The Saint Anselm field hockey team is chasing a national championship, and Brooke Haskell and Michelle Lemelin are enjoying seeing it up close.

The Hawks are two wins away from hardware, playing LIU Post on Friday in the semifinals of the NCAA Division II tournament, and they’ve been relying on a pair of area players to get there. Winslow’s Haskell is a sophomore defender, and one of the team’s most steady presences in the back. Chelsea’s Lemelin is a freshman forward, and an emerging offensive threat for the fifth-ranked team in the country.

And they have a common goal — leading the Hawks to two more wins, and the first championship in program history.

“I think we had this goal in mind from the beginning of this season,” Haskell said. “We had a really strong season last year, and this was our goal coming into the season right away.”

Haskell’s progression into a vital player for the team has been reflected in the Saint Anselm (16-4) game logs. She’s started all but one game this season after starting zero her freshman year, fitting in to form a defensive tandem with Elizabeth Alie, Erin Collins and Jennifer Brown that has been at the heart of the Hawks’ success.

“She’s been a great back defender for us. Really reliable,” coach Carolyn King-Robitaille said. “You wouldn’t assume she’s a sophomore, you’d think she’s more like a senior. We know we can count on her.”

Haskell, a center back often in charge of protecting the space in front of the cage, said she’s felt less reluctant to act as a leader in her second season.

“I feel like I’m a communicator as a defender,” she said. “I feel like a leader back there, to help people (know) where to go and where they should be defending.”

For Lemelin, the season has been a gradual adjustment. Admittedly taken aback at first by the speed of the college game and the raised talent of the players on the field, the Erskine Academy product has settled into a role as a scoring option off the bench. Her four goals tied for fourth on the team.

“It’s the same game, but you kind of see it in a new light,” she said. “I think I’ve come far getting the knowledge of the college game, and from the beginning of the season to now, I’ve gained a lot of confidence.”

That was apparent in the quarterfinals, a 3-1 victory over Stonehill that put the Hawks where they are now. Lemelin tallied the final goal in the win, redirecting a shot to give St. Anselm some needed breathing room.

“Even though we were up, it was definitely a great feeling,” she said. “Just to give the team some insurance and keep the game rolling.”

Now the team is on the verge of something special, with only LIU Post standing in the way of a spot in the national championship game. The stakes are higher, but the Hawks aren’t letting that faze them.

“We’re definitely aware that this is more of a riskier game, because if you lose, you’re out,” Lemelin said. “We’re not going to let the nerves overcome us. We’re going to go in like it’s a normal game and play our game.”

And if that’s enough to win again?

“It would be an amazing feeling,” Haskell said. “It’s really exciting. We worked really hard this year, and I think we deserve to be where we’re at right now.”

Drew Bonifant — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @dbonifantMTM

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