Field Hockey preview: Chemistry is key for young team

Two Lady Knights battle during a recent practice as up-and-comers fight for open positions.

By KEVIN ROBERTS

STAFF WRITER

Southington field hockey ripped off seven straight wins to close the 2017 regular season with a 10-6 record.

The winning streak got the Lady Knights into the Class L state tournament, but they couldn’t get past the Newtown Nighthawks in their qualifying round matchup. A 4-0 loss ended Southington’s season at 10-7. Still, it was a great run for the Lady Knights.

Southington will have to work hard in 2018 to make a run at the success of 2017, and it will do so with a young team.

“I lost seven starters from last year, so they know there’s space for them,” said Lady Knight coach Erin Luddy, “and each one of them is fighting for the spaces.”

Gone are all-conference performers Maddie Belfonte and Jesse Pesce, along with fellow seniors Molly Dobratz, Sydney Rice, Nicole Martocchio, Jenna Garcia and Lauren Graef. Nine total seniors graduated from the 2017 team, and all seven starters were two-year starters.

“The upcoming players are up for the challenge and are looking forward to making their mark on the season,” Luddy said.

Southington has a large group of juniors and seniors. Key returnees for the Lady Knights are junior all-conference players Jenna Sheehan and Emma Doran, along with senior Julia Jackman. Those three players tasted the success of last season, and they look to lead the younger players to another good season in 2018.

“They want to succeed as much as they did last year,” Luddy said.

Sheehan was the leading scorer in 2017 as a sophomore, and she provided a punch that Southington had lacked in the past.

“I think we turned a corner last year,” Luddy said of her team’s ability to put the ball in the goal.

Luddy hopes Sheehan can help the Lady Knights repeat that offensive success in 2018. Southington is usually strong on defense, though players who were substitutes will have to fill in spaces on that side of the field this fall.

“It’s definitely different stepping in as opposed to being a starter,” Luddy said.

The new players will be filling in holes against some stiff competition in the CCC. Glastonbury, South Windsor and Avon finished ahead of Southington in the CCC South Region. In the North Region, there is Enfield, which went undefeated in the regular season, along with Simsbury.

“The CCC is a very strong league to play in,” Luddy said.

Luddy would love to see this team have the success that the 2017 Lady Knights had. She is also looking at the big picture.

“Ideally, you want the wins, but more importantly you want them to enjoy what they’re doing, they enjoy playing with each other,” Luddy said.

Team chemistry is important to a team’s success, especially one that has a bit of a lack of varsity experience. If Southington can gel together and battle for each other, it could equal last year’s success. The Lady Knights open the season on Friday on their home turf against East Catholic at 3:45 p.m.

To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Kevin Roberts, email him at KRoberts@SouthingtonObserver.com

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