EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

October 29, 2013

Resilient Ranger

Sears overcomes adversity to boost Methuen field hockey

By Dave Dyer

---- — Although she’s good at hiding her emotions, Methuen junior Annie Sears was probably not in a very good mood a couple of weeks ago.

Because of a concussion suffered in a game against Central Catholic, Sears missed a week of field hockey and a week of band, the two activities that fuel her enthusiasm for life.

Sears has been playing the marimba in the band since the fourth grade and gets immense satisfaction from it, but it’s field hockey that has been, in a way, her savior.

Although she didn’t start playing field hockey until her freshman year, at the urging and with some coaching from her cousin Canada Stewart of Pinkerton Academy, it’s proven the perfect sport for her.

Although highly athletic, exercise-induced asthma limited Sears’ participation in sports.

In fact, even playing field hockey seemed questionable until head coach Karen McLaughlin switched her last year from the midfield, which involves far more running, to defense.

“I could see the asthma was bothering her and I told her I needed to find a spot for her,” said McLaughlin. “She’s been playing sweeper and done a great job for us.”

Playing field hockey fulfills Sears’ athletic needs and it also has served as a good release, something that was particularly necessary last year when her mother passed away from scleroderma after 11 years of illness.

“That was a tough time but I had friends and family and field hockey helped because it gave me something to do and I had a lot of friends on the team,” said Sears.

“I get as much or more out of being in the band, but it’s stressful. Field hockey is more fun and it relaxes me. I like driving the ball and bringing it up and I love the competitiveness.”

Her commitment to the sport hasn’t gone unnoticed by McLaughlin.

“She’s a trooper and has a great attitude and you can see she’s 100 percent committed to field hockey and also 100 percent committed to the band,” said McLaughlin. “A lot of times, she’ll go right from (field hockey) practice to band practice.

“Some of the things she’s gone through, some other kids would have thrown in the towel. But she has a good support system and she just keeps going.”

Sears hopes to continue her love of field hockey beyond high school and, while she realizes, it won’t be easy, no one — given her resiliency — is doubting her.

Anyway, she has a plan.

“I’m going to get some help from my cousin,” said Sears, referring to Stewart, who now lives in North Andover and is a sophomore playing at St. Anselm. “She helped me before and she’ll let me know what I need for college.”