But Wildermann has the personnel to fill in well enough to keep the goal of challenging for an SCC title and making a deep run in the Class L in plain view. Cheshire was ousted by Darien in the quarterfinals last year after pushing Wilton in the finals in 2015.
“I would say last year was the most talented and balanced team I’ve ever had,” Wildermann said. “But I did say the year after we won the state championship (2011) I would never call anything a rebuilding year because we graduated 21 seniors and returned to the state championship.
“We have a group of girls that are willing to run through a wall for each other. We may start off a little weaker because we have a lot of skill-building and team-building to do, but I think by the end of the season, there’s potential to be just as strong as last year.”
Mikayla Crowley had 12 goals and eight assists last year, but she’ll be moving from forward to the center midfield this season. Meaghan Hogan, who scored four goals a year ago, is among those most likely to be converting off the crucial penalty corners. Kayla Sansone is another who could emerge, but Wildermann lists scoring as her primary concern.
“Meg Hogan is going to lead us in the passing sequences that get us to the goal, but we lost a big offensive presence,” she said. “Our midfield is strong with three seasoned juniors. Getting the ball past really good goalies is going to be really tough for us, but something we’ll work on.”
Anne Eddy, who earned the distinction of being named a junior captain, fortifies the midfield along with Sophie Cremo and Brianna Floyd.
Defensively, captains Mia Pulisciano and Julia Schaff are seasoned multi-sport athletes who benefited from playing alongside Sam Simione. Simeone is playing significant defensive minutes at Bentley University.
In goal, the Rams lost one of the state’s best ever in Alyssa Stevens, but Wildermann’s faith in her replacement Lexie Hemstock is soaring.
“Lexie is up for the challenge. She has worked harder than anybody on the team,” Wildermann said. “Before everybody gets [to practice], she’s doing plyometrics (jumping exercises) and warm-ups, making sure she’s ready for me to take shots on her right when the girls get started. Her work ethic is pretty amazing.”
Given her winning percentage of better than .750 and decades of tradition forged by Arlene Salvati before that, it can be said that Cheshire field hockey is just part of the culture.
“The girls really build on that, but what’s different is we have a big senior class and just two have experience,” Wildermann said. “Not a lot of them play in the offseason and I don’t force them to but as soon as they come in, they get into that mode. They’re ready for some hard work and to have fun.”
Optimism reigns on Wallingford’s east side as Lyman Hall coach Stephanie Lavado-Berghorn watched an enthusiastic bunch go through preseason paces.
“We’ve had low numbers in the past, but we’re getting athletes who want to be there, want to learn and are working hard,” Lavado-Berghorn said. “There was no one that stood out as a weak link, so we kept everybody. It’s a high number, but we have structured practices where they all get a lot of touches.”
Alivia Celentano looms a key component to an offense that scored four goals in a first-match win and only two the rest of the season.
“She’s ready,” the coach said. “She gets compliments from the refs. She doesn’t let a bad call or a mistake effect her game. She makes everybody around her play better.”
Daniella Chasse, who had two goals in last year’s opener, returns from a season derailed by injury. Katelyn Miller and Kate Wallace lend their leadership to the attack. Riley Keating has the energy and skill to possess the ball for long runs and should combine with Avery McGovern to form a strong midfield.
“[Keating] can run forever,” Lavado-Berghorn said. “She has an ice hockey background, so she has positioning down, but there are things in hockey you can’t get away with in field hockey. McGovern is a lacrosse player who’s just getting comfortable. Her transition from dribble to shot has been phenomenal.”
Michaela Keating will anchor a defense in front of two sophomores, Kristin Parker and Madison Torre, seeking the varsity goaltending task.
“Last year, we made adjustments trying to figure out where the pieces of the puzzle fit. When things started going badly, we panicked,” Lavado-Berghorn said. “It left us with a lack of chemistry, but by the end of the year we were having fun. There’s a different confidence this year and if we can maintain it, we’ll do well.”
The competition for varsity slots has been intense this preseason, a pleasant problem to have for new head coach Taryn Petrillo, who was ex officio head coach to Avian Palermo much of last year.
Coach Petrillo has her sister Kristyn as a primary defensive building block after losing another sister, Allyn, to graduation. Center Kelly Midolo and forward Elisa Tolentino will center an attack that also features last year’s high scorer, Stephanie Phoenix (9 goals, 2 assists). Reese Weborg also returns to bolster the defense.
Kristyn Petrillo, Midolo, Weborg and Tolentino are the captains. “They have ample varsity experience, poise and leadership, and are looking to send the Titans back to the state tournament this year,” Coach Petrillo said.
Kyra Connolly, Gabrielle Mushinski, Ally Guido, Machaila Stratton and Kaitlin Mills are the core of a junior class that gained a plentiful share of experience last season. Jailyn Sandoval gets the nod in goal.
“She’s an emerging sophomore that is confident and ready to take on her first season at the varsity level,” Coach Petrillo said. “I’m looking to have the team play to their strengths and bring Titan field hockey to the next level.”
The Lady Knights look to returning All-CCC player Molly Dobratz and two-year starter Jessica Pesce to fortify the defense around a team that lost nine starters to graduation.
“They are the only returning starters,” coach Erin Luddy said. “We are looking forward to the new talent and what we can accomplish this season. Though we’re young, all are motivated and excited about the new season.”
Inexperience on offense is Luddy’s biggest concern. Sydney Rice, Nicole Martocchio and Julia Jackman are among those who saw varsity time on the attack off the bench.
The Knights shift to the South Division this year, competing directly with Glastonbury, South Windsor, Avon, Newington, Northwest Catholic, East Catholic and Wethersfield. The North groups Enfield, Conard, Farmington, Simsbury, Hall, Windsor and E.O. Smith.