A new field hockey season brings new challenges to both area teams, which are tasked with replacing some big-time talent that was lost to graduation this spring.
Both Newington and Southington enter the new season with varied expectations, but each program has its own mission for the upcoming season.
The Blue Knights are looking to make themselves a mainstay in the state tournament after making it each of the past two seasons, while the Indians hope to build upon a campaign that saw a number of promising improvements.
Here is a closer look at both teams, with the season starting next week.
Head coach: Veronica Grubin (3rd season)
Last year: 4-10-1-1
Key losses: Maya Gajowiak (forward), Kelly Iskra (defense), Isabella Gugliotti (defense), Erika Cuevas (midfield), Sharon Sherpa (goalie), Leah Tofeldt (defense), Taylor Kilduff (forward), Amber Miller (forward)
Key returnees: Samantha Giudice (defense), Skylyn Samson (forward/midfield), McKenna DeLuca (midfield/forward), Sarah Hurwitz (midfield)
Outlook: Newington is still a program in rebuilding mode, and last year was a strong step forward in that effort.
After going winless in 2017, the Indians picked up four wins last season, and will look to continue to build upon that momentum this fall.
To accomplish that goal, Newington will have to make up for glaring absences on both offense and defense.
Maya Gajowiak graduated in June and leaves the Indians without their lone all-conference winner, leaving head coach Veronica Grubin the challenge of finding a lot of offense that Gajowiak left behind.
Grubin will also have to find production on the defensive side as well with the departure of seniors Kelly Iskra and Isabella Gugliotti, along with last year’s starting goaltender Sharon Sherpa.
The Indians still return plenty of established veterans, but the loss of Gajowiak will make for a big challenge in the program’s efforts to keep momentum building.
Head coach: Erin Luddy (10th season)
Last year: 7-8-0-1 (lost in first round of Class L tournament)
Key losses: Julia Jackman (forward), Aline Calderone (forward), Anna Laone (midfield), Megan Matthews (midfield)
Key returnees: Jenna Sheehan (senior forward), Emma Doran (senior midfield), Victoria Godlewski (senior midfield), Autumn Swain (senior midfield)
Newcomers to watch: Nikki Greco (junior forward), Kate Barner (senior forward), Anna McGrail (junior midfield), Jillian Rohon (junior midfield), Amy Chudy (senior defense)
Outlook: The Blue Knights experienced a down year in terms of regular season wins and losses after claiming 10 victories in 2017, but the end result was the same: a first round exit in the Class L state tournament.
Despite the downtick in wins, Southington enters this season with reason to believe it will improve this year.
Returning starters Jenna Sheehan and Emma Doran were the team’s only two all-conference selections last year, and after scoring 10 goals the past two seasons, Sheehan could wind up enjoying history this fall as she draws closer to the school’s career goals record.
The Blue Knights lost a wealth of starters after the 2017 season, but this time, the team returns the majority of its production, and with a number of upperclassmen looking to make an impact in their varsity debut, Southington should get back over the .500 mark and get back to the state tournament for the third straight season.
Ryan Chichester can be reached at (860) 801-5094 or firstname.lastname@example.org