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H.S. field hockey: ECC schools are just happy to compete

Entering a fall season like no other before, East Lyme coach Kristy Behbehani is stressing to her field hockey team to enjoy every moment.

Wise advice given the circumstances.

"Everyone is very excited to get this season playing and get a few games in because you never know what the future will hold," Behbehani said. "We've kind of been living in the moment. Worry about this week and what we have to do and what are our restrictions, and to have fun.

"I think the most important thing is a lot of girls missed their season last spring with lacrosse. So I just really want to make sure the girls are having fun and they're out there playing the game that they love."

Waterford coach Molly Quiles is taking a similar approach.

"I think this whole pandemic has obviously affected everybody," she said. "I think people are just treasuring what we can do. And it really does make you appreciate what we've lost. The  girls are very positive and they're happy to be together and to be playing."

Preseason has been interesting, to say the least, with all the new rules and regulations that high school teams have to follow.

It also has been shorter than normal, leaving coaches a bit nervous about what to expect from their teams on opening day. Eastern Connecticut Conference game action gets underway on Thursday with Waterford visiting Stonington and Norwich Free Academy traveling to Woodstock Academy.

"We play Stonington our first game of the season on Saturday," Behbehani said. "I'm just nervous to play any game because the girls have only been practicing as a full team for two weeks. Normally, you have a whole month before you get a game in."

While every team has to endure challenges, those stocked with veterans may be better equipped to overcome obstacles.

East Lyme has a talented roster, returning several players that helped the Vikings win their first ECC regular season title since 1990 and first league tournament crown. The Vikings lost four key players.

Early signs indicate the Vikings will be a balanced team. Four different players scored goals in Monday's scrimmage against Waterford.

"This might be one of these years where every person on the team is going to be an essential player," Behbehani said. "We want to build upon where we were last year. But it is a new season and anything can happen."

Any talk about ECC contenders starts with East Lyme and Stonington, which have developed a nice rivalry. The Bears, who shared the regular season title last season, are strong once again.

"I have plenty of talent," Stonington coach Jenna Tucchio said, "but these girls haven't played since last November."

Behbehani expects an interesting season ahead.

"I think our conference is starting to step up," Behbehani said. "It's really anyone's game, especially in a year like this."

Waterford is in a rebuilding mode after losing 11 seniors. It will start off with a tough opponent in Stonington.

Quiles wishes she had more time to prepare her team for the season.

"It's hard," Quiles said. "We have a lot of new players. Last week, we finally got to play with contact, so we really were limited with what we could do. We conditioned and did skill work. It helped the new players practice basic skills."



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