There are three sets of sisters on the Methuen/Tewksbury Red Rangers Girls Hockey team (from left):
Ava and Ella Duffy, Livia and Breena Lawrence, and Samantha and Emma Ryan. Courtesy photo

The Methuen/Tewksbury Red Rangers girls’ hockey team is an established State Championship-level program, but 2023-24 is a year of transition. Head coach Sarah Doucette has stepped down, handing the reins to longtime assistant and former MHS hockey standout Dave O’Hearn.

With O’Hearn at the helm, the Red Rangers should not miss a beat and once again be a serious contender to regain the state title they won in 2019. The long-term success of the program is unique, but what’s even more unique is the family atmosphere of the team, and I mean family atmosphere.

This year‘s Red Rangers feature three sets of sisters: Emma and Samantha Ryan, Ava and Ella Duffy, and Livia and Breena Lawrence. Coach O’Hearn gives us the sisterly scouting report:

Emma Ryan, senior defense: “Tough dependable defenseman. Strong defensive presence in our zone and reliable.”

Samantha Ryan, freshman winger: “Shaping up to be a dominant player in the league as a freshman. Strong along the boards. Looking for her to be an offensive threat. Played last year as an eighth-grader.”

Ava Duffy, senior forward: “Has been extremely reliable over her career. Can play up and down in the lineup and gives us flexibility at any forward position. Strong, tough forward.”

Ella Duffy, sophomore center/winger: “Offensively talented sophomore forward. Can see the ice very well to go with an excellent shot. Should see her name on some score sheets.”

Breena Lawrence, junior forward: “Offensive buzzsaw who can dominate games. She is a tenacious two-way player that can match up with the best on any team.”

Livia Lawrence, junior defense: “Defensive defenseman with a dangerous shot from the point. Liv is a great team player and is a pesky defender in zone.”

This sensational sibling sestet brings a whole new level of togetherness, competition and optimism to the team.

Ryan Racers

Emma Ryan is a senior on the Red Rangers joined this year by her sister Samantha, a freshman winger.

The elder Ryan talks about the family ties: “I try to see Sam as a teammate rather than a sister when we are on the ice. I’ve noticed that I am a bit more critical of her than I am my other teammates, but I think it’s just because I want her to be the best she can be. We do our best to not let any sibling drama affect the team or our playing ability. We give each other tips and advice on how to play better or just discuss different ideas that we think could work in a game.”

Adds Samantha, “Playing with Emma pushes me to be better. Whenever we compete in drills against each other, we both have that sibling rivalry. My goals as a freshman on the team are to score goals, get assists and learn the game. As a teammate, Emma has taught me new skills and allowed me to be the best I can be.”

The Ryan sisters have grown up in sports. Along with mom Shelli-An, their dad is Tom Ryan, the highly successful Methuen High School varsity football coach. So, what is it like having a coach at home as well as on the ice?

Emma responds, “He understands certain team dynamics better than other parents. He tends to compare what his team does to what our team does at certain times, but I think he tries to keep his coaching mindset and his parent mindset separate.”

Samantha relates, “I know what coaches expect and the commitment I need to give to the team. My dad gives constructive criticism and tells us when we need to pick it up. He makes sure we come into the season prepared and ready to compete.”

Clearly, the Ryan sisters know a little bit about coaching, and they know they have a good one in Dave O’Hearn. Says Emma, “My freshmen year, I was switched from center to defense and Coach O’Hearn certainly helped make the transition easier. Now, as the head coach, he has done a great job in recognizing the teams’ strengths and utilizing them to secure wins this season. He also has identified the weaknesses and has us working on them a lot during practice.”

Samantha believes that Coach O’Hearn’s mindset is all about competition: “Before every game and in between periods, he gives us speeches to get us in the right mindset. During practices when we are competing against our own teammates, he tells us that we are competing against the best players in the state. Coach Dave is always telling us what we need to improve on, but also acknowledges our success.”

Samantha also plays soccer and is involved in the Student Council at MHS while Emma is an AP Scholar and National Honor Society student who plans to study law in college.

She reflects on her time at MHS: “This program is one of the best hockey programs I have been a part of and I’m honored to have been a part of it for the last four years. The coaches, teammates and parents have been wonderful to be around and I’m going to miss this when I graduate.”

