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Bears, Lancers meet for the fourth time this season in field hockey

Waterford — If the joke is that every day during the COVID-19 pandemic feels like Groundhog Day, another day working from home at the kitchen table, the Waterford and Stonington high school field hockey teams can relate.

Because the seven field hockey teams from the Eastern Connecticut Conference cannot play outside the league, there was already a limited pool to draw from in scheduling games. Then, as different schools were forced to pause their seasons due to the spread of the coronavirus, the list of opponents grew even smaller.

Stonington's 6-0 win over Waterford on Thursday was the teams' fourth meeting this month.

And there could be more to come.

The participants aren't complaining, however, even though Stonington — the 11-time defending ECC champion — has won all four.

"I'm happy playing them," Waterford junior center midfielder Sophia Hathaway said. "It's a good game. It's aggressive. It makes us work harder, work harder every day at practice. They're a very strong team. We have a lot of potential; we have to work on some things.

"We're very competitive against each other, but we're very kind to each other," Hathaway said of the repeat matchup. "(If someone falls), we always go and help out. We're very, very competitive, but it's a good competitive. It's good."

Waterford coach Molly Quiles, the former Molly Cullen who graduated from East Lyme in 1993, jokes she's been trying to beat Stonington since 1989. Just this year, it's been a more frequent refrain.

"Jenna (Tucchio, Stonington coach) and I joke, 'Hi, again,'" Quiles said. "We're like family now.

"My heart goes out to (the Waterford players). It's a tough time (overall). But it is what it is. They're just thankful to be playing. They do (give it their all) every single day. Barely anyone ever misses. They work hard. They run hard."

Stonington won 4-0 over Waterford on Oct. 1, 2-0 on Oct. 8 and 3-0 on Oct. 10 prior to Thursday.

The Bears (7-1) have allowed just one goal all season in a 1-0 loss to East Lyme on Oct. 3.

In the latest edition against the Lancers, Stonington led just 2-0 through three quarters, getting a first-quarter goal by Ellie Korinek assisted by Hannah Nulick and one with 20 seconds to go in the first half from Olivia Monte assisted by Nulick.

Stonington scored four times in the fourth quarter, as Korinek finished the game with two goals and an assist and Nulick and Madi Wing each with a goal and two assists. Alex Fidrych also scored for the Bears on a rebound off the post.

Ilyanna Rivera made 13 saves in goal for Waterford (0-6), which graduated 11 seniors a year ago.

"I think the whole team played awesome today," said Nulick, a junior, who scored the game-winning goal for Stonington in a 1-0 win over Fitch last Saturday. "It's definitely different (this season), but it's just kind of routine now. It's not that bad."

Nulick said the team still practices as diligently as ever and takes each opponent seriously.

"This is just like any other game we've played," Nulick said. "Nothing's changed."

Tucchio confirmed that Stonington is practicing as hard as ever, "always 100 percent," she said. She said with the beginning of the season coming so quickly after the start of practice, there was little time to work on strategy or game-planning.

"We work on it every day," she said. "The communication is getting better.

"We want to be competitive. We want to continue to grow as a program. We always have a growth mindset. We don't want to take a year off of growing the program. We want to continue the standard of hockey we want to play in Stonington."

While there will be no regular-season ECC champion crowned, there is a league tournament scheduled for all seven teams on Nov. 10-12, with each participant guaranteed two games.

"It gives you a goal. It gives you a sense of accomplishment," Tucchio said of the upcoming tournament. "I'm glad they're doing this for us."

v.fulkerson@theday.com

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