Franklin’s Kelly Dubowski was not your ordinary athlete. The now senior first picked up a field hockey stick for the Franklin Youth Field Hockey program in the seventh grade; two years later, she was starting for the Panthers varsity squad.
“She began playing as a freshman starting at left wing,” Franklin Field Hockey Coach Lisa Cropper said. “It’s out of the ordinary, as not too many freshmen make the varsity squad, never mind start. Kelly just had a nose for the net and has been one of our top scorers all four years.”
Earning a spot on the varsity team certainly came as a surprise to Dubowski; at times she even asked herself if she actually belonged there.
“It was unreal, and I didn’t expect to make the varsity team when I did, I really didn’t know what to expect,” the senior winger said. “As a freshman, it was intimidating at times, but the transition was smooth. Field hockey practice started before high school and the older girls were great, especially the four captains, who were warm and welcoming.”
Being on the squad as a freshman, Dubowksi figured that she would be watching and learning the nuances of the varsity game from the bench, but that wasn’t the case. The first year player would get her learning by being part of the team on the field.
“I was shocked that I played as much as I did,” she said. “But I knew that this was an opportunity, and I wanted to take full advantage of it. I also wanted to take it easy, learn the game at this level and prove myself.”
Although the first-year player thought that she needed to pace herself, Coach Cropper was beyond that.
“She was very fast with incredible speed, aggression and good instincts as a freshman,” the coach said. “It was a no brainer, and as a freshman, she scored about ten goals.”
Playing in the Franklin youth program, Dubowski found herself playing just about every position possible, but once she got to the high school level she was a mainstay on the left side of the Panther offense. Left wing was a challenge at first, but one the first year player attacked with aggression as she did against her opponents.
“Playing against all the older varsity players as a freshman was tough at first. I had to learn quickly if I was going to be successful,” Dubowski said. “Once you master the left side, you let your instincts take over. Now that I’m comfortable with the position, I rely on my reverse stick a lot.”
Coach Cropper was there to offer tips on playing the position as well as the captains helping Dubowski in any way possible. Although she mastered the left side of the field she was still apprehensive about taking shots on the opposition’s goalie.
“I was hesitant with my shooting. I didn’t trust myself,” she said. “However, my confidence grew through the years and I became much more aggressive playing down near the post looking for the tip.”
While Dubowski doubted herself, her coach wasn’t buying it.
“Kelly was always a good player, but this past year, she was the most confident and effective in her game,” Cropper said. “Her speed and talent lent herself to play the left side. It takes a special person to play that side, as she has to master turning around to take the right-handed shot. Kelly has always had that special knack.”
The senior left-winger notched 18 goals and 5 assists during the regular season leaving her as the third best scorer in the Hockomock League and second on the Franklin team behind Maddie Bressler. Dubowski would add a goal and two assists during the Division 1 South Field Hockey Tournament.
Behind Dubowksi the Panthers went 14-2-2 capturing the Hockomock League title, but unfortunately their goals of a Division 1 South Championship fell short as Dennis Yarmouth ousted them 1-0 in the quarter finals.
With her high school field hockey career at an end, Dubowski now hopes that she can continue to play at the next level in college. Although it is her goal to do so, academics will come first and if works then she’ll move onto the next step of her field hockey career.
“She’s looking into a couple of schools for nursing. Simmons, a division 3 school, would be more idealistic for her,” Cropper said. “While she can play on that level, it’s going to be really tough to replace her after she’s been our anchor on the left side for the past four years. We’re going to miss her.”
As Dubowski leaves Franklin field hockey turf for the final time she hopes that she will be remembered as a role model and one who gave back to her teammates as their captain this past season.
Franklin's Kelly Dubowski has been the anchor of the left side for Franklin Field Hockey for four years. She hopes to play in college, although academics will come first.