Glastonbury field hockey senior captain Alicia Choquette and Newington senior captain Hailey Gaydos during the Guardians 8-1 victory on Sept. 27.
Glastonbury Field Hockey tied a season-high in goals as the Guardians scored early and often during a 9-1 victory over Newington on Sept. 27.
Playing under the bright lights at GHS, seven different Guardian players scored goals with seniors Alicia Choquette and Leila Espirito-Santo each tallying a pair of goals.
“We all worked together tonight and everyone knew their positioning,” Choquette said of the scoring explosion. “We have been working on being patient and being in the right place on offense. It all came together tonight and we were able to connect.”
Glastonbury was coming off the team’s first loss — a 1-0 defeat at Daniel Hand on Sept. 23 — and head coach Maureen Perkins said the offensive turnaround was a combination of aggressiveness and on-field awareness.
“Our positioning was much better. We were smarter and we had better pace,” said Perkins. “We learned some things from last week. Tonight we did a much better job at valuing the chances that we got.”
Choquette got the scoring surge started with a goal three minutes into action and less than two minutes later Allyson Collette scored on an assist from Choquette.
Espirito-Santo then scored her first goal off a deflection before Choquette slammed home a point blank shot with 4:39 to play in the second half, providing the Guardians a commanding 4-0 lead at halftime.
After Newington’s Mackenzie Hillman scored in the opening minute of the second half, Mikayla Balatbat countered less than two minutes later by scoring on a penalty shot.
“We practiced that a lot,” Balatbat said of the direct shot. “I know there was a specific place in the goal that I could score on. I was keyed in on that spot.”
Espirito-Santo, Lily Woodworth, and Addison Infante added goals later in the third before freshman Deirdre McKiernan polished off the big night with 5:50 left in regulation.
It was the second time the team has scored nine goals this season, also tallying the gaudy point total in a shutout of East Catholic on Sept. 15.
After losing six starters from a year ago, Perkins wasn’t quite sure how the pieces would fit this year. But after a handful of games, the proof has been in the pudding.
Choquette and Balatbat are captaining the team on the field and are two of only three seniors, joining Espirito-Santo as the veteran voices.
“My three seniors have done an amazing job so far, leading that effort. They know how to do things and what is expected.” said Perkins, who is counting on several first-year starters this fall. “You rely on the seniors, but you also rely on all the returning varsity players. I look to our juniors and sophomores that have been here, because they know how this works and they know what we expect. It’s a collective effort.”
Perkins biggest challenge this season has been replacing a large departing 2022-class, which featured all-conference players Molly Harding and Kaitlyn Welsh.
Balatbat, Infante, and defensive specialist Skylar Fiske were the team’s returning all-conference players this fall.
“Last year had a lot of seniors, so we never really had to step into that leadership role,” aid Balatbat said. “It’s been a big change this year. We’ve had to be a lot more communicative.”
A larger junior class, featuring a half dozen players, and an up-and-coming group of underclassmen are also playing big roles this year.
Choquette has been impressed with the newcomers, saying, “We have a very young team and new people, but they all learn so quickly. They are very coachable and they all work very hard.”
Offense has provided the highlights, yet the defense has been the most consistent aspect of the Guardians thus far.
First-year varsity goalie Alex Edwards has filled the void left by 2022-graduate Kaitlyn Parent, who is now playing at Southern Connecticut State University.
Edward, with the help of a stout defense led by Fiske and Avery Olschefskie, has surrendered only five goals through the first seven games.
Perkins credited Edwards with helping preserve the game in a win over Hall on Sept. 19 by making three point-blank saves in the final two minutes
“Alex is starting to figure it out and find her voice,” Perkins said of Edwards. “She is starting to become confident in what she can do and she wants to learn as much as she can. I love that about her.”
Following the eight-goal win over Newington, the Guardians closed last week with a road win over Farmington (4-0) and a loss to Guilford (1-0), closing the week with a record of 5-2.
In the win over Farmington, who was previously the No. 5 ranked team in the CT field hockey state coach’s poll, Collette scored both first half goals and Choquette scored two goals in the second half, both off of penalty corners. The GHS defense held Farmington without a shot on goal and Perkins said junior defender Kiernan Tierney did an amazing job keeping Farmington's main attacking threat from touching the ball more than a handful of times.
In the loss the Grizzlies of Guilford, who are the three-time defending Class M field hockey champion, Guilford’s Kim Evans scored the game’s only goal in the second period off of a penalty corner. Despite the halftime deficit, Glastonbury generated a number of quality scoring chances in the second half on penalty corners, but the Guilford defense made three defensive saves on the goal line to hold on to the lead and secure the victory. Edwards made a handful saves to help keep GHS within striking distance.
Halfway into the season, the captains are happy with where the team is at and will now focus on tightening up the little things as the second half of the regular season begins.
“We just have to continue to communicate and work as a team,” said Choquette.
Balatbat agreed and added that the team needs to get a little quicker on the field.
Glastonbury will next host a game on Wednesday, Oct. 12 against Simsbury on the field turf at 4 p.m.
On Oct. 15, they will welcome Longmeadow from Massachusetts for a set of games (both junior varsity and varsity) and host a Play for Cure Breast Cancer Awareness Bake Sale before and during the games. The bake sale will run from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m.
The event is organized by Sandra Tierney, a Glastonbury resident and building substitute at GHS, who is a mother of one of the players and a breast cancer survivor.
100% of the donations we receive for this event will go to fight breast cancer and will be donated to The Helen & Harry Gray Cancer Center in Hartford.
Sports Editor for the Rare Reminder, Glastonbury Citizen, and Rivereast News Bulletin