Greenwich High field hockey feeding off last year’s late-season playoff run

After its magical run through the state tournament last year, this year’s Greenwich High School field hockey team is looking to keep the momentum going strong through this year’s fall season.

“I see a lot of very talented individual athletes, so we are hoping that we can take that athleticism and talent that we have and gel together as a team,” Allyn Orrico said. “You can have all the talent in the world, but until they come together and play like a team, you can’t win.”

Last year, Big Red battle through countless injuries and illnesses. In fact, Orrico’s ideal starting lineup wasn’t able to get on the field at the same time until the final few games of the regular season. With a regular season record of 4-6-3-2, the Cardinals were a no show at the Fairfield County Interscholastic Athletic Conference tournament and picked up the final seed in the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference class L tournament.

However, that’s when the magic started. Just to get into the tournament, Big Red needed to win a qualifying game and that’s exactly what they did, as the No. 20 seeded Cards beat No. 13 seeded Newtown, 3-2.

In the opening round of the class L tourney, Greenwich stunned No. 4 seeded Conard High School, 1-0. Three days later, the upset-minded Lady Cards took to the field at Hamden and came away with another thrilling 2-1 victory over the No. 5 seeded Dragons. However, in the class L semis, top-seeded Cheshire High School was too much for Greenwich, as the Cards came away with 2-0 defeat.

“I think last year’s team bought into playing as a team and understanding the team strategies and dynamics,” Orrico said. “I think that our injuries and individual play really stunted our development as a team. Once we got our full compliment of players back, the girls were able to get that chemistry which propelled us through that playoff run.”

At the end of last year’s postseason Orrico knew this year wouldn’t be easy, as Claire Feeney, Michelle Jarombek, Liz Robben, Meghan Spezzao were all lost to graduation.

Emily Brash and Liz Stillman will be the co-captains for this year’s team. Brash will be placed center midfield, while Liz will be on the attack.

“They’ve been here long enough where they know the drill and know that they have to step up and fill the shoes of some of the great leaders we lost last year to graduation,” Orrico said. “Emily played attack for us last year, but we felt that she is such a great defender and so tenacious winning the ball back, that we could drop her back to the midfield and that would help us with our defense and attack.”

Erin Cincotta and Freddie Bancroft will be fighting for the starting goalie position on the varsity roster this year. Orrico said that having the duo battling for that starting spot is helping each other improve their game every day.

“That’s a great competition because they are both very athletic and both understand the game,” Orrico said. “They are both leaders, so I think it will be a very healthy competition in the cage. We are happy we have two great goalies on the team.”

Although it’s anybody’s guess who the starting goalie will be, Greenwich’s biggest question mark will come at sweeper. With the loss of Jen Hilibrand at sweeper to graduation, Orrico is still searching for that player to fill Hilibrand’s shoes.

“We are going to have a few young girls stepping into the defensive position that need to learn and understand the angles and what we are doing quickly,” Orrico said. “They have great skills, but they need their game smarts needs to improve quickly.”

Also playing at defense this year will be returning juniors Nicole Graham and Ali Larkin. Sophomore Anne Dunster stepped up this season and will see time on the varsity roster.

Joining Brash at midfield will be returning senior Emma Montgomery, returning junior Jacqueline Steele and newcomer to the varsity program Meghan Collins and Sarah Ryder.

“I think their biggest strength is that they possess great individual skills,” Orrico said. “I know that’s the theme of all our lines, but I know they are very talented and I need the returning players to improve on their performance from last year.”

At the attack, Greenwich is expecting big things from Stillman, seniors Claire O’Connor and Campbell Wasson, junior Sydney Cole and sophomore Sarah Stinebaugh.

“I would really like to see this team improve on its execution,” Orrico said. “We got good plans for the team and the girls are armed with a good strategy, but they need to execute as a team on the field. I need them to make in-game adjustments and they have to understand what it takes to be successful in field hockey.”

While the Cardinals have a strong offense, Orrico is still looking for balance.

“This team needs to be as balanced as possible,” Orrico said. “We have to be able to play defense, but we need to score as well. I see this team having developed as a team and having a great run in the playoffs. It was a huge disappointment for us not to qualify for FCIACs last year, so I think that will be a huge motivating factor for us. This team can make a state and FCIAC run.”

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