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Case, Durfee embrace sister act – Boston Herald

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Just like it had done after each of its five games prior, the surging Durfee field hockey team attentively listened to head coach Nicki Henrique break down its Sept. 24 matchup.

Only this time, with special guests in attendance, some players got a little antsy toward the end of it.

From just six miles across the south coast, some players on Joseph Case got the rare opportunity on a Saturday to check out a Hilltoppers game. The risiing program didn’t have a game or practice at the same time like it normally does, so the few spent their free time checking out Durfee’s 3-0 win over New Bedford.

As members of one of the state’s few remaining unbeaten teams, there’s much they can accomplish this season. But they weren’t there, on the weekend, to scout for their own benefit. They were cheering for some of their good friends donning a different uniform.

Postgame, Durfee didn’t want to only celebrate with teammates.

“I was literally still talking to them,” Henrique said. “They go, ‘Coach, can we go say hi now?’ … It’s really cute, they’re really supportive of each other.”

To call Case and Durfee sister programs would be a bit of a stretch, considering they still scrimmage each other and could very well meet in the regular season someday. But without the same conference or division, and with the significant ties between them, the two are as close as it comes to the phrase.

It starts with their coaches, who have built the kind of relationship that doesn’t go a single game without texting or calling one another about what went down. Case head coach Kacie Martel and Henrique have known each other long before Martel took over her program eight years ago, as the two played in an adult club league together. But through years and many dinners of venting to each other over tough losses, rehearsing practice ideas, giving scouting reports on teams they both play and coaching together at the Bay State Games, the two have built a close bond.

Henrique especially has a rooting interest in the Cardinals and its players as a coach for the softball program, as well as through graduating from Case herself.

“She’s just kind of been my go-to,” Martel said. “We bounce ideas off each other, or we’ll vent to each other, things like that. It’s grown into this great relationship. … We’re definitely always rooting for each other. We always try to scrimmage each other, support each other.”

“We always just kind of fed off each other,” Henrique added. “As a coach, you internalize losses and ties, and, ‘What could I have done better?’ She was great for that – just vent, talk. … It’s funny to hear us talk because we don’t talk about anything else literally the entire time. We never invite our significant others to dinner because they probably wouldn’t want to be there.”

The players have followed suit.

It could be pinpointed to their coaches. It could be pinpointed to growing up in the same area, playing club and recreational sports together. It could be that Case goalie Anna Michaud started pretty much every one of Durfee’s summer league games as the Hilltoppers’ goalie dealt with illness, and that served as a bridge for more interaction.

No matter which angle, quite a few of the players are close.

“Some of the girls on my team, they’ve been asking me all season, ‘When are we going to support (Michaud) and Case,’” Henrique said. “Our kids love each other. We scrimmage each other. … It’s just really competitive and fun, and it’s been so great to have that with them.”

It’s only fitting then that when Case has its best start ever under Martel, Durfee does the same for Henrique in her 10th year at the helm.

Looking to repeat as South Coast Conference Gold champions for a third straight year, the Cardinals are 10-0 with serious contention in the Div. 4 field. Lexi Yost, Megan Smith and Shelby Hajder lead a potent attack averaging over five goals per game, while Michaud and senior defenders Kaelyn Lecomte and Rylie MacDonald have led six shutouts. Only one player has graduated from an experienced group over the last two seasons, and the latest MIAA power rankings reflect Case’s hot start by pinning it at No. 5 on Friday.

“We are running with pretty much the same squad for three years,” Martel said. “As long as we don’t get ahead of ourselves … our hope is obviously to keep winning.”

With a new level of intensity and drive, Durfee has a good chance to make some noise in Div. 1, too.

After narrowly missing out on the Southeast Conference crown last year, the Hilltoppers already have the edge on Dartmouth with a 9-1-2 record. Competing for the state title gets cloudy with powers Andover, Walpole and Franklin in the fold, but there’s no short-changing just how good Durfee has been this season. The defense is ultra-strong behind junior center back Emily Curran, Brooke Macedo and Paitynn Botelho, and the offense is starting to click into gear through Toni Freitas and Shakira Cadet.

“This is definitely the strongest start we’ve had,” Henrique said. “They’re loving it. … That fire and that drive we have is just different.”

Rapid Fire

• After only winning two games last year, Hopkinton is amidst a big bounce-back year with a 5-2-3 record. Three hat tricks from star Camille Perlov has been a major boost, especially while riding a six-game unbeaten streak.

• A huge, Cape Ann League tilt this upcoming Tuesday carries even a little more weight with Lynnfield hosting Ipswich in its annual Play 4 The Cure game. Both recently checked in within the top 10 in the latest Div. 4 MIAA power rankings, hopefully drawing a large crowd with 100 percent of the proceeds donated to the National Foundation for Cancer Research. Last year drew over $2,200. Game starts at 6 p.m.

• Despite graduating a large class, Sandwich is back in position for a second run at the Div. 3 title. Its 5-1 win over Nauset on Friday has it at 9-0 despite a challenging schedule.

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