Dartmouth Girls Athletic League’s field hockey program prepares for opening day

Aug 29, 2023

Sixteen players aged out of Dartmouth Girls Athletic League’s field hockey program this year, said league co-commissioner Nicole Mello, and all but two or three of those players will continue on to play at the high school level. 

“And those girls went to Voc [Tech], and Voc doesn’t have a field hockey program,” Mello said. “We are probably one of the biggest feeder programs in the area.”

DGAL field hockey is a local recreational league aimed at getting kids involved in “the best sport on the planet,” as co-commissioner Courtney Cohen calls it. 

The league’s three divisions will kick off their 2023 season on Sept. 10 at Quinn Elementary School’s fields from 11 a.m. to about 4 p.m. 

DGAL itself dates back decades, but the field hockey program is a more recent addition. 

Sherri Tetrault created the league around 2010, Cohen guessed. She made the estimation by remembering the age of Grace Haskell, who played in the very first year of DGAL field hockey at the age of 5, and now is a senior and captain on the Dartmouth High field hockey team.

In 2018, Courtney Cohen and Mello took over the league together from Tetrault, whose kids were aging out of the program. 

The pair opened up the league to more than just Dartmouth residents, and it now includes players from almost all of the communities on the South Coast, comprising nearly 200 players. 

“They get to form relationships outside of the school with different kids from [other towns],” said Christine Pankowski from Dartmouth, whose daughter is in the youngest “pee wee” league. 

Mello said her daughter has friends throughout the South Coast now because of DGAL. 

“I think it’s great that [the kids] are offered field hockey at this young of an age,” Mello said. “It’s not something that everybody offers. You’re gonna have a basketball in your garage, you’e gonna have a football in your garage, but you’re probably not going to have a field hockey stick and a ball.”

DGAL field hockey hosts just one practice and one game a week, as the league wants to “just expose the kids to a fun thing,” Cohen said. 

“There’s a lot of rules, but it’s fun to win a game, it’s even fun to lose a game, because the sport is just really fun,” said Cohen’s daughter, 7-year-old Alex.

Alex said she likes watching her 7th-grade sister play in the older leagues: “she’s really good at running even if it’s in long grass.”

Alex is referring to the grass fields at Quinn Elementary School. Whenever possible, the league prefers to play on turf, but availability is limited and expensive. DGAL previously played at McCoy stadium in New Bedford, but the field is now limited to New Bedford leagues as the turf is getting too old for heavy traffic.

“We would love if DGAL had their own field,” Mello said. “Turf is the way of field hockey, so that’s why we rent out the facilities that we can.”

Without McCoy, Mello said the league will need to “nomad” a little this year and find different turf fields to play on, including Dartmouth Memorial Stadium, Keith Middle School’s field and Bishop Stang’s field.