The Day's All-Area Field Hockey Player of the Year: Stonington's Anne Drago
Anne Drago embraces things that are difficult.
She plays right back for the Stonington High School field hockey team, where she is oftentimes left to swat away the line drives of talented opposing forwards. She plays for the Stonington girls' basketball team, recently expressing an enthusiasm for the first day of practice, which ordinarily would elicit a groan at the amount of running involved.
And Drago, a Stonington senior, is a member of the Bears' crew team.
"If you want to put it that way," Drago said with a laugh, hearing a list of her unenviable undertakings.
Drago, whom Stonington field hockey coach Jenna Tucchio calls "a woman of few words," is quiet. And yet her dominance on defense speaks volumes — "one of the reasons we had the confidence we had," said Tucchio, whose team finished the season with a berth in the Class S championship game, "is because the eight players in front of her knew she was back there."
Drago is a first team All-Eastern Connecticut Conference and first team Class S all-state selection, captaining the Bears to their 12th straight league regular-season title. Stonington finished 18-4 overall, 12-0 in the ECC, allowing just 14 shots on goal in conference play.
Drago was named The Day's 2021 All-Area Field Hockey Player of the Year.
"She's a wonderful kid. She's so shy. But she's ultra-competitive; don't let the facade fool you," Tucchio said of Drago. "She's very competitive. She's not intimidated by anybody. She's automatic when she's on the field. Her actions speak louder than her words for sure. As a freshman, she played on the freshman and JV team. Her sophomore year, I could tell she had some fire in her."
Tucchio calls Drago one of the best defenders to come through the program.
"I don't know if you can put it into words," Tucchio said. "She has that intangible piece that makes her above and beyond. ... I've seen teams and I've had coaches tell me they do everything to avoid her side."
Drago calls defense her favorite part of the game. She didn't start playing field hockey until her freshman year and was uncertain until a few days before the season started what she would choose for a fall sport.
"You always know what's expected of you," Drago said of the defensive side of the ball. "I was just kind of thrown into the defensive group. The principals of basketball transferred over to field hockey, especially on the defensive end. I think it took some time to figure out how to play; I also think the program at Stonington is set up to make that possible.
"I do think I'm competitive. My brothers (John and Matthew) were always big into sports. ... I think it just goes back to the challenging thing. I enjoy playing defense."
This was a Stonington team with 10 seniors, none of whom considered herself any more important than the other nine. All of them produced shining moments. The Bears won back-to-back one-goal games in the Class S tournament. The first, which came on a goal by Hannah Nulick in overtime, featured the 7-on-7 overtime format which left Drago as the only player back to protect goalie Avery Slocum, a task she handled with remarkable ease.
"I think what's really special about this team and what made us so successful is that every single person on the field and every single person on the bench had a chance to make the goal, make the assist, make the game-saving goal," she said. "Not one person scored all of our goals. Not one person assisted. Everyone was a vital part of the team."
Tucchio isn't surprised at Drago's humility.
"She's so humble. She will never take credit for anything. She doesn't like being in the spotlight. She'd rather be a part of a group or team," Tucchio said. "... Her teammates admire and respect her so much. They are in awe of her."
Drago isn't certain where she'll attend college but plans to major in computer science. She enjoys watching basketball with her mom and reading when she has time. She is mostly busy, though, as a three-sport athlete, with a challenging combination of sports. Just the way she likes it.
"I don't know if I'd know what to do with myself (without all three)," Drago said. "I had a week off (between field hockey and basketball). We played Saturday and then I had a week. I think I went shopping and made some muffins or something. I didn't know what to do with myself."
Player of the Year - Anne Drago (Stonington)
Forward - Sarah Healy (East Lyme), Maddie Mendez (Stonington), Hannah Nulick (Stonington), Bridget O'Leary (Fitch)
Midfield - Dillon Griscom (Stonington), Sophia Hathaway (Waterford), Sandy McGugan (Stonington), Oonagh Zimbelmann (Fitch)
Defense - Sophia Fernholz (Stonington), Kameryn Mazzulli (Waterford)
Goalie - Abriel Carey (Fitch)