Stonington field hockey coach Jenna Tucchio: 'We're going to be here'
Stonington — It was so quiet Tuesday morning at Stonington High School's Donald E. Palmer Field, you could hear birds chirping and the intermittent beeping of a truck backing up somewhere in the distance.
Laughter broke out among a few members of the Stonington field hockey team, who were conditioning in small groups on the turf field, working on core strength and agility.
"Everyone was new yesterday," said junior defender Anne Drago of the idle chatter. "Today, we're getting to know everybody. It's good to be back with the team. Yesterday, it was very uncertain what was going to happen."
"It's a totally different atmosphere (than usual)," Stonington coach Jenna Tucchio said. "They're working, which is good. They're here. They're working. It was kind of what I expected. I knew it wasn't going to be this electric energy. ... They had to report to different stations. Some get dropped off in the front and some get dropped off in the back. They're kind of trying to follow the rules."
Stonington, which won its 11th straight Eastern Connecticut Conference regular-season title last year, sharing the honor with East Lyme, is one local team to take advantage of the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference's allowance for preseason conditioning.
Because the spring season for high school athletes was canceled due to the COVID-19 crisis, the CIAC implemented a plan for the resocialization of athletes.
Phase II began Monday and permitted groups of no more than 10 to work out — while remaining in those same groupings each day — up to three times per week. All activities are limited to outdoor areas and coaches must confirm self-screening by all activity participants upon arrival. This phase will last at least four weeks, with Tucchio planning for her players to work out on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday mornings.
Tucchio said just about every single player in the program signed up.
"They were happy. They want to come," the coach said. "I'm still trying to find how to do a group activity (with them all) without mixing, interact but not physically be near each other, to have some kind of vocal interaction. Maybe I'll put some music on."
Tucchio and assistant coach Lauren McGugan participated with their groups. Tucchio partook in a few shuttle runs, while McGugan went on a 20-minute jog on the track.
Tucchio said it's normal for her and McGugan to be active.
"Even when we're coaching a practice, we're running all over the place," Tucchio said.
But she said this amount of conditioning without equipment is out of the ordinary for her players.
"I do not do conditioning as a single entity in my practices. You won't find us just flat-out running except a timed two-mile we do to start the season," Tucchio said. "We want to do a lot of tempo training, that's the way a field hockey game goes. We want to get them in hockey shape. But since we have the time and ability ..."
Stonington's captains are seniors Ellie Korinek, Teagan O'Brien and Olivia Monte. Korinek was an All-ECC, All-Area and Class M second team all-state selection last season, leading the Bears with 18 goals — "You give Ellie a task, she's going to work and work and work," Tucchio said.
"I just think there were a lot of sophomores stepping up (last season)," said Korinek, a 5-foot-11 forward who has committed to play field hockey at Smith College. "We had a strong bond. There were a lot of new people just expecting to do the best you can. We put in the work and knew good things would happen."
Korinek, who usually competes in outdoor track, described a spring this year without sports. She had a schedule which included AP Chemistry, AP English and AP U.S. history, figuring out all that via distance learning.
"It's disappointing we can't all be in one group," Korinek said. "Every challenge serves to unify us. It's so nice to see all the girls again."
"I'm excited," Drago said. "We have good team chemistry."
Tucchio said nearly her entire team was slated to go to field hockey camp at UConn this summer.
For now, things are somewhat quieter, although the Bears are still working toward a common goal.
Said Tucchio: "We're going to be here doing our thing."
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