New coach, same expectations for Greenwich Academy field hockey

Greenwich Academy head coach Jaime Brower is taking over a prgoram that was previously coached by the legendary Angela Tammaro. — John Ferris Robben photo

Greenwich Academy head coach Jaime Brower is taking over a prgoram that was previously coached by the legendary Angela Tammaro. — John Ferris Robben photo

Working hard every day, the Greenwich Academy field hockey team has a much different look to them. However something that first-year head coach Jaime Brower plans on keeping is the same winning ways that have made the school a powerhouse in the sport.

“I see a lot of young, hard-working kids that are willing to do whatever it takes to get better,” Brower said. “It’s great for any coach to see. We have amazing senior leadership here and a younger group that has been working hard every day to improve their game. It’s a good starting point for us.”

Right from the start, one of the biggest changes was at the head coaching position, as Brower, who started at the school in 2011 as an assistant, will be taking over the program.

“I’m excited,” said Brower. “Preseason was exciting and the team’s energy was great. All the coaches are on board and supportive of the girls. I am more excited than nervous, but I’m taking it one game at a time and one practice at a time. I think that will help everybody get rid of those nerves and expectations here. Any pressure that we feel, I’m going to put that on myself.

To say Brower has huge shoes to fill is an understatement.

The new Greenwich Academy head coach is replacing Angela Tammaro, a legend when it comes to field hockey. Tammaro finished her tenure at GA four wins shy of 750, her teams have captured the Fairchester Athletic Association champions since 1984 and the Gators have won five New England Prep School Athletic Conference championships under her leadership. Last season was a typical season for Tammaro and GA, as the field hockey team finished 19-2 and advanced to the NEPSAC championship game.

Tammaro has been enshrined into the Connecticut Field Hockey Hall of Fame, was a National Field Hockey Coach of the Year and also earned a National Field Hockey Coaches Hall of Fame honor.

The GA field hockey team opened its scrimmage schedule with a game against cross-town rival Greenwich High School. — John Ferris Robben photo

The GA field hockey team opened its scrimmage schedule with a game against cross-town rival Greenwich High School. — John Ferris Robben photo

“I am so grateful to Tammy for all the preparation she gave me the past two years,” Brower said. “I have learned so much. There’s not a better coach than Tammy. She is legendary in the world of field hockey and I had the honor to be an assistant under her. I am so lucky and so grateful to be a part of this.”

This year Greenwich Academy will be led by seniors Julia Booth, Haley Carmichael and Katrina Kraus.

“It’s going to be an amazing experience leading this team,” Carmichael said. “It’s something that I’ve been looking forward to my entire time at GA. I am so proud to be a captain of this season. We have a great team. I think we can improve on all our skills and working together.”

According to Brower, Booth and Kraus have the most game experience on the roster as returning varsity players.

“Booth will be returning to goalie for her senior season. While Brower was an assistant under Tammaro, she was working mainly with goalies. As a goalie during her playing days in field hockey, Brower was working hard with Booth to improve her game.

“Julia and I have spend many hours talking hockey and analyzing stuff,” Brower said. “It’s a really fun thing knowing the goalkeeper that is leading your defense knows what you’re thinking as a coach and understands it. She’s very good at explaining that to other people, so we are in really great shape when it comes to goalie.”

Carmichael enters her senior season taking over the defensive spot where standout Anne Leonard played last year.

“That’s a heavy load, but every single day during preseason she has become more confident, asks questions directs her defense and does a wonderful job,” Brower said. “I think she will gain even more confidence the more games she plays.”

Kraus will be pacing the team at the forward position and gives the Gators that aggressive advantage Brower has been looking for.

“It’s great to be a leader here,” Kraus said. “It’s so exciting to be on this team. Every year is different and every year is great. We have a bunch of new girls on the team this year and they are blending in nicely with the returning players. We all have a positive attitude and a great work ethic, so I’m expecting a lot from this team.”

