win over Revere (2-5-1) in the team’s second Sticks for Cancer game. Players wore shirts with names of family or friends impacted by cancer during the game while also raising $500 for the American Cancer Society.

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“It’s nice to see them do something for other people,” said Malden Catholic coach Rob Viola.

Uxbridge, the reigning Division 4 champion, hosted Monomoy Sunday for a pancreatic cancer awareness game, with the Spartans (10-0) coming away with the 6-1 victory. Dedham has also been raising awareness for pancreatic cancer this season with their warmups dedicated to Dedham High parent Christine Stec.

Monomoy (3-4-2) is also involved in another game for a charitable cause Friday at Barnstable (6-4). The game will be dedicated to 2022 Barnstable graduate Sam Needham, who was struck and killed by an alleged drunk driver in August. Needham was a student-athlete and close with several members of the team. The game will include a raffle benefiting a scholarship in Needham’s name.

On Tuesday, Lynnfield will host Ipswich under stadium lights in their annual “Play 4 the Cure” night at 6 p.m. The Pioneers (6-4) will be wearing pink and white uniforms in honor of breast cancer awareness, and there will be special concessions and a raffle.

▪ In Tuesday’s release of the updated Power Rankings, defending champion Andover (8-1-0, 3.60) and finalist Walpole (9-1-0, 3.54) were 1-2 in Division 1, followed by Shrewsbury (7-1-1, 3.32). In Division 2, it’s Longmeadow (7-0-1, 4.16), Minnechaug (6-0-2, 3.46), and Reading (9-0-1, 3.16). In D3, reigning champion Watertown (9-0-0, 3.65) has nearly a one-point lead on Dover-Sherborn (8-0-2, 2.79), followed by Newburyport (6-1-1, 2.64). In D4, Uxbridge (10-0-0, 2.75), Greenfield (5-2-2, 2.67), and Manchester Essex (2.34) hold the top three spots.

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Games to watch

Wednesday, No. 11 Sandwich at Falmouth — A Cape & Islands battle features Sandwich (8-0) , No. 4 in D3 power rankings, vs. Falmouth (4-1-1), No. 9 in D2.

Wednesday, No. 15 Danvers at No. 10 Manchester Essex — The Falcons (6-1-1) bounced back from tough matches against Masconomet and Gloucester with a Monday win against Beverly; they will seek to shut down the stubborn Hornets (8-1-1) in the nonleague matchup.

Thursday, No. 1 Watertown at No. 6 Reading — Ranked No. 1 by the Globe and the Division 3 Power Rankings, the Raiders have a couple of stiff tests, including this Middlesex matchup against the unbeaten Rockets (9-0-1).

Thursday, No. 8 Westwood at No. 3 Walpole — One of the games of the season for both squads; this will be a test of the Wolverines’ defensive experience against the Porkers’ scoring prowess.

Saturday, Longmeadow at No. 2 Andover — At 7-0-1 and atop the Division 2 Power Rankings, 42-year coach Ann Simons and her Lancers already own a victory over Walpole. Next up, the defending D1 champion Golden Warriors (8-1), who have won eight straight.

Tuesday, No. 12 Concord-Carisle (7-1-1) at No. 9 Chelmsford (7-0) — Could this be a Division 1 tournament preview? The evenly matched teams are only separated by two spots in the Power Rankings.

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Correspondent Kat Cornetta contributed to this story.


Olivia Nolan can be reached at olivia.nolan@globe.com.