With a new season comes new expectations and for the two local field hockey teams, thatâ€™s exactly what the upcoming year represents.
Newington and Southington finished on opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of successful seasons. The Indians never entered the win column, while the Blue Knights reached the postseason. But both teams are returning a number of key players which should make it an interesting, if not good year.
Here is a closer look at each team:
Head coach: Veronica Grubin (2nd season)
Last year: 0-14-1-2
Key losses: N/A
Expected key returnees: Maya Gajowiak (senior, forward/midfield), Kelly Iskra (senior, defense), Isabella Gugliotti (senior, defense), McKenna DeLuca (junior, midfield), Sharon Sherpa (junior, goalie)
Outlook: It was a tough first season for Veronica Grubin as the Indians head coach. Newington failed to win a single game and only managed to score four goals on the year. The teamâ€™s closest games were a 1-1 tie against Somers and a 2-1 overtime loss to Southington.
But the good news for Grubin and the Indians is there is no place left to go but up. After having a young roster last season that went through plenty of growing pains, the program is set to return a number of players who were able to get some valuable varsity experience.
Maya Gajowiak, a two-time all-conference player, figures to be a big part of the offense in what will be her third varsity season. Sharon Sherpa should also have a solid season in goal after learning the position at the varsity level last year.
Overall, this could be an interesting season to watch. It just depends on how much Newington was able to grow off a rebuilding year in 2017.
Head coach: Erin Luddy (10th season)
Last year: 10-6 (lost in first round of Class L tournament)
Key losses: Maddie Belfonte (goalie), Molly Dobratz (defense), Jesse Pesce (defense), Sydney Rice (midfield), Nicole Martocchio (attack), Jenna Garcia (defense), Lauren Graef (midfield)
Key returnees: Jenna Sheehan (junior, forward), Emma Doran (junior, midfield), Julia Jackman (senior, midfield)
Newcomers to watch: Autumn Swain (junior, midfield), Victoria Godlewski (junior, defense)
Outlook: It was a nice bounce-back season for the Blues Knights in 2017. After winning just five games in 2016, Southington increased its win total to 10 last year and made the state tournament. Now, it will be about if the program can continue that momentum forward into 2018.
Head coach Erin Luddy will have her work cut out for her in some regards. The Blue Knights are not only losing a number of starters from last season, but players who were two-year starters, meaning there will be spaces to fill throughout the lineup. One of the more pressing spots will be replacing Maddie Belfonte, an All-CCC selection, in goal.
But Luddy likes what sheâ€™s seen out of this yearâ€™s group and said her players are more than â€śup for the challenge and are looking forward to making their mark on the season.â€ť
It should certainly help Southington has a plenty of young talent to mix in with the veteran experience. This looks like it should be a fun season for the Blue Knights.