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Peck Dynamic Competitor For NHS Field Hockey Team

Next Stop Will Be At UMass-Amherst 


Staff Sports Writer

Emma Peck didn’t waste any time taking her game to a higher level. The Natick High senior accepted a scholarship and committed to play field hockey for UMass-Amherst at the start of her junior year.

Peck Dynamic Competitor For NHS Field Hockey Team

The 17-year-old Peck will be competing for a Division 1 team that’s not only rich in field-hockey tradition, but also a perennial participant in the NCAA Tournament. UMass acted quickly in landing the talented defender/midfielder, who has all the credentials and attributes to be an impact player.

The 5-foot-5 Peck is the total package, whether she’s on the field or in the classroom.

Now in her fourth year with the Redhawks’ varsity, the Natick native is a four-year starter, a two-time captain and a Bay State Conference all-star. On the academic front, she has a 3.9 GPA.

“Emma is a role model for a what a great field hockey player looks like, whether it’s defending a corner, passing to a teammate or scoring a goal,’’ said Natick coach Ann Burns. “She approaches every game with high expectations. Her strengths come from years of playing field hockey. She has nicely developed stick skills, a solid understanding of the game and she knows the role defenders play. She’s also versatile, able to play two positions. Emma always strives to improve her game and she doesn’t like to lose.’’

Factor in other assets, like mental toughness, a high field hockey IQ, an instinctive nature and athleticism. Those traits make Peck a very polished competitor.

“I like field hockey because it’s the ultimate team sport,’’ Peck said. “The pace is fast and there’s lots of movement. And, as a captain, I try to create bonding and team chemistry within our group.’’

Peck was only 11 when she started playing the sport — a fifth-grader who was forced by her mom to attend a clinic. “I wasn’t enthusiastic about going but came away liking it,’’ she said. “I later joined a club team (Northeast Elite Field Hockey) and have competed at that level for six years. My club coach, Chelsey Feole, deserves credit for improving my game and getting me to the next level. I learned new skills and techniques.’’

Peck gained tourney experience as a freshman and sophomore when Natick faced Andover both times in the sectional semifinals. The Redhawks bowed twice by 1-0 scores.

One of her goals for her final season includes defeating Andover if the matchup occurs.

“My other goals include having fun and bonding with my teammates,’’ Peck said, “but I also want us to win the Carey Division title, qualify for the tourney and advance as far as possible. My individual objectives are to be a quality leader and role model and to repeat as a BSC all-star.’’

At Local Town Pages deadline, the Redhawks were 0-1-1 after two matches.

A captain who leads by example and by being supportive, Peck firmly believes that the Redhawks have the talent, depth and experience to achieve her goals. And, she’s quick to point to Natick’s other three captains as top-notch leaders and contributors They include seniors Hadley Green (defender), Samantha Gondelman (forward), and Emilia Morales (midfielder).

“All four of us strive to be positive and welcoming captains,’’ Peck said. “Hadley is a dynamic defender, Samantha is great at finishing a play and Emilia possesses superb passing skills.’’

Peck is also upbeat about Burns and her style of coaching. “Coach Burns can be firm but she’s also fair,’’ Peck emphasized. “She’s also an excellent motivator and a great role model.’’

Thanks to a decision by Burns, Peck gained valuable confidence in her ability as a freshman. That decision involved Peck’s playing time against Andover in the tourney.

“We lost to Andover in two overtimes,’’ Peck recalled. “Combining regulation and the overtimes, the game lasted about 65 minutes. Coach Burns never took me out. I learned how to persevere and that game gave me a sense of belonging.’’

Burns knew she had a gem in Peck early on and she never hesitated in giving her captain status as a junior. “Emma is a vocal leader for sure,’’ Burns offered. “Even as a junior captain, she had a strong voice whether it was in planning fundraising, organizing senior nights/captain’s practices, or leading by example in drills. It’s rare for us to have a junior captain but Emma’s experience with the game and leadership abilities made it a no-brainer.

“Last year’s season (4-4-2 record) was challenging given the covid restrictions and constantly changing guidelines. Emma always maintained a strong mindset to make the most of the season.’’

Peck’s top thrill in three-plus years of field hockey is finalizing her college choice as a junior. 

“I had been contacted by six schools in addition to UMass,’’ Peck noted. “I always wanted to attend UMass and play for them. The transition to college will be a huge adjustment and more responsibility, especially in academics. I’ll be pushed more to excel — by the coaches, my opponents and myself. Also, games will be played at a faster pace and the talent level of opponents will be top-notch.’’

Peck is acutely aware that she’ll have to work hard to get playing time in college. “Coach Barb Weinstein is awesome,’’ Peck said. “She has a welcoming style. Nothing is promised. It’s all about earning time.’’

Peck will major in education and minor in psychology. After getting a bachelors degree, she plans to earn a masters in special education and become a teacher.

Relying on an athletic philosophy of “respecting my opponent on and off the field,’’ Peck says that striving to reach one’s potential is important if winning is to occur.

Sports have also helped her to learn valuable life lessons. “Overcoming challenges and adversity is a great lesson that can be learned from athletics,’’ she offered. “Playing through covid-19 is a good example of that. Athletics have also helped me to learn how to improve leadership skills.’’

Calling her parents (Steve and Christina) role models for their support, encouragement and motivating nature, Peck also includes Ainslee Lamb in the role-model category. “Ainslee introduced me to field hockey when I went to that clinic when I was in fifth grade,’’ Peck said. “She’s been the head coach at Boston College and often has helped out with Natick High’s program.’’

Realizing that her Natick field-hockey career will conclude when the fall season ends, Peck knows “it will be bittersweet.’’

“It’ll signal the end of a four-year career where I got to meet and know many wonderful people,’’ she said. But, I’ll be ready for a new challenge and a new four years.’’

A deep run in the tournament, however, would be just the right elixir to turn any bittersweet thoughts into happy and delightful memories of a very poised athletic career.