The Day's All-Area Field Hockey Player of the Year: East Lyme's Lydia Swan

Lydia Swan was ready not to be a goalie anymore. As a 12-year-old soccer player, she broke her wrist in goal. She switched sports, to field hockey, as a sophomore in high school.

“I just thought I might not play goalie ever again,” Swan said.

So, how long did the transition to being a field player last after she joined the East Lyme High School field hockey team?

“Two days,” Swan said matter of factly. “I bought a stick and was so happy to play the field. They said, ‘Why don’t you try being goalie for a day?’ The day turned into three years. I was like, ‘Sierra (Dean, whom she split time with in goal as a sophomore), take it, go for it. I’m going to try, but no, she can be the goalie.’”

That was before Swan’s adrenaline took over, the sense of empowerment she got from wearing goalie pads and sprinting all out to thwart a goal scorer, the capability she found within herself to magically make a save after the ball was already behind her, to dive headlong to knock a ball out of bounds, to do a full split in making a kick save.

Swan, an East Lyme senior and a two-time first team Class M all-state selection in goal, was named The Day’s 2019 All-Area Field Hockey Player of the Year.

She led the Vikings (13-3-3) to their first Eastern Connecticut Conference regular-season title since 1990, sharing that honor with league rival Stonington, and East Lyme went on to beat Stonington 1-0 in the ECC tournament championship game in a tension-filled 7-on-7 overtime session.

East Lyme and Stonington shared last year’s ECC tournament title and tied twice during the 2019 regular season before the Vikings broke the deadlock with their first tournament crown in program history.

“Unreal. It felt like a movie,” Swan said of the winning goal, which came from sophomore Sarah Healy about five minutes into the overtime. “I saw my coach (East Lyme’s Kristy Behbehani) throw papers and rip out her hair clip.

“Once we hit overtime, we had to get a goal. This year it was really just a mindset for us, being able to prove East Lyme field hockey. Some girls don’t know how long that is (since 1990). You haven’t reached that high. You can be the best East Lyme field hockey is.”

Swan, who has struggled throughout her life with dyslexia, a learning disability which affects her ability to read and write, believes that sports in general — she’s also an outfielder for the varsity softball team — and field hockey, in particular, have made her into the best version of herself.

“Sports give me a natural high, even just running,” Swan said. “Sports helps me keep my grades up.”

Although she hasn’t selected a college — she is being recruited by several to play field hockey — Swan plans to major in business management and interior design, a more hands-on discipline with which she has clicked. She wrote her college application essay on her dyslexia.

“I used to consider myself stupid,” Swan said. “I thought I was always going to be the person people made fun of. I would get taken out of class and people would say, ‘Go cheat on that. People are going to help you.’ Because the teachers would read the questions to me.

“I’ve heard a million dyslexic jokes. Yeah, I have dyslexia. But I still learn the same things in different ways.”

She has grown into her role as a goalie, much like she has become more confident personally.

“I just push harder and push myself,” Swan said. “I want to be aggressive, get to that ball first. I like the mentality of just being ready, diving headfirst, be in the game, be able to react to it. (Wearing the goalie gear), you feel like you can push yourself more. I could do anything in the game I wanted to.”

Swan served as the Vikings’ co-captain along with fellow seniors Kristen Healy, Abby Mountain and Natale Taylor. She said the team — along with Behbehani, the head coach, whose husband Kyle was serving for a year in Africa as a member of the U.S. Navy Reserve — formed a second family. East Lyme also has a goalie coach in Julie Horner.

“We depend on each other,” Swan said.

Swan is the daughter of former East Lyme field hockey coach Diane Swan and her husband Rob, a pair of teachers. Swan has a younger brother, Vincent, 13.

“I think field hockey has been incredible for her,” Behbehani said of Swan. “I think she feeds off the energy. She gets excited when she’s able to stop the one-on-ones. She thrives on those moments. She really steps up. A lot of time the forwards are coming at her and I had a sense of calmness and ease because I knew she could handle it.

“She’s focused, driven. She can shine at it. The team this year was kind of an exceptional team. They love to be together. They had a lot of fun together. … (Winning the ECC title) just means so much to me. It means so much to the girls. It’s something we have always hoped for. For these girls to accomplish that, it’s something I think we’ll remember forever.”

v.fulkerson@theday.com

 

The Day's 2019 All-Area Field Hockey Team

Player of the Year — Lydia Swan (East Lyme)

Forward — Kristen Healy (East Lyme), Ellie Korinek (Stonington), Bridget O'Leary (Fitch)

Midfield — Sandy McGugan (Stonington), Maggie O'Leary (Fitch), Molly Quiles (Waterford), Caroline Real (East Lyme)

Defense — Sophia Fernholz (Stonington), Sarah Flakus (Stonington), Allyssa McIlquham (Fitch), Natale Taylor (East Lyme)

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