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Field Hockey Will Be in the Spotlight at First Initiation Ceremony for Bellingham Hall of Fame

Oct 30, 2018 06:00AM ● By Pamela Johnson

Brenna Elliot

written by KEN HAMWEY, Bulletin Sports Editor

Bellingham High’s field hockey teams dominated the 1980s, and that dominance will be personified on Nov. 24, when the school’s first Hall of Fame induction ceremony takes place at the Coachmen’s Lodge.

The individuals to be inducted include Ricky Santos, Glen Gariepy, Brenna Elliott, Ron Russell and the brother-sister combination of Matt and Stacey Blue. Coaches selected are Ron Bonollo and the late Frank Flynn, and the teams that will be honored are the 1985 state title field hockey squad and the 2003 state champion boys basketball team.

Of the 10 inductees, three are linked to field hockey—Elliott, Bonollo and the 1985 state championship squad. They are credited with putting the sport on the map for two decades, not only in Bellingham but throughout the Tri Valley League. Conference championships were won, Sectional crowns became routine and three State titles were captured.

Ron Bonollo

 Bonollo, who coached the 1985 and the 1988 State champs, and Elliott, who scored 111 career goals and played on the 1988 championship team, are both humbled and honored to be part of the inaugural ceremony.

“I was at the right place at the right time with the right athletes,” the 76-year-old Bonollo said. “I taught at Bellingham for only eight years and coached field hockey for five seasons. The 1985 squad had some exceptional players, and Brenna is one of the greatest players I ever coached.”

Bonollo guided the 1985 team to the Division 2 crown (the first state title at BHS in the modern era). The 1988 title was achieved at the Division 1 level. BHS beat Murdoch in Division 2 and Southbridge in Division 1. Bonollo’s field hockey records at two schools were dynamic —84-14 at Franklin High (three Hockomock League titles) and an 86-13 record at Bellingham.
“I feel so fortunate to be honored, especially in the school’s first ceremony,” said Bonollo, who worked as a child welfare specialist in Florida after leaving education. “There are so many deserving athletes, starting in the 1950s to the current time. The group being inducted is an unbelievable collection of superb, top-notch athletes.”

Induction into the BHS Hall of Fame will mark the third time Bonollo’s been a hall of famer. He was inducted into the Massachusetts Baseball Coaches Hall of Fame in 1990 and the Dean College Hall of Fame in 1980.

When he took the field hockey reins at BHS, Bonollo immediately employed a fast-break style in what previously had been a deliberate passing game; and it was Brenna Elliott who adjusted to that style in stunning fashion.

A 1991 BHS graduate, Elliott had 111 goals, which elevated her to a No. 7 ranking in the country during the 1990 season. Forty-five of her 111 came in her junior year in 1989. Her all-star recognition included the TVL, Boston Globe, Boston Herald and the Milford News. In 1988, when she was a sophomore, her goal against Mansfield in the tourney gave BHS a 1-0 triumph, enabling the Blackhawks to advance and eventually become state champs. She experienced a second state crown as an assistant coach when Joanne Paquette guided Bellingham to its third State title in 1996.

“Brenna was a hard-nosed competitor who refused to lose,” Bonollo said. “The teams in the TVL knew who she was, and because they’d double- and triple-team her, that opened up scoring opportunities for other players. When she came out for the team, I was told she might not be coachable. Well, we were both on the same page. We wanted to win.”

Like Bonollo, Elliott is honored to be inducted into the first Hall of Fame class, and she says she’s glad that her achievements haven’t been forgotten. “It’s nice that people think highly of what I accomplished and it’s also nice to be remembered,” she said. “I’m humbled to be included among a group of fabulous athletes.”

What made Elliott tick and excel were mental toughness, her passion and desire to play the sport, and a work ethic that was off the charts. “Field hockey is a team sport and the girls I played with on the 1988 team all got along great and we jelled as a unit,” she emphasized. “Ron built the program, won our respect early on and definitely made me a better player. He changed the way the game was played, and because of the success his teams had, people flocked to our games. Field hockey was more popular in Bellingham than football back then.”
The goal against Mansfield that helped BHS advance and eventually win its second State title remains a memorable moment for Elliott, but her most prolific outing occurred in 1988 in a contest against Franklin. BHS won, 11-0, and Elliott scored six goals. “I’ll never forget that game,” she said. “It was a hat trick times two.”

Elliott also was a dynamic competitor in track, establishing a TVL record in the javelin, throwing it 117 feet, 10 inches. After high school, she excelled in softball. She was inducted into the New England Slow Pitch Softball Association’s Hall of Fame a year ago. Now a surgical technician at a veterinary clinic, she, her husband and their son live in Tiverton, RI.

The induction of the 1985 field hockey team is no surprise. The squad was the first to capture a state championship at BHS in the modern era. They finished their regular season at 16-2 and were runners-up to Hopkinton for the league title. When the Sectional Tournament got underway, BHS defeated (in order) Sandwich, Harwich, Cohasset and Bishop Stang for the crown. A 1-0 victory over Triton gave the Blackhawks the Eastern Massachusetts title, and they wrapped up a Cinderella season by downing Murdoch, 3-1, at Boston University for the Division 2 State crown.

The players included Beth Thornton, Lisa Payne, Mandi Coady, Marci Coady, Tammy Coady, Lisa Beals, Kim Trites, Tammy Kosmas, Barbara Deziel, Lisa Colbreath, Heather Fontaine, Sheila Hastey, Michelle LaPlante, Sarah Powers, Diane Loff, Christine Fleuette, Carol Brennan and Jill Morrell.

The ceremony will start with a cocktail hour at 5:30 pm; the dinner and induction will be from 6:30 to 9:30 pm. Tickets are still available and cost $50 each (a table of 10 costs $450). Tickets can be obtained by contacting Athletic Director Michael Connor at [email protected]





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