For the third consecutive season the Newington field hockey team is headed to the state tournament in November. The Indians clinched a spot in the postseason with a 4-0 shutout last Tuesday night in Wethersfield.
It was the Indians fifth consecutive victory, improving the team to 7-3-2.
“We’re getting a little confidence. We played some good teams in the beginning of the season and it was tough, but we are getting some confidence and we’re starting to hit our stride,” said Newington head coach Paul Macchi, “Tonight was to get us into the tournament, so we have that going for us.”
Karley Welles scored two goals, giving her nine for the season.
Welles, who is off to play collegiately at Southern Connecticut State University, has continued to thrive despite filling a new role this fall.
“It’s definitely different this year because I used to be a forward and now I’m center midfield,” said Welles, “It’s been a big change for me, but I’m gotten used to it and I’ve adapted well.”
Welles was an All-CCC (Central Connecticut Conference) selection the past two seasons as a forward, but her coach has appreciated her ability to adapt.
“Last year she was a forward, but she moved because that’s what the team needed. Her understanding and taking on that role has really been a huge difference for us,” Macchi said of his versatile senior, “I think she’s really matured and became more of an all-around leader.”
Despite the position change, Welles remains the team’s main scoring threat, but she’s received plenty of help from fellow senior McKenna Gernander, who tallied the other two goals in the playoff-clinching victory.
The scoring tandem scored goals in each half. Gernander scored seven minutes into the contest and Welles added a backbreaker with only 26 second remaining before intermission.
Welles late first-half goal provided a cushion and momentum, allowing the Indians to control the ball for a majority of the final 30 minutes. Welles added her second goal at the 8:40 mark and Gernander tacked on an insurance goal with 5:20 left in regulation.
“We’ve been working on communicating more and knowing where people are on the field. We definitely showed that more in the second half and we do better on turf,” added Welles, “Also our defense was strong and they have stepped it up. They’re getting better every day and they were able to stop the ball and help us out.”
Seniors Diana Pinho, Megan Andrews, Mallory Jackson, Elaina Vass, and sophomore Vanesa Seguro have also broken into the scoring column this season.
Andrews, along with Symantha Fazzino, Lauren Rioux, and Kelly Iskra have controlled the back end on defense and helped preserve the team’s third shutout. It was the second straight game that Newington didn’t allowing a goal, also defeating Windsor 4-0 on Oct 14.
Senior goaltender Neve Manion has been the last line of defense, protecting the net all season.
“Neve is solid, I have 100% faith in her at all times,” added Macchi, “She’s had a few shutouts in a row and there’s nobody else that I’d rather have than her as our goalie.”
The team closed the week with a 3-2 triumph over Farmington on Friday, earning the team their sixth win in a row and eighth overall. Gernander added two more goals, upping her season total to nine, and Welles scored the other.
The season has been a major success thus far, but the coach and captain agree the team must continue to do one thing in order to make a deep run in the tourney.
“We’ve been working on communicating more and that comes with just knowing where each other are. Towards the end of the game we did better, but I think we could definitely improve more with that,” said Welles.
“We still have to communicate a lot more,” added Macchi, “Also when we get a lead we have to keep it and keep going. We need to get goals a little sooner to put teams out as soon as we can.”
The Class M tournament starts the second week in November, but first the team has their regular season home finale this Friday, Oct 28 against Glastonbury at 3:45 p.m.
Despite Record, Eagles Field Hockey Soars as a Team
Sometimes the scoreboard doesn’t tell the whole story and the field hockey team in Wethersfield is a great example of that.
The team fell to 0-12, losing by four goals to Newington at Cottone Field last Tuesday evening. For most teams losing the first dozen games of the season would be demoralizing, but not for a group of dedicated girls that are paving the way for the future of field hockey in Wethersfield.
“One of the nice things about coaching this group is that no matter what they rebound and they come back to play the next day. They can find positives within a loss and that’s what keeps us going as a unit,” Wethersfield head coach Colleen Budaj said following the latest loss,
“They’re also so good to each other and that’s important, especially after a loss. They learn from their mistakes, they pick each other up and they help each other out.”
Budaj has five seniors, four of which have been with the program through thick and thin. Fiona Dunn, Taylor Bradley, Lily Bello, and Evelyn DeVaux have seen this program grow to new heights over the past four years.
“From day one of my freshman year until now we’ve grown so tremendously. This season we’ve shown a lot of growth as well and we’ve had very competitive games. Not too long ago we were losing in the double digits and we haven’t had one game like that this season,” said Dunn, “Even though our growth hasn’t been showing some much numerically, we’ve grown so much as a team. The way we play on the field, we’re truly like one player.”
