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Stark leaves mark, Paulin empowers

Updated: Apr 28, 2023

Junior forward Lily Stark fires a pass to senior forward Sheridan Blaha during their match against Regis College. Photo by LJ VP LaFiura

Junior Lily Stark has broken two field hockey records in the final two weeks of the regular season. On Oct. 19 at Grieller Field, Stark scored a hat trick in a commanding 5-2 win over conference opponent Regis College. After the final buzzer, Stark was recognized for breaking the program’s single-season goal record (22). The previous record was held by Cailin Flannery (‘18) who had 21 her senior season.

On Oct. 26, Stark surpassed Flannery again, becoming the all-time point leader (52) in program history after a 2-1 win at Saint Joseph’s College Maine. Stark had 51 entering the match, but a game-winning assist to senior Sheridan Blaha in overtime propelled her past Flannery to secure her second record.

“I think it’s really a big honor for Lily to hold this record and something to be proud of. I feel lucky to have been her coach this season to witness it,” first-year head coach Jess Paulin said.

Stark inked herself in the record books for the Lasers, but her mark has also been made across the Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC). Heading into the playoffs Stark is top three in the conference for goals (22), points (52), shots (110), shots on goal (76), and game-winning goals (5).

“Lily has really stepped up to be that finishing part we have been looking for,” senior forward Sheridan Blaha said. “I have loved watching Lily grow into this amazing player, and I love playing with her.”

Stark’s production comes on the heels of a promising sophomore campaign. Last season, Stark played in 14 games, accumulating seven goals, three assists, and 17 points. A year later she has cemented her legacy as a Laser.

“I had a year under my belt, so that was just like a warm-up,” Stark said. “Now it's like the real thing because I know what to do.”

However, Stark is not the only Laser setting the GNAC on fire. Blaha finished fifth in the conference for goals (18), and sixth in points (40).

While both players are prolific scorers, the Lasers’ head coach sees differences in their play style. “Lily is super strong at dangling her opponent; she has some of the best hands I’ve seen at the [Division III] level and can maneuver through multiple people,” Paulin said. “Sheridan typically scores off power while Lily is more finesse. The combo of having both those styles on our forward line is a huge threat to our opponents.”

The one-two punch of Stark and Blaha has helped the Lasers clinch a playoff spot, and the success of the two forwards is no surprise to Paulin. “I only joined on as Head Coach this past January, so even from working with them last Spring, I knew they were exceptionally talented players,” Paulin said.

Stark credited Paulin for creating an encouraging culture. “At the beginning of the season, she set goals for all of us, like had individual meetings,” Stark said. “My goal was to have 20 goals by the end of the season… so that kind of fueled me.”

Blaha corroborated her fellow forward’s assessment of Coach Paulin, saying, “I love my new coach.., she knows how to coach all of us in all different ways. I think that's a whole factor.”

According to Blaha, in addition to Paulin’s implementation, individual and team successes are a result of willful work. “We all showed up to practices, put our heads down, and really went to work even in the summer,” Blaha said. “We lift, and we practice 5 out of 7 [days] a week besides the games. As well as… really believing in each other and having each other's backs.”

Stark, Blaha, and the rest of Paulin’s proteges will compete in the GNAC playoffs starting Oct. 29. They are currently tied for the fifth seed in the standings.


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