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Naomi Morrissey Maintains Family's Strong Ties to Quabbin Field Hockey

Nov. 17, 2020, 4:30 p.m. (ET)

Content Courtesy of Ken Powers, The Gardner News

Disclaimer: USA Field Hockey does not promote or encourage the usage of protective eyewear in the sport of field hockey or at any held national events.

BARRE - Naomi Morrissey became enamored with field hockey at a young age, in large part because two of her older sisters and five older cousins all played the sport before her. So, when Morrissey, a senior starter at Quabbin Regional puts on her uniform and walks out on to the field, she does so because of her deep-seeded love for the game.

Almost as important to Morrissey, however, is the fact that she is carrying on a family tradition.

“I’ve spent my whole life, basically, at fields watching my sisters and my cousins play field hockey,” the 17-year-old Morrissey said. “When I wasn’t at one of their field hockey games, I was in the backyard, a lot of times with my sisters, sometimes by myself, practicing. I didn’t just grow up in the sport, I was born into it.”

When Morrissey went to those games early in her life, often with her mother Holly and her father Peter, she wasn’t just at the game sitting in the bleachers reading a book waiting until it was time to go home and have dinner.

“Absolutely not. I was so into it,” Morrissey said. “Every game was so interesting to me. I loved watching the game, even when, because I was so young, I didn’t really understand it. As far back as I can remember, field hockey was the game I aspired to play. I was immediately interested in a mix of things. How fast paced it is, how involved everyone is, getting to hit the ball.”

Morrissey’s older sisters Jessica (27) and Allie (25) played the game while 24-year-old sister Dayna played during her youth but fell in love with cross country in middle school and became a runner. On her father’s side of the family cousin Ailey Wynne was the first of the clan to play. Two other cousins, sisters Emily and Erin Morrissey, also played. On her mother’s side of the family — mom is a Hakala — cousins Lindsay and Brittany Hakala also played.

All her cousins who played, Naomi Morrissey said, are in their late-20s or early 30s.

In total, seven family members played field hockey at Quabbin. Naomi Morrissey is No. 8. And there might be a No. 9. Lindsay (Hakala) Rogowski’s daughter, Abby Rogowski, a sixth-grader, currently plays on the Quabbin Middle School field hockey team.

The common denominator among all these family members — in addition to being related — is that they were all coached at the high school level by Shelly Zalneraitis.

“I believe Naomi was exposed to the sport sooner than most kids and more than most kids,” said Zalneraitis, now in her 27th year as the Panthers’ varsity field hockey coach. “A lot of kids growing up don’t even know what field hockey is. Maybe they played the game in gym a little bit, but that gives you a skewed view of what the sport is really like.

“I think Naomi growing up with it, and attending the games, and hearing her sisters and cousins talk about it, probably made a huge difference for her,” Zalneraitis continued. “It probably was an advantage over kids who might not pick up a stick until seventh grade when they try out for the middle school team.”

Zalneraitis said Naomi Morrissey’s being around the game from such a young age allowed her to ask herself a lot of important questions about the sport.

“Naomi got to watch the game of field hockey and decide if she liked it. Did she like the look of it? Was it something she wanted to do?” Zalneraitis said. “I definitely think that was an advantage. She was involved in the town’s youth program growing up, too. So, just having that exposure at home got her involved with the youth program and that got her to come to our camp in the summer and that led to playing in middle school which led to her play here at the high school.” 

Naomi Morrissey said she remembers exactly when she first went to Zalneraitis’ summer field hockey camp.

“My first camp was when I was going into the fourth grade,” Naomi Morrissey said. “That was the earliest you could go to the camp and I was there.

“I’ve spent a large amount of time around the sport, so I feel I do have a good grasp on everything. The sport itself as well as the good games, the bad games and everything in between,” Naomi Morrissey said. “Unless you play the game you can’t really understand everything that’s going through our heads, the work we’ve put in and everything that goes along with it.

“A big part of the game is being there for your teammates, on the field as well as off the field,” she continued. “On the field filling in, covering a position, moving around is important. Everyone moves around so much. Whether you’re a back or a mid or a forward, you end up all over the field. If one person is out of place and the back part of the field is empty, the game can change very quickly.”

Zalneraitis said Naomi Morrissey’s biggest asset to her team is her leadership ability.

“Naomi is one of those kids who is a natural leader in a lot of ways. We could have easily named her captain. The selection of seniors we had to choose from was a pretty large, pretty diverse group of kids,” said Zalneraitis, referring to the eight seniors she has on this year’s team. “Any of them could have been a captain for me, and Naomi certainly could have been.

“A lot of the younger kids really respect her and look up to her. She is super patient with the younger kids. She spends time with them and gets to know them. Naomi knows everybody’s name. Naomi is a terrific kid,” Zalneraitis said. “She is definitely a kid who has grown and developed some nice leadership qualities.”

Naomi Morrissey has played forward, midfield and back positions this year, helping the Panthers to an 8-0 record with one game remaining against Oakmont on Tuesday evening. Quabbin has just come off a two-week quarantine period because a Fitchburg player tested positive for COVID-19 the day after the teams played.