“She’s a scrappy forward and will run herself into the ground to get done what needs to get done at the forward line,” Brower said. “Katrina and Olivia LeSueur will be working the inners. Both are returning and have that experience. Katrina has a lot of speed and has done a great job leading the team at the offensive end.”

One of the keys for Greenwich Academy this season will be the play of Booth between the pipes.

“It’s really interesting,” Booth said. “I came from a person that always looked up to the captains and now I am one of those captains. It’s such a great honor. We are working on a couple of things, but I think it’s going to be a lot of fun to lead this team. We have a great group of girls and I am looking forward to working hard with the team to get better.”

“She’s amazing,” Brower said. “She is just incredibly steady and calm, especially under pressure. Even in the big games, she’s good. I have yet to see her get rattled, and I have worked with her for four years now. She has those physical skills necessary to get the job done in every game that we play.”

Backing up Booth will be freshman Maggie Reville.

Playing in front of Booth will be a strong defense that will see numerous athletes playing numerous positions on the field. Leading the way will be Carmichael in the middle of the defense. Other players looking to make some noise at defense will be seniors Charlotte Gilliland and Lexi Olney, sophomore Ellie Otton and freshmen Sofia Viola and Karina Schulze.

“A lot of the players flanking Haley that will start at defense depend on who we are playing and what speed we are playing,” Brower said. “Different backs are bringing different strengths to the table. We are going to determine what we have and what we are facing to see who will flank Haley.”

One of the stronger midfielders for GA this season will come from sophomore Whitney Balanoff. Playing a wing position for the team last year, Balanoff has been working hard in the offseason and will be the team’s center/midfield.

“That’s a really demanding position,” Brower said. “Hannah Goodrick played there last year and was just a machine. Whitney has done a great job working her tail off to improve her game. She’s going to continue to learn and grow at that position and has been doing really well.

Joining her will be returning junior Kate DeFrino and sophomore Lucy Burke. When Olney and sophomore Anna Khoury aren’t playing defense, they could both see some time at the midfield position.

The Gators plan on scoring a plethora of goals this season and the duo of Kraus and LeSueur will be the people GA looks at to put the ball in the back of the cage.

Also playing forward this season for the Gators will be juniors Tatiana Viola and Alexa Murray, as well as sophomores Caroline Keller and Erika Kraus.

“Caroline has played a variety of positions on the forward line and really has that speed and feistiness, as does Erika,” Brower said. “Alexa and Tatiana have been playing wing a lot and are bringing good decision-making and positioning on the forward line for us.”

When Brower looks at her team, she hopes that they are strong when it comes to the possession game.

“That’s where I think we are going to be our strongest,” the head coach said. “We have some pretty good speed, but I think the possession game is the way to go. We have a lot of kids that have great hands. We are going to try and make that all fit together.”

While the team isn’t doesn’t have the same numbers that other varsity teams will have this season and that there’s some inexperience on the roster, Brower couldn’t be more pleased with the team’s ability to learn the game at a quick pace.

“Our work ethic has been amazing,” Brower said. “We aren’t bringing a lot of experience to the table, so we were looking for girls that were willing to work hard. They are all doing that. If we can keep applying that in an effective way, it will pay off. Our weakness right now is that lack of game experience, but they will continue to improve on that the more we play.”

Despite the lack of experience, Greenwich Academy will still be competing against some of the elite competition this season, just like they’ve done in the past.

“We are going to play a lot of team that have a lot of returning players and are really strong,” Brower said. “We are going to respect the fact that we are going against teams that have that game experience. But we are just going to do our best, take it one game at a time, use each other and play truly as a team. Everybody needs to step up. The girls that put on the green and gold uniform know the tradition that has come before them and respect the tradition. We know what GA teams in the past have done. That’s why they are working so hard. We are going to make our own path to get to our goals and it might not be the same path as other teams in the past.”

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