The Keene High field hockey team jumped out to an early lead en route to a gratifying 4-0 victory over Manchester Central in its home opener on a fall-is-coming Tuesday afternoon at Scripture Field.
Now, if only the Blackbirds can thump their past, present and future opponent that easily.
The game was the first of a season-long series of “Play 4 the Cure” home games to raise money, offer support and heighten awareness in the fight against cancer.
“This means a lot to us,” Keene senior Sadie Borden said. “We have teammates directly affected by cancer and we want to do everything we can to support them.”
Borden said she’s lost a grandmother to cancer.
Two Keene High players — they asked that their names not be used — have parents who died or suffered from cancer, as have several recent graduates and coaches.
No one, they said, is immune from the tentacles of cancer.
“The girls treat this as something they aren’t going to let go,” said Keene Coach Michelle Tiana, who helped start the team’s journey in “Cure” games seven years ago. “They want to do it.”
So much so, that instead of dedicating just one game to fight breast cancer, as in the past, the Blackbirds are dedicating every home game to someone affected by the disease and the many forms of cancer.
Tuesday’s match focused on leukemia.
The Blackbirds will be raising money all season through concession sales, donations, T-shirt sales and other ventures. Players wear the T-shirts (only $12) and pink ribbons to school on game days.
Benefits will go to the Norris Cotton Cancer Center and Joy’s Network, a program that provides free cancer resources and services to patients and families in the Monadnock Region.
Joy’s Network volunteers joined Keene Booster Club members at the concession table, selling crafts and handing out phamplets to go with a home-baked cupcake or cookie.
Other varsity programs also plan to hold “Play 4 the Cure” games.
“It’s important to all of us,” senior midfielder Courtney Jessup, who scored Keene’s first goal, said while sporting her “Play 4 the Cure” field hockey T-shirt and eating a slice of pizza.
Colorful signs, made by players, are attached to the fence behind the teams’ bench area. They feature names, facts about cancer or inspirational messages: “Courage is not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it.”
Tiani said the program has helped raised some $2,500 — and counting — since its inception.
“We talked initially about working for a new group,” Tiana said, “but that didn’t last long.”
And if the Keene field hockey players, coaches, fans and supporters have anything to say about it, the fight against cancer won’t last much longer, either.
Christie Buyer, Celia Baybutt and Maggie Cahoon also scored for Keene (1-2). Kaeleigh Lord added an assist. ... The Blackbirds’ four goals doubled their scoring output from the first two games. ... Sage Bennis and Jess Lavallee shared time in goal; they combined for one save. ... Keene plays again Friday at Dover.