October 15, 2013

COLLEGE CONNECTIONS: Gagnon steps right in for Sharks

By Matt DiFilippo mdifilippo@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

There are some perks to going to Simmons College, especially with Fenway Park within walking distance, and especially when the Red Sox are having a good year.

click image to enlarge

USING HER SPEED: Waterville graduate Jenna Gagnon, right, has 13 points for Simmons College this season. Gagnon has four goals and five assists.

Contributed photo by Risley Sports Photography

"We get tickets," Jenna Gagnon said. "So I've already been to a couple games."

Of course, Gagnon didn't go from Waterville Senior High School to Simmons to be closer to the Red Sox. The school's nursing program, Gagnon's impressions of field hockey coach Amanda Maxwell, and the size and location of the school were what sold her.

"I definitely like how it's in Boston," Gagnon said. "It's a small school in a big city, so it's the best of both worlds."

As a freshman, Gagnon has started 13 games this season for the Sharks. In her collegiate debut, against Becker, she had two goals and one assist in a 6-0 victory. She's one of the top scorers on the team with 13 points on four goals and five assists.

Gagnon is one of four players from Maine on the Simmons roster, but Maxwell never saw Gagnon play until she was on campus.

"I was very pleased with what I saw," Maxwell said. "She has great stick skills, great speed. She's pretty aggressive on the field. She (stepped) into a starting role right off."

That speed -- Maxwell calls it "explosive" -- is what people really seem to notice about Gagnon's game.

"When she gets the ball, she really takes off with it," Maxwell said.

Although Gagnon was a forward in high school, Maxwell has her playing in the midfield. The Sharks will sometimes use only one or two substitutes in a game. That's still more than Gagnon's Waterville team had at times last season.

"It's kind of the same as being a forward," Gagnon said. "I still have the mind of a forward, but it's weird because I have another forward in front of me. I definitely pass more. I play more defense. I like it."

Simmons is 7-7-0 overall and 1-3-0 in the North Atlantic Conference. It's already been an eventful season for the Sharks. On Oct. 6, the team bus couldn't make it up a hill on the way to a game at the University of Maine at Farmington. Someone pulled up alongside the bus and pointed out it was leaking fluid. Six days later, Simmons nearly upset defending conference champion Castleton, losing 5-4 in overtime after leading 3-1 in the second half.

Gagnon said she's enjoyed the whole experience so far. Maxwell has been prodding her to be more consistent and vocal on the field, but those are common areas needing improvement for a new player.

"There's a lot of pressure on her to perform as a freshman, and I really think she's rising to the occasion," Maxwell said.

Matt DiFilippo -- 861-9243

mdifilippo@centralmaine.com

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