High school notes: The week belonged to East Lyme field hockey, freshman goalie
It’s hard to imagine a program that had a better week than the East Lyme High School field hockey team.
The Vikings matched up with the two Eastern Connecticut Conference tournament finalists from a year ago, Stonington and Fitch, and went unbeaten, tying Stonington 1-1 in overtime and edging Fitch 1-0.
East Lyme had an unlikely star in the two-game span: freshman goalie Emma Van Dusen. Van Dusen finished the week having allowed just one goal, stopped a penalty stroke against Stonington and drew a nomination for ECC Female Athlete of the Week.
“At the end of regulation time (against Stonington), there was a few breakaways where she came out to the top of the circle, she came up big,” said East Lyme coach Emily Murray, whose team is 3-0-1 overall and in the ECC.
“She’s been working hard every day and we’ve been putting a lot on her at practice. She definitely has the support of her team. She has played a little bit indoor, she had a little bit of experience, but this is her first real time getting coached. We started from clears, we started from the basics.”
East Lyme has a goalie coach, Julie Horner. Murray also has an old friend who was a field hockey goalie, one she has turned to since first starting out as a head coach in New Jersey.
Murray tried to get her players to remain “calm and collected” this week.
“Stonington was one of the best teams we played all year. They pointed out some of our weaknesses,” Murray said. “I told the girls, ‘This is Stonington, it’s our biggest rival. But we do know how to pass. We don’t resort to the same thing all the time.’
“They took away the center of our field completely; we had to go around them, come up on the spot with a different idea.”
Lily Gibson scored for the Vikings against Stonington, tying the game at 1-1. Against Fitch, Ava Korineck scored on an assist from Gracie Lloyd in the fourth quarter, with East Lyme finally able to capitalize on one of its 10 penalty corners.
The Vikings had two second team Class M all-state selections last year in goalie Jaci Felix, who graduated, and Lloyd, who is a junior midfielder.
Murray had a message for her players during a practice over the weekend.
“Basically, I said we had an awesome week. We have a strong foundation,” Murray said. “I emphasized basics. Basics and silliness together.”
By silliness, she was giving the Vikings permission to try some skills or stickwork that they may be have been practicing but were reticent to try in a game.
“Add a little pizzazz to their play,” Murray said. “They seem to be enjoying it a lot. Come and enjoy. It’s a game where we can let loose and not worry too much. This is supposed to be fun. It’s non-stop. If you mess up, you get another chance, usually.”
Old Lyme and Ledyard were recently honored with the Michaels Jewelers Achievement Cup Award for the 2022-23 school year. It was the fifth straight year Old Lyme earned that recognition and Ledyard received the distinction for the ninth time in 12 years.
Schools that are part of the CIAC’s Class Act program can be considered for the award. A Class Act school empowers students to take an active role in their school climate and promote community service.
“I have to say, I meet with a leadership group every other week,” Old Lyme athletic director Hildie Heck said. “Kids from all the sports. I attribute all of that to them. They come every other Tuesday and we talk about things that are going on on the athletic department, things we can do better.
“Every year you have to do something different to promote excellence and good sportsmanship.”
One of Old Lyme’s initiatives is that of leaving snack bags for the officials. Old Lyme also has a phone app called “Wildcat Nation.” Students can earn points toward being a “Super Fan” by attending school athletic events or, for instance, by dressing up for different theme nights at games.
“All the sportsmanship stuff you do, it speaks to the culture of our school,” Heck said. “It gets people excited.”
Ledyard also has Official’s Appreciation and Teacher Appreciation, as well as holding a non-perishable food drive and a gently used sports equipment drive. The Colonels have raised money for Safe Futures for the fight against domestic violence and have participated in the ALS Cup.
“The award is a direct reflection of the commitment that our student-athletes, coaches and community as a whole have made to being a Class Act school,” Ledyard athletic director Jim Buonocore said.
“Athletics plays an integral part of our everyday process at Ledyard and it has great value to our school community. ... Our Class Act athletic council and student-athletes represent some of the best leaders in our building on a yearly basis.”
These Colonels are Saints
Ledyard and St. Bernard joined to form a cooperative girls’ swim team this season, with eight St. Bernard swimmers driving to practice every day at Vitale Aquatic and Tennis (known as the VAT) in Ledyard.
“They bring more depth to the team,” said Ledyard/St. Bernard coach Katey Kokomoor of the new arrivals. “More spirit. A great work ethic. They’ve been swimming very strong. They’ve integrated very well with the Ledyard girls.
“... We pushed it from both sides. We lost two to graduation this past year and had a few who chose not to come back. St. Bernard needed a place to land. It’s a win-win.”
The Colonels are 1-4 overall, 0-3 in the ECC headed into Wednesday’s Senior Day festivities at the VAT, facing East Lyme. Both seniors, Cate McKenzie and Mackenzie Hope, are Ledyard students.
St. Bernard junior Seidi Schiro won