By John Goralski
Erin Luddy scowled as her players lined up for postgame handshakes on Tuesday. The Lady Knights battled toe-to-toe against Conard for 80 minutes but came up short in a 1-0 loss.
In most years, Luddy would be celebrating another moral victory, but this isn’t most years. The coach didn’t smile. The players were grim.
There’s a change brewing in the field hockey community, and that’s one reason why Southington is off to their best start. Losing is no longer acceptable.
“They are all angry. If they could go out for another half, I think that they definitely would,” said Luddy. “They know that this isn’t something that we’re fighting for back on our heels. We were in the hunt. We had our opportunities. We just couldn’t score on those opportunities.”
So how would her team react? That’s the question as Southington tries to navigate higher expectations this fall. Losses are few and far between. At the season’s midpoint, the Lady Knights (5-3) need just a win and a tie to clinch the postseason.
There are no more discussions about late runs or comebacks. The losses are personal. Two days later, Southington rebounded with a 5-0 win in Windsor.
“In the past, our season’s always been about trying to build confidence,” said Luddy. “Now, we have the confidence to play with anybody. We can win those games, and we’re starting to see that in the way that we’ve come out so strong and have kept going.”
A close loss to Conard is no longer good enough. The Knights swarmed the Windsor cage in response. Kaelee Graef opened the scoring in both halves, and Southington rallied for five unanswered goals. Allie Abacherli scored twice. Jess Lee had an assist, and Kelsey Snodgrass capped the scoring in the game’s final minute.
“We’ve been working on our scoring, and that definitely showed in the second half,” said Luddy. “Scoring with 45 seconds left in the game shows that we kept pushing and fighting. It also shows that we have the strength and conditioning to do so.”
The Knight defense was good in both contests. Natalie Liquindoli netted seven saves during the 1-0 loss to Conard. At Windsor, she needed just four saves to score her third shutout of the season.
“I love that they’re playing with so much heart and so much confidence,” said Luddy. “Now, we have a big week coming up. Simsbury’s in the top 5 in the state. Then we have Farmington after that, and they’re always a tough team. I want to see how we take our heart and our confidence and go into this tough week.”
There are no more moral victories. These Knights expect to win.
By John Goralski