Senior members of the Wethersfield field hockey team with their families prior to Senior Night Oct. 18. Photo credit – Grafx Eagles)
Prior to their game against East Catholic last Tuesday, Wethersfield field hockey celebrated their seniors and then won the battles of the Eagles—blanking the visiting Eagles from Manchester 6-0 on Oct. 18.
“All of the seniors went out to lunch before this because we are a family,” senior goalie Veronica McKenna said following the game. “We cried before this and we’ll probably cry after.”
McKenna is one of five senior players, joining Bella Tomaino, Maddie Gove, Avery Brown, and Maria Nock who are playing out their finals games at Wethersfield.
Senior team-manager Cheryl Gleason was also recognized before the game for her work behind the scenes.
Once the game started, Wethersfield used a balanced scoring attack and a swarming defense to win their seventh game of the season.
Five minutes into the contest, junior Sadie Ruiz scored a goal with an assist from Tomaino. Brown then tallied a goal with four second left in the open quarter after getting a fantastic feed from Brynn Lisella.
In the second quarter, Ruiz added her second strike with an assist from Mallory Mori, putting the home team up by three at the break. It was Ruiz team-leading 13th goal of the season.
Mori, a freshman, then added a goal of her own when she tapped in a shot to the right corner with an assist from Tomaino.
With 11:09 to play in regulation, Tomaino then scored one of her own when she received a pass from Lisella before blasting a powerful shot that nailed the back of the box.
“I knew they were leaving a lot of the middle open, so I just slid into an empty zone and I saw [Brynn] trying to push it and called her name,” said Tomaino. “I wanted it, and when I got the opportunity I had to bury it.”
Sophomore Sophia Barbara then set up Lisella for a goal with 5:45 left to close out the scoring and put a pretty bow on Senior Night.
McKenna and Tess Parker combined for a shutout in goal, with McKenna playing the first half and Parker finishing the game.
It was the team’s fourth shutout this season. Through the team’s first ten games, they have allowed a total of nine goals.
McKenna said that communication has been the key to the dominant defensive, adding, “We are all friends on and off the field, which is a really important aspect of it. My defense is always there for me and I am always there for them.”
After advancing to the program's first state championship game since 1980 a season ago, head coach Colleen Budaj said has been pleasantly surprised with how the team has responded to the success.
“After losing the kids that we lost last year we knew this would be a rebuilding year,” said Budaj, who graduated three all-conference players from the state title team. “But these kids have come in and not lowered the bar.”
“These seniors and the captains set that bar high,” added Budaj, who coaches the team with her husband, Steve Budaj. “[The returning players] had so much fun last year in that tournament run and they wanted to recreate that this year. I give them a lot of credit for that.”
McKenna, Tomaino, and Gove are Budaj’s field captains.
“Knowing what this team did last year and knowing what we could do this year translates to the same mentality into this year,” said Tomaino, who is helping run the defense with McKenna. “It’s about building those relationships with the help back there.”
Gove added that the seniors made it a point to become a welcoming influence for the incoming players so they can bestow that mentality to the younger girls.
“There are a lot of new girls on the team, so it’s been important to jell on and off the field,” added Gove. “We are all friends and most of us have played together since middle school. It’s a big group of friends.
Budaj said her captains have embraced the added responsibilities, crediting McKenna for being a vocal leader that sees the entire field. The veteran coach praised Tomaino for her defensive prowess and Gove for her versatility.
The Eagles next travel to Newington for their annual rivalry game against the Nor'easters on Tuesday, Nov. 1. The game will take place at Clem Lemire Turf Field at 150 New Britain Avenue, starting at 3:45 p.m.
Veronica McKenna, Maddie Gove, and Bella Tomaino guided the Eagles to a 6-0 win over East Catholic on Senior Night last Tuesday.
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Sports Editor for the Rare Reminder, Glastonbury Citizen, and Rivereast News Bulletin