Duffy Dandies

Ava and Ella Duffy are all-around athletes thriving in hockey, volleyball and tennis at MHS. The daughters of Brian and Jan Duffy are also involved in numerous academic and social clubs and organizations, but this time of year, it is all about hockey.

Sophomore center/winger Ella Duffy is glad to have older sister Ava on the Red Rangers squad: “Having a person on your team that you can trust 100% no matter what is something I never knew I needed until I started playing high school sports. Ava will always be the first person I ask when I need advice in any situation. The thought of going from having her in every aspect of my life, to not seeing her every day, will certainly leave me with an empty feeling. We experience all the ups and downs together. My big sister will always be someone I’ll look up to, and she will leave big shoes to fill in both her academic career and athletic career.”

Ava talks about playing alongside her younger sister: “I will admit, at first I was a little disappointed when I found out my little sister was not only going to be on my hockey team, but every single high school team I played on because I thought I was too cool for her. However, I found that playing sports with her has really brought us together and gives us something to bond over. Having Ella on my team has turned out to be a really fun experience and I couldn’t ask for a better teammate.”

So, how does Ava Duffy balance schoolwork with trying to keep the Red Rangers in state title contention? She responds, “I’ve been balancing academics and sports my entire life and with practice I have developed a system to stay on track. I’m currently taking four AP classes, so I often have to get to practice early so I can do some homework in the locker room. I’m thankful to have this struggle though, because it has granted me with good time-management skills.”

So, how can this new roster of Red Rangers carry on the winning tradition?

Ella states, “We graduated some talented seniors last season, so I truly didn’t know what to expect coming into the season. We only have three full lines on both offense and defense. Now I can see that quality can beat quantity. We’ve already beaten impressive teams. With our bench and incredible goaltending, we have a strong chance at making some waves in state playoffs and putting yet another State Championship banner up on our rink wall.”

As for leadership, Ava Duffy has a good handle on what it means and how she demonstrates it: “The most important part about being a leader is supporting your teammates. I will always be screaming the loudest when I’m on the bench. I am so grateful to be a part of such a connected and passionate team.”

Lawrence Ladies

Breena and Livia Lawrence are doubling down in the sister theme with the Red Rangers, literally. The twin siblings are both juniors on the team with Breena playing forward and Livia on defense.

“It’s nothing out of ordinary to play on the same team as my sister,” says Breena, one of the team captains. “As twins, we been together in sports our whole lives. During practice we compete and push each other, and during games she’s just another teammate to support and work with on the ice. We do talk hockey often after games; it is especially helpful since we are different positions and have very different outlooks on the game.”

As for Livia, she talks about how she and Breena prepare for a season and her personal role on the club: “During the off-season, we play hockey and work out. We play on fall teams, do summer clinics, and work out with a trainer in the summer and fall. My personal goals are to break some bad habits I have and to help my team both on and off the ice.

“On defense, I think my role on the team is to make sure we stay solid in the D-Zone, and to communicate with the forwards. Defensive players have a better view of the ice most of the time, so I think it is very important to communicate these things to help them out and allow us to work together better.”

The daughters of Chris and Michelle Lawrence are both involved with SADD and various Learn to Skate programs. They also play varsity tennis and are in the National Honor Society and National Science Honor Society.

Breena discusses her thoughts on this year’s team: “My expectation for the team is to be very cohesive. I think that can bring a lot of success. Everything we do, from tryouts to our last game of the season, is about working towards the state tournament, and I expect us to have a great run. My personal goals are definitely to get more shots on net. I’m working towards a higher production of points this season, but being a playmaker is my strong suit.

“I play for the North Suburban Wings during the fall season which prepares me with the right hockey mindset for Varsity season. During the season I show up to practice every day with the intention to push myself and my teammates to be the best of our ability.”

Livia puts the Red Rangers’ sister factor into a team perspective: “It will definitely help us be successful in league play this year and hopefully have a good run at States. I really love the energy on our team. We work hard at practice and get pumped up for the games. Playing for this program has been so beneficial because it has allowed us to be challenged by good opponents, which helped us improve. As sisters, we always talk hockey after games. It’s good to see the game from a different person’s perspective.”

John Molori is an author, columnist, and a 2011 inductee into the Methuen Athletic Hall of Fame. Facebook: John Molori, Twitter @MoloriMedia. Email molorimedia@gmail.com