Top players, storylines and games to watch
As the 2021 field hockey season approaches, here is a look at some of the top players, storylines and games to watch:
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Julia Carrozza, Ridgefield, M, Sr.: A captain and team leader, she will lead a strong group of midfielders for the Tigers with contributions on both sides of the field. She has committed to play at Holy Cross.
Riley Chlupsa, Staples, D, Sr.: Staples is expected to have another strong postseason in Class L and a strong defense led by Chlupsa’s experience that complements a strong offense. She has committed to play at Kenyon.
Zita Cohen, Greenwich, M, Sr.: A key player in the transition game, on defense and she can score. Will play at Brown.
Lily Harrington, Staples, M/F, Sr.: Committed to play at Colby, she is expected to play a key role on both ends of the field as the Wreckers try to win their fifth straight Class L title.
Maddy Hult, Darien, M/D, Sr.: A three-year starter and team captain, she will lead a strong defense and contribute in transitioning the Blue Wave from defense to offense.
Raina Johns, Darien, M/D, Jr.: A three-year starter, the talented back has received high praise from some coaches around the state for her strength and toughness on defense.
Aerin Krys, Ridgefield, M/F, Sr.: A 2020 CHSCA All-State selection and one of the team captains, she is a four-year starter who excels as a scorer and playmaker. She scored the team’s only goal in a 4-1 loss to Darien in the Class L semifinals in 2019. She has committed to play at Northwestern.
Sofia LaFalce, Fairfield Ludlowe, M, Sr.: Committed to play field hockey and lacrosse at Rochester University, her work ethic, leadership, desire to mentor younger players and ability to motivate the team are intangibles that separate her from other players.
Jess Leon, Staples, M/F, Sr.:
A Division I recruit committed to play at Bucknell, the talented captain
provides scoring, defense and leadership.
Jade Marin, McMahon, M/F, Jr.: Coach Despina Savvoulides said she is projected to be one of team’s top scorers and “gives everything she has every second she is on the field.”
Klara Mueffelmann, Greenwich, F, Jr.: One of the team’s top scorers with solid stick-handling skills. Has made an early commitment to play at Boston College.
Emma Nahon, Staples, D, Jr.:
While Staples should have balanced scoring, Nahon provides depth on the defensive end of the field. She will play field hockey at the University of Pennsylvania.
Ashley Stockdale, Darien, F, So.: The strong attack player started as a freshman and will be a key contributor as a scorer and playmaker in leading the Blue Wave back to another deep run in the Class L tournament. In 2019, Darien lost 4-2 to FCIAC rival Staples in the Class L final.
STORYLINES Embracing a return to some “normalcy”:
Despite the impact of the current Delta Strain variant of COVID-19 with spikes throughout Connecticut, field hockey coaches interviewed throughout the state are embracing a return to a more complete 2021 season. Their players and parents are excited about 2021 as well. Due to the pandemic in 2020, teams were limited to league competition with the CIAC cancelling postseason tournaments for all sports. While COVID-19 protocols
(mask wearing, social distancing, etc.) are still in place, the CIAC is moving forward with its usual postseason tournaments last held in 2019. The CIAC Class L, M and S tournaments begin with qualifying rounds on Nov. 8 with all three finals at Wethersfield High on Nov. 20.
Staples, Darien loaded again with talent, teams to beat in Class L: Staples continued its recent CIAC postseason dominance with a 4-2 win over Darien in the 2019 Class L final for its fourth straight title (Darien and Staples were cochamps in 2016). The Blue Wave, also loaded with impressive talent, will likely challenge the Wreckers once again. Based on the Top 25 players listed above, both teams have talent and depth on both ends of the field.
Hall, Glastonbury among top teams in northern Connecticut:
While Staples and Darien are two of the top teams in the south, CCC rivals Hall and Glastonbury are two of the top teams in the north. Attacker Molly Harding and midfielder Kaitlyn Welsh are among the top players for Glastonbury and Hall forward Bridget McGann has committed to play at Connecticut College. In prepandemic 2019, Hall finished the regular season 15-1 and Glastonbury was 12-1-2-1.
The late Cathy McGuirk big part of Branford’s season:
Branford has dedicated the season to the memory of McGuirk who passed away last spring and had coached at Branford 41 years. Coach Pete Frye said players will wear some form of yet-tobe-approved item on their uniforms in honor of McGuirk. A memorial event has also been organized prior to the home game against SCC rival Shelton on Oct. 9.
Guilford goes for Class M three-peat in 2021:
Guilford has been blessed with exceptional players producing success in the SCC and on the state level for years. But Guilford’s program reached another level the last two CIAC postseasons with Class M titles in 2018 (3-1 win over Sacred Heart Academy in the final) and 2019 (3-2 win over Hand in the final). Guilford has also won three straight SCC tournament titles. Forward Hannah Tillier, one-half of last season’s 1-2 scoring punch, has graduated and is playing lacrosse at Boston University. The other half of that scoring duo, midfielder Maddie Epke, returns after leading the SCC in scoring last season. She contributes on offense, defense and the transition game.
GAMES TO WATCH
Staples at Darien, Sept. 22, 4 p.m.: Two of the state’s powerhouse teams face off in an earlyseason key FCIAC matchup. The teams met in the CIAC Class L finals three times between 2016-2019 with the teams ending up Class L co-champs in 2016, Staples won 1-0 in 2017 and Staples won 4-2 in 2019.
Hand at Darien, Oct. 2, 2 p.m.:
This SCC vs. FCIAC game has become an annual matchup for the friendly rivals who both have a history of postseason success. The Tigers early-season strength is its defense and it will be tested against the Blue Wave and its balanced scoring attack led by Ashley Stockdale.
Guilford at Darien, Oct. 9, 10:30 a.m.:
Another SCC vs. FCIAC matchup with Class L standout Darien taking on the most dominant team in Class M the past two CIAC postseasons (2018, 2019). Guilford coach Kitty Palmer and Darien coach Maureen Minicus, two of the most successful coaches in the state, match wits in what should be an exciting game for fans.