Brooke Haskell has been to the NCAA field hockey tournament before. She remembers the highlights, such as the trip to Gillette Stadium for the banquet before the national semifinals, and the buzz generated when Saint Anselm College became one of those final four teams standing in the Division II field.

“It was just so exciting,” she said. “It was a huge deal for our school too. … It was a really good experience, not just for our team but for our campus and our school.”

Now a senior, the former Winslow star is hoping for one more of those moments to wrap up a successful career. Haskell and the Hawks are in the Division II tournament for the third straight year, and will open their championship pursuit against Pace in the first round on Sunday.

Saint Anselm, a school in Goffstown, New Hampshire, lost in the first round last season, but reached the semifinals in 2016. Haskell is confident her team can reach those heights again.

“We’ve been playing so well into postseason and (late regular) season, and we’re just going in with the mindset (that) we’re good enough to go all the way,” she said. “I feel like our mindset right now and our gameplanning and where we’re at is just working out really well for us.”

Haskell has been a big part of that success. The senior back has been a linchpin to a Hawks defense that ranks eighth in the country with a 1.21 goals against average.

“Brooke has definitely been one of our most consistent players over the course of her whole career,” coach Carolyn King-Robitaille said. “I think this year she broke the record for most games started for our program. … She’s just someone you can look at and do exactly what she’s doing, and it’s always going to be the right thing.”

Haskell, admittedly an introvert when she joined the program, also had to embrace more of a leadership role as a senior captain.

“I was pretty quiet and timid freshman year, and now this year I feel like I’ve opened up a lot,” she said. “I lead more by example, not by my voice. My coach really respects that. … She completely understands what I’m doing and how I think I’m supposed to be a leader.”

King-Robitaille said as much.

“We joked when she first got here, I don’t think she spoke her entire freshman year,” she said. “She just goes out there and she kind of does her job. She found her voice this year.”

That leadership, be it on or off the field, helped the Hawks deal with some early adversity this season. After back-to-back tournament berths, Saint Anselm lost nine players and three All-Americans, and stumbled out of the gates with two straight losses.

Even with the shaky start, Haskell said the team’s confidence never wavered.

“We always have the mindset that it can happen, we can do it,” she said.

With Haskell leading the way, starting all 21 games, the Hawks proved it, closing the regular season with a seven-game winning streak and going all the way to the NE-10 Conference championship game. Falling short might have dashed any national tournament hopes, and Haskell said she was confronted with the possibility of her career coming to an abrupt end at every playoff step.

“You just never know if you’re going to get the bid if you don’t win the NE-10 championship, so I was really emotional,” she said. “It all hit me at once, thinking that that might be the last time that I’m playing field hockey.”

Of course, Haskell and her Hawks have more field hockey to play, having gotten an at-large bid despite falling to Merrimack in the NE-10 final. And after being counted out by many while the season was just getting started, they’re riding some momentum as well.

“A lot of people underestimated us,” she said, “so it feels really good to go back to nationals and prove that we’re one of the six best teams in Division II.”

It’s a similar ride to the one Haskell enjoyed in 2016, but she said things are different this time. She was just a sophomore cog on that team, but this time, as a senior captain, she’s helped author the run.

“Sophomore year I played the same position as I am this year, but I was more of a piece and a role player,” she said. “But this year I feel like I’ve stepped up and taken more of a leadership role, and more of a person that my teammates can look up to and count on.”

And if this last run reaches all the way to the championship game?

“It would honestly be incredible,” she said. “I can’t think of a better way to end my career.”

Drew Bonifant — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @dbonifantMTM

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