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    Saturday, December 02, 2023

    The day is coming for ‘Tooch,’ our Field Hockey Whisperer

    North Branford head coach Babby Nuhn, left, comforts Stonington head coach Jenna Tucchio after her Thunderbirds defeated the Bears in CIAC Class S field hockey championship game action Saturday, November 19, 2022 at Wethersfield High School. The top-seeded Thunderbirds rolled to a 4-0 win over the third-seeded Bears. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
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    Wethersfield – Our corner of the world, like many others, bears certain names most associated with particular sports. Examples: football (Buonocore or Mignault), basketball (Roggero, Pagliuca, Parker). And field hockey? It’s not close: Tooch by two touchdowns.

    “Tooch,” otherwise known as Jenna Tucchio, is our Field Hockey Whisperer. She knows her third parties from her stroke marks, by golly, as our local frame of reference to this game most of us don’t understand.

    Her teams at Stonington High win the ECC regularly. She hung a state championship banner in 2013. And yet all she needed was a pair of boxing gloves to beat herself up a little harder late Saturday morning.

    This was in the wake of a 4-0 loss to North Branford – now six-time state champion North Branford – in the Class S title game.

    “I have to figure out how to teach the kids or how to prep them. I'm not doing that. Obviously, I'm not doing my job prepping them for this environment,” Tucchio said. “And so that's something I have to figure out. I’ve got to figure out how to get the kids ready to play in this game.”

    This was the second straight season the Bears lost to North Branford in the finals. Tucchio was understandably disappointed. She probably has no idea that she’s on her way to becoming one of the greats in state history.

    In a state where many of the field hockey greats bear the names Cookie, Patsy, Kitty, Babby and Dot, now comes Tooch. Take it from Cookie herself.

    “Jenna is a fabulous coach,” said Kathleen “Cookie” Bromage, a legend in Connecticut coaching, having won five state titles in her 52 years at Enfield High. “She and I go way back. She was the young kid and I was the old one. We would go to field hockey conventions together. And we had so much fun. And she was so respectful of me. She's very smart. She's tactical. She puts her whole heart in.”

    Bromage saw the despair on Tucchio’s face after the game.

    “I said to her, ‘honey, your day is coming. And when it comes, it's gonna be long,’” Bromage said. “She's obviously heartbroken today, but she's worked so hard with her kids. And she's a wonderful coach. She's prepared. When we would go to the conventions, she would go to every clinic and write down everything. She's the chair of our field hockey committee now. A warm, sincere person. I’d love to play for her.”

    Bromage knows of what she speaks, especially the part of how the Bears’ day is coming. Tucchio took a team of sophomores and juniors to the finals, including a win in the snow last week in the semifinals.

    “There's gotta be some magic potion or something that lets you play your best game (in the finals). I don't know,” Tucchio said.

    The potion was Saturday’s experience. Sophomores and juniors become juniors and seniors. This group will use Saturday’s lessons and approach next season’s championship game differently. If they get there, of course. But then, here is how they will prepare:

    “The offseason starts the week after Thanksgiving,” Tucchio said. “We do a winter clinic. Once a week, we'll play in the indoor league in North Branford on Tuesday nights. As we get towards the spring, we go to UConn and we can do a few tournaments. In the summertime we'll train four days a week. We might be able to train six days a week if CIAC changes their bylaws on out of season training. We’ll do a UConn camp. We're gonna use every bit of it.”

    This is why Tooch needs to listen to Cookie. The day is coming.

    “This team just made amazing progress all year long and got better and better. They're a good team. Today was not our day. I don't know if just mentally if we were in a good head space,” Tucchio said.

    “I don't think people understand how hard it is to get here. Even with some of my best teams that I've ever had. We are out in the quarterfinals. There needs to be a little luck, the timing needs to be right and you need to get the right match. There's just so many things that need to go well.”

    This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro

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