Greenwich High field hockey ready to battle the best once again

The Greenwich High School field hockey team started its preseason with a battle against cross-town rival Greenwich Academy. This season, head coach Allyn Orrico has high hopes for her Cardinals.  — John Ferris Robben photo

The Greenwich High School field hockey team started its preseason with a battle against cross-town rival Greenwich Academy. This season, head coach Allyn Orrico has high hopes for her Cardinals. — John Ferris Robben photo

After an impressive run last season, the Greenwich High School field hockey team plans on an encore performance this fall.

“I am really looking forward to a great season,” Greenwich High head coach Allyn Orrico said. “I think we have tremendous potential, but it depends on how well the girls can jell with all the new combinations going in here.”

Last season Greenwich High entered the Fairfield County Interscholastic Athletic Conference as the No. 4 seed and stunned top-seeded Wilton High School 2-1 in the semis. Due to Hurricane Sandy, there were no finals and Big Red was named co-FCIAC champions, along with Darien High School.

In the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference class L tournament, Greenwich, seeded ninth last year, upended No. 8 seeded Conard High School 3-0 before falling to eventual state champion Darien in the second round. The Cards ended their season with an impressive 12-5 record.

Although Greenwich lost a slew of talented players to graduation, this year the Cardinals have a bunch of veterans returning and talented newcomers on the roster.

“We know how to play field hockey and we are getting to know each other better and better all the time,” senior tri-captain Liz Trotta said. “I think we need to work on team bonding. We have the skill and have the talent. Now we have to play as a team and if we can do that, I think we can go all the way.”

In addition to Trotta, seniors Nicole Graham and Sydney Cole will be leading the way as captains.

“I am really excited about being a captain here,” Cole said. “ I was on the team for a couple of years now, so it’s nice to be a leader and hopefully lead our team to a successful season. This team has a lot of speed and we plan on using that to our advantage.”

“This is one of my favorite teams to work with because we get along so well,” Graham said. “Everybody puts everything out there and I know we are a team that can do so well this year. I am looking forward to this year.”

Besides being really talented field hockey players, Orrico enjoys seeing what each brings to the table, both on and off the field.”

“They have a great deal of character and resilience and they are extremely dedicated. They have already done an outstanding job at bringing the team together and leading by example. They aren’t just cheering the team on to show leadership. They are leading by example and our season has gotten off to a smooth start because of our captains. I am really excited for the season because with girls like our captains leading the way, we have an excellent chance to go far.”

One of the biggest inspirations on the Greenwich High roster, or any roster in the state, is Graham. After nearly a year of battling leukemia, not only has Graham been victorious in her fight, but also she’s back on the field hockey team.

Greenwich High senior captain Nicole Graham dishes the ball to a teammate during a scrimmage on Friday. — John Ferris Robben photo

Greenwich High senior captain Nicole Graham dishes the ball to a teammate during a scrimmage on Friday. — John Ferris Robben photo

During the team’s first preseason game of the year against cross-town rival Greenwich Academy, Graham played a full game with the Cardinals for the first time.

“It’s amazing to be back,” Graham said. “I never imagined myself being back. I wish I was back 10 months ago, but never thought it would happen. To be back playing again and do what I normally do is awesome.”

While Orrico said that all her captains are outstanding athletes and inspirational to the team, having Graham back full time is something truly special.

“Even before she became ill, she was such a fighter,” Orrico said. “She started playing field hockey late and her skill level just took off. Her skill level is outstanding, but the way that girl fights is amazing. In her sophomore year, she played an amazing game for us in the states against Newtown. We know the fight Nicole has and I think she’s very inspirational to her teammates because she’s back on the field and back battling and playing. She’s a true inspiration to everybody.”

Last season, Freddie Bancroft did a stellar job between the pipes and will once again be the team’s starting goalie. Orrico said that one of the things she’s enjoyed season so far this preseason has been Bancroft’s ability to take the younger goalies under her wing.

“She’s teaching the skills as well as what they need to do in terms of leadership and communication, as well as taking control of the defense,” Orrico said. “Not only is she helping them learn the position with technique, but I think she’s been outspoken and vocal this year. She has started this season off with a lot of confidence and leadership.”

The biggest strength for this year’s defense is that a plethora of players are returning from last year’s roster. Coming back to back up Bancroft will be Trotta, Graham, junior Sarah Cicchetti, senior Ali Larkin, junior Anne Dunster, senior Maddy Veronis, junior Meghan Collins and senior Maddy Graves.

“They understand schemes and understand what we do,” Orrico said. “They know how to play defense and know the concept. Not only are they talented players technically, but they have great game IQs. They understand what our strategy is. The fact that they are returning is going to do nothing but improve our defense.”

Greenwich’s midfield will add some new players to the varsity roster, but will also have some strong veterans leading the way. When Larkin and Trotta aren’t playing defense, they could see some quality time at the midfield position.

“I started out as a sophomore on this team and it’s great to be moving up,” Trotta said. “I know how it feels to be one of the underclassmen and I can’t wait to be one of the people that leads the team.”

Joining Larkin will be senior Jacquie Steele, sophomore Jessica Lagano and junior Tania Iskandar.

“We have a lot of people that we can use that are very versatile,” Orrico said. “That’s what I love about my midfield. They could play defense or the attack.”

Big Red will have two returning forwards that Orrico believes will have standout season in Cole and Sarah Steinbaugh.

“We need to execute what we do in practice and really try to gel as a team,” Cole said. “Once we know where our teammates are going to be, we will be able to capitalize on our opportunities. From every practice we have, we need to be intense right from the start and make sure we give it our all.”

However, Greenwich has a bunch of other talented attackers that can pick up the pace as well, such as seniors Taylor Brimberg, Hannah Koorbusch, sophomore Malena Etchegaray and freshman Paige Mautner.

“Other than Sydney and Sarah, there really aren’t too many guarantees at attack yet,” Orrico said. “We still have a few scrimmages and practices. But they show the promise of a bright future here and show how versatile we are at the attack, and as a team as well.”

Orrico said that if the Cardinals improve with every game and they come together and understand the team concept, she expects her team to make a lot of noise come playoff time.

“I think it’s going to be an exciting season,” said Orrico. “As usual the FCIAC is incredibly strong, so our girls are going to have to play their best. We have a very nice mix of returning players and new players. They are going to have to gel really quickly though because of how stacked the FCIAC is in terms of talent.”

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