“We’re not just a field hockey team, we’re actually friends outside. We all hang out and there are no negative feelings,” added Bradley, “It’s not necessarily about the wins and losses, but how we grow as people and as players and as a family.”
The fifth senior is Maeve Foley, who is not only new to the team but also new to the sport of field hockey.
“She came out as a senior and she had never played before,” said coach Budaj, “You can’t teach the aggressiveness she plays with or the heart. That comes from the other sports she plays.”
Together the seniors have yet to enjoy the taste of victory this season, but it’s been a far cry from the blowouts the team was enduring two and three years ago.
“We’re holding our own with teams that have historically beaten us 9-0, 8-0, 7-0,” the second-year coach continued, “I want them to believe and know in their head and their heart that we can hang with anybody if we bring our A-game.”
They have been very close to breaking into the win column, losing three contests by a single goal. Two of those losses came in overtime and, although the scoring hasn’t been there, the defense has been steady behind to the play of goalie Kaleigh Sullivan and the players in front of her.
“Kaleigh has played in goal most of the season and she’s coming along nicely. She’s working on being more vocal and communicating with the defense,” added Budaj, “Our backs are really one of the strongest lines that we have right now, which is really nice. Maya Mulholland shuts down all of the forwards for us and she’s ridiculously aggressive and never gives up. Amanda Gilbert is in her first year on varsity and she has stepped up. They compliment each other really well.”
Sullivan, Mulholland, and Gilbert will all be returning next year, along with fellow starters Gabriela Interian, Lexi Munger, Emma Zaleski, and Hannah Reardon.
The offense has yet to find a rhythm, but the team did tally their first goal earlier in the month when DeVaux found the back of the net during a home contest against Conard. The goal ended a 10-game scoreless streak and was a payoff for DeVaux, who is constantly hustling on the field.
“She’s such an important part of the game for us, being that central midfielder. She’s got to have that vision and she’s got to see the field,” Budaj said of DeVaux, “She’s working her butt off every single time. That’s who she is and that speaks a lot to her game.”
DeVaux bumped heads with a Newington player and was forced to leave the field within the first minute of the game against Newington, but quickly returned to the contest and laid out several times for the ball over the course of the game.
“I try and give my all every game. I came into this game hoping to win, because Newington has always been our rival and I knew I was playing against Karley Welles and she’s going to play in college. I’m hoping to play in school too, so I wanted to compete with her,” said DeVaux.
A win would be the ultimate prize but the leadership example that the seniors have set is already paying dividends, which was evident when the JV team defeated Newington’s JV 4-2 prior to the start of the varsity game. The varsity team was on the sidelines cheering and congratulating the younger team members, who secured their first victory of the season.
“I loved it this year, because we’ve had some really nice freshman that we’ve all enjoyed working with,” said Bello, “I know that I can say personally that I hang out with them outside of the team. They’re just nice people and it makes it really easy to work with them as our teammates.”
“I think they build off of each other and that they feed off of each other’s energy,” Budaj said about the relationship between the varsity and JV teams, “We have some great transitions players that are playing most of their minutes at JV and getting some experience on the varsity level. I think that’s how we are going to build our team.”
The coach added that her seniors and juniors, along with a dedicated group of parents, have been instrumental with helping implement a field hockey feeder program into the town of Wethersfield, “This is the first year we have a 3-4, 5-6 and a 7-8 team playing and these seniors and juniors helped get that going. That’s really going to leave a mark on our program for years to come. It will be hard to replace these kids. We’d like a couple of wins for the seniors, who have been the heart and soul of this program.”
The team has three games left to pick up a win, including back-to-back homes games against Litchfield (Thursday at 6:30) and Windsor (Friday at 5:45). Regardless of the outcomes, this team has officially put their stamp on field hockey in Wethersfield.
“I’m really proud to be a member of this team. I can say that from my freshman year to this year all the seniors have grown so much and we’ve all changed and gotten better,” stated Bello.
“Honestly it’s amazing. It’s been so different from my freshman year until now. We’re positive, we stay in these games and it’s crazy how much energy we’re bringing. I think we’ve become such a close team and we’re a family out there,” added DeVaux, who had advice for anyone that is interested in playing field hockey at Wethersfield, “Stick with it and don’t let anybody get in your head. This is the most amazing team that you could ever be part of. The coaching staff is amazing and the seniors that are leaving are leaving behind some great juniors that are going to be able to fill our shoes. They will not be disappointed with the team next year, that’s for sure.”
Sports Editor for the Rare Reminder, Glastonbury Citizen, and Rivereast News Bulletin