The 2018 field hockey season launches Thursday with some familiar dynamics at play.
Along Route 10, Cheshire and Southington aim to return to a Class L tournament field that’s grown even busier and better than a year ago. With the addition of New Canaan, the state Class M champ in 2015 and 2016, every Fairfield County team save for St. Joseph is now in Class L. That includes defending state champ Staples.
Down in Wallingford, meanwhile, Lyman Hall and Sheehan are looking to jump back in the playoff pool after a dry season in 2017.
Lyman Hall is in Class M, where SCC rival Daniel Hand reigns as state champ. Sheehan is in Class S, where North Branford looms as defending champ.
The Trojans and Titans will go head-to-head twice this fall — on Sept. 17 at Sheehan and on Oct. 16 at Lyman Hall. Both rivarly games will be under the lights starting at 6:30 p.m.
Here’s how the landscape shapes up for the locals as season dawns.Cheshire
Coach Eileen Wildermann’s program remains the cream of the local crop. The Rams are coming off a 15-2-1-2 season that ended in the state quarterfinals against eventual Class L champ Staples.
Cheshire graduated two outstanding captains in All-Stater Mia Pulisciano, now playing lacrosse at Endicott, and fellow defender Julia Schaff, now playing field hockey at SCSU. Those girls are being succeeded at captain by two equally proven players, midfielders Mikayla Crowley and Annie Eddy.
The Rams also return senior starters in Lexie Hemstock (goalie), Jade Barnes (defense) and Sophie Cremo (midfield). Up top, seniors Kayla Sansone and Meaghan Hogan return to the forward line with junior Megan Daly.
Junior Olivia Salamone takes on the challenge of replacing Pulisciano in the backfield. Another junior, Kiley Jackson, also has experience on D.
The sophomore class is loaded, with Taylor Warburton, Reagan Bailey, Sophia Vagts, Megan Crowley and Danielle Floyd leading the way.
In other words, don’t expect anything less from Cheshire. In fact, expect more. The Rams are.
“This season we have experience and potential,” Wildermann said. “Our returners have experienced tough overtime games, battles with rivals and what it feels like to end a season too early.
“My hope is that we improve every single day so that we can maximize the great potential we have,” the veteran coach added. “If we stay focused and healthy, we will be contenders for the league and the state, despite Class L being absolutely loaded with the most difficult opponents in the state.”
Cheshire will again battle Branford, Guilford and reigning champ Hand for SCC supremacy. Last year, those four teams went a combined 41-4-2 in conference play (the Rams were 10-0-1-1).
Cheshire opens at home on Friday afternoon against Shelton, then hits the road Saturday for an 11 a.m. showdown with New Canaan. The Rams have also lined up non-conference battles at home with Simsbury (Sept. 12) and Norwalk (Oct. 5).Southington
The only non-SCC field hockey team on the R-J block, Southington enjoyed a flush campaign in 2017. The Blue Knights closed the regular season on a seven-game winning streak, reached the Class L state tournament and finished 10-6.
They did graduate a number of players from that team, starting with goalie Madeline Belfonti and fellow All-Conference player Jesse Pesce.
Molly Dobratz, Sydney Rice, Nicole Martocchio, Jenna Garcia and Lauren Graef were also two-year starters who have departed.
Southington does, however, return All-Conference performers in Emma Doran and Jenna Sheehan, who led the team in scoring last year as only a sophomore. Julia Jackman is another key returning player.
“The graduating seniors were two-year starters, so there will be spaces to fill,” said coach Erin Luddy, who enters her 10th year. “The upcoming players are up for the challenge and are looking forward to making their mark on the season.”
The Blue Knights open at home against East Catholic on Friday at 3:45 and at Northwest Catholic on Wednesday night at 7.
Both games are divisional matchups. Also in the CCC South with Big Blue are Avon, Glastonbury, Newington, South Windsor and Wethersfield.Sheehan
Second-year coach Taryn Petrillo and the Titans have their sights set on a trip back to the conference and state tournaments after not qualifying in 2017, when they went 3-9-3-1 overall and 2-9-1 in the SCC.
“There is a special energy as we prepare for the season,” Petrillo said. “The Titans are determined to do what it takes to make it to the state tournament this year.”
To do it, Sheehan will need to fill valuable shoes. Lost to graduation were Elisa Tolentino, scoring leader Stephanie Phoenix and captains Reese Weborg and Kristyn Petrillo.
The Titans do return an experienced senior core in midfielder Kaitlin Mills and forwards Kelly Midolo, Kyra Connolly and Michaila Stratton. Midolo will serve as a team captain for a second season.
“These seniors make a lasting impact on the game and are putting their hearts into the preparation for their final season at Sheehan,” Petrillo noted.
Sheehan also has a returning goalie in junior Jailyn Sandoval. Veteran senior Gabby Mushinski anchors the defense in front of Sandoval.
Fellow seniors Jordyn Nickerson, Ally Guido, Sydney Winters, Alyssa Craig, Alyssa Miranda and Serena Scully add depth and experience.
Sheehan opens the season Saturday night in North Haven at 7. The home opener is Monday against Sacred Heart Academy at 5 p.m.Lyman Hall
Stephanie Lavado-Berghorn enters her seventh year as head coach of the Trojans and her sixth with assistant coach Courtney Shanley.
The tandem is optimistic. Despite losing a handful of seniors to graduation, including two now playing in college, LH returns a deep roster that’s shown commitment to the game.
“We feel this is the strongest lineup we have had position by position as well as cohesively,” Lavado-Berghorn said. “These girls have put in great work lifting and conditioning over the summer as well as playing any extra field hockey together they can in local offseason leagues.”
Having two alumni playing beyond LH — Kate Miller and Casey Solomon are both at ECSU — has fueled interest in the program. Playing and practicing on turf has helped improve skills.
Tryouts drew 40-plus girls. The team will be built around returning All-SCC Second Team senior midfielder Riley Keating and a trio of senior captains — forward Meredeith DeNegris, midfielder Alivia Cellantano and defender Emily Kesliewski.
LH also has key returning seniors in forward Meg Hoskin and midfielder Avery McGovern.
Junior Maddie Torre is the goalie. She’ll be supported on defense by senior Grace Solomon and juniors Piper Killen, Kaitlyn Nolan and Erin Lamb.
Senior Savannah Farkash lends depth to the midfield. Juniors Kyra Benzing-Plourde, Kayla Aresenault, Allison Mastrionni and Michaela Avallone look to add scoring punch to the forward line.
After going 3-11-2 overall last year, the Trojans are making at least a .500 record and a return to the postseason their goal.
The Trojans do have some tough ones out of the gate. They open at home versus Branford on Friday at 3:45 at Guilford on Tuesday.