And so it begins, again. Set the alarm.
The 2023-24 scholastic sports season kicks off Thursday, and one fall sport you can’t sleep on this year is field hockey.
Not after last season, when Southington put together the best campaign in program history and Cheshire climbed back to the top of the Southern Connecticut Conference, capturing its first SCC Tournament title since 2013.
Both Class L programs look for continued excellence in 2023 — Southington under veteran skipper Erin Luddy, Cheshire under first-year co-coaches Alyssa Stevens and Alana Pulling.
There is optimism, too, in Wallingford, where both Sheehan and Lyman Hall return the majority of their rosters, including All-SCC players. Sheehan looks to return to the Class S state tourney under coach Katie Gill, while LH coach Stephanie Lavado Berghorn and the Trojans aim to break a nine-year postseason drought.
Here are the details on the four area teams.Cheshire
■2022: 14-5-1, SCC champions, Class L first round.■Key Losses: Taya Buntin, Gigi Ranoldo, Reilly Whelan, Colby Paul, Catherine Palma, Julia Bailey, Ava Harris and Ava Matikowski. ■Key Returners: Senior captains Ginny Carullo, Riley Baldoni and Caroline O’Dea; seniors Ava Prior, Ava Houle, Hannah Curtis, Ella Paul and Emma Ballschnieder; junior Sarah Goldstein.■Season Opener: Thursday, at Sacred Heart Academy.■The Skinny: It seems like only yesterday that Alyssa Stevens was turning aside shot after shot in the Cheshire cage and accumulating All-New England, All-State and R-J Field Hockey Player of the Year recognitions right along with the saves.
She and Pulling take up the reins of the area’s flagship field hockey program from Kya O’Donnell, who went 30-9-2 in her two years at the helm.
While the Rams have a conference title to defend, they’ll also be looking to advance deeper in the state tournament. Last year, they fell in the first round to Ridgefield, 2-0.
Cheshire graduated All-State players in Taya Buntin and Gigi Ranoldo, but bring one back in goaltender Ginny Carullo, a gamer who plays between the pipes in both field hockey and ice hockey. She was named Most Outstanding Player in the SCC Tournament.Southington
■2022: 14-1-1-2, Class L quarterfinalist.■Key Losses: Makayla Winegar, Ava Coppola, Lilli Doran, Elyse Picard, Taylor Foresi, Erin Picard, Kayla DePodesta and Morgan Lasek.■Key Returners: Senior captains Maddie DeSouza, Ella Huard, Auria Mullins and junior Anna Thorpe. ■Season Opener: Friday, home vs. Lewis Mills.■The Skinny: The 2022 Lady Knights only posted the season in program history. They went 13-0-1-2 in the regular season to earn No. 3 seed in Class L, then beat Fairfield Ludlowe 3-2 in overtime to open the tournament before falling in the quarterfinals to New Canaan, 3-0.
Gone from that team is top scorer Makayla Winegar, goalie Morgan Lasek and the starting midfield of Lilli Doran, Elyse Picard and Taylor Foresi. Ava Coppola is now playing at Springfield College.
The Lady Knights do bring back 7-goal scorer Ella Huard, along with two key defenders in Maddie DeSouza and Anna Thorpe.
They also bring back the expectation of success. Many of the SHS field hockey players also play lacrosse, and both teams had extremely good seasons last year. It’s a group of girls who have learned how to win.
“We’re building off of the success of last year and using that confidence to keep us in close games and, hopefully, turn those close games into wins,” said field hockey coach Erin Luddy. “Yes, this year will be a bit of rebuilding, but the underclassman are up for the challenge and are looking forward to the season.”Sheehan
■2022: 8-9-0-1, Class S first round.■Key Losses: Maya Wresien, Natalie Sweirczynski and Gabriella Gawlak.■Key Returners: Senior captains Reilly Hunter, Olivia Fritz and Erin Villano; senior goalie Rilee Reutenauer, juniors Ava and Bella Raffone.■Key Newcomers: Junior Addison Molampy, sophomores Shayla Welch and Lily Harris.■Season Opener: Thursday, at Wethersfield.■The Skinny: While Maya Wresien is now playing Division III field hockey at Springfield College, the Titans bring back more than they graduated from a squad that won a Class S qualifying round game before falling to top seed and eventual state champ North Branford.
Hunter is a versatile three-sport athlete and Reutenauer a proven goalkeeper dating back to her sophomore year, when she was named All-SCC Second Turf. Last fall, Reutenauer was All-SCC First Team.
“We’re very excited for the season,” remarked coach Katie Gill. “We have a lot of returners and are looking to be very competitive against our tough SCC schedule. We can’t wait to see what these kids can do.”Lyman Hall
■2022: 1-15-0, did not qualify for postseason.■Key Losses: Caroline Serra and Leah Herpok.■Key Returners: Senior captains Brooke Foucault, Bree Foucault, Breanna Mather and Kaityln Mather; senior Emilie Weir, junior Kaylin Findley and sophomores Natalie Schafer and Maddy Thomas.■Key Newcomers: Sophomore Grace Tomaschik and freshmen Stella Gannon and Mattingly Andrews.■Season Opener: Saturday, home vs. North Haven.■The Skinny: The Trojans snapped a two-year losing streak last season with a win over Mercy. This season, they’ll be looking to put together streaks of a different nature.
“Field hockey is looking better than it’s looked in years,” said coach Stephanie Lavado Berghorn remarked. “Lots of commitment from the returning class all summer long, hitting the weight room strong.”
Led by Brooke Foucault, who was All-SCC Second Team last year, the Trojans aim to be competitive in the SCC, win more games and qualify for the state tournament for the first time since 2013.
“We really have some great well-rounded athletes that dedicated their summers to upgrading their strength and mindset about the game,” said Lavado Berghorn.