What has distinguished the Walpole (Mass.) field hockey team from most others in the U.S. — aside from its ersatz nickname — is stability. The Porkers have had exactly three coaches since 1967, all of whom have contributed to the legacy and legend of this powerhouse scholastic program.
The first coach was Sue Brainerd, who coached the team to its first MIAA state championship in 1984, then retired. Penny Calf, who played under Brainerd, would win seven more state championships until turning over the reins in 2002 to Marianne Murphy, who also played field hockey under Brainerd.
Murphy, through her use of enterprising and quick players, won four state championships, including one just this past fall in the MIAA Division I bracket.
But there will be a different set of footprints in the technical area this coming fall, as Murphy announced that she would be stepping down.
“I have enjoyed all 15 years,” she tells The Walpole Times. “I had great kids, they really went on after high school and excelled on the field and off the field. It gives me great pleasure to see them as young women today, but I have other things I want to do in my life before I get too old.”
Walpole, a town of about 25,000 located halfway between Boston and Providence, R.I., has developed a significant field hockey subculture over the last five decades. The team received raucous support at its old ground, The Porker Pen, a grass pitch that played to the team’s strengths.
The addition of artificial grass in recent years only added to the program’s significant home-field advantage, especially with a quick team.
But it’s going to be up to the next Walpole head coach to keep that championship form and that civic pride alive.