Greenwich Academy field hockey once again reign supreme

From the start of the field hockey season, Greenwich Academy’s head coach had a feeling that her team could accomplish something special.

With a solid defense and a veteran forward line, the Gators were stacking up the victories throughout the season.

However, the season was capped off when Greenwich Academy advanced to the New England Prep School Athletic Conference championship game against familiar foe Hotchkiss School and came away with the thrilling 2-1 overtime victory.

“We were terrific and played really well,” Angela Tammaro said. “I don’t think words can describe what it feels like. The kids were ecstatic. We’ve been knocking on the door for a bunch of years now, so to finally take the title was very exciting for all the coaches and kids.”

With the victory, the Gators were finally able to get past Hotchkiss. In the last two seasons, Greenwich Academy has played Hotchkiss in the NEPSAC finals, with Hotchkiss winning both games by one goal.

This time around, the Gators weren’t going to be denied. GA senior Pam Schulman got the team on the board. However, Hotchkiss added a goal and forced overtime.

With the game headed into an extra frame during the championship game of the New England Class A finals, it’s easy for anybody to get a little bit nervous. However, Tammaro could tell that wasn’t the way her team responded.

“There seemed to be a quiet confidence about them,” Tammaro said. “We had a great second half. We had drawn 10 corners and the field was tilting in our favor. I don’t think anybody was scared or worried. They knew that they had put in the stick skill training and were in good condition. They were excited to get it going.”

The Gators put a plethora of pressure on the Hotchkiss defense deep in their zone and forced a corner opportunity with 5:40 left.

Although Greenwich Academy had a golden opportunity to win the game, it didn’t appear that it would happen early, as the ball was fumbled on the entry pass. Remaining calm, the Gators quickly recovered and Schulman was able to get a stick on the loose ball. She spun around and fired a shot into the back of the net.

“There are wooden backboards in the back of the goal and it makes quite a delightful sound when the ball is hit hard,” Tammaro said. “That’s what happened. It was extraordinarily exciting for us. We’ve gone to the finals five or six times in the past 10 years and it was really nice that the kids had the determination and desire to win it.”

With the victory, GA finished the season with a 19-2 overall record and the NEPSAC championship hardware once again. For Tammaro, envisioning her Gators hoisting the trophy was actually not challenging, as she believed that her squad had a championship feel to it since the beginning of the season.

“They were a determined group of girls that worked really hard and went beyond what the coaches asked from them right from the beginning,” Tammaro said. “The girls were all willing to put in the time and energy that it takes to be successful.”

Leading the team this year were senior captains Emma Olney, Schulman and Emilia Tapsall.

“They were wonderful leaders,” Tammaro said. “The team responded so well to them. They set a good example, encouraged the kids and worked well with them.”

The Gators had an outstanding attack throughout the season. This season the Gators finished with an astounding 101 goals in 21 games played.

They were paced by seniors Eva Rosencrans, Schulman and Tapsall. Rosencrans, who started for three years with GA, finished with 25 goals and added 13 assists. Schulman, in her fourth year starting with the team, finished with 19 goals, but led the team with 25 assists. Tapsall was the team’s center midfielder for the previous three seasons, but was moved to forward in her senior campaign to generate more offense. She finished with a team-high 30 goals and added 23 assists.

“Those three kids scored over 70% of our goals,” Tammaro said. “They scored 74 goals between the three of them.”

At right wing, GA used junior Teddi West and senior Leigh Gilliland.

While GA had a solid forward group of athletes returning from last year’s squad, this year’s team was going to have a bunch of new starters that needed to pick up the pace defensively. That they did, as the Gators gave up only 12 goals throughout the 21-game season.

Starting at the goalie position, GA switched off between senior Hannah Keohane and sophomore Julia Booth. Throughout the season, they combined to save about 85% of the shots. Out of 78 shots against GA, only 12 shots made it past Greenwich Academy’s dynamic duo.

In the backfield, the Gators moved forward Annie Leonard to center back and she was solid throughout the season. New to the team was junior Sasha Fritts, who stepped into the starting roster to fill a void left by injury, and has been playing like a seasoned veteran. Maggie Schmidt played a lot for the Gators last year, but Tammaro thinks she was especially solid for the team this year.

With the move of Tapsall to the forward position to generate more offense, junior Lizzy Viola also moved a little bit, going from the right side of the field and playing left midfield this time around. Fellow junior Hannah Goodrick was the team’s center midfield, but played some forward and midfield last year for the Gators. Goodrick was third on the team with total points, scoring one goal, but finished with 19 assists.

Also playing some key minutes for Greenwich Academy at midfield this year was sophomore Izzy Nixon and Olney.

“There were a lot of pieces of the puzzle that needed to be moved around and kids had to adapt when other kids were sick or injured, but we had a very solid and smart unit,” Tammaro said. “We had our forwards back from last year, but we had to build our defense. That defense really came through beautifully. You’re not successful in a championship tournament if you don’t have a good foundation, and our defense really stepped up this year.”

Tammaro said that one of the key reasons this year’s team was so successful is because of its ability to play as a unit.

“This group was special because of how well they worked with each other,” Tammaro said. “They became a solid group of friends and a solid team. They were a special group. We had two kids on the team that have been a part of the varsity team for all four years. We also had a bunch that were three-year starters, so this team has been together awhile. Experience can be very helpful. We started all of this Aug. 22 and the captains helped everybody got along. We all worked hard. We had a lot of good times in practices and it was relaxed, but we worked really hard and the coaches pushed them. They responded really well and that’s what makes coaching fun.”

While the Gators are coming off a highly successful season, expectations will not be lowered for next year. Despite the loss of Julia Hyman, Keohane, Olney, Rosencrans, Schulman, and Tapsall to graduation in May, Greenwich Academy is still looking for a repeat.

“I think this raises the bar for the next group coming in,” Tammaro said. “Just like in academics, where you want to do really well and succeed, you want to do well in sports and succeed. The kids really set a good standard and worked really hard throughout the season.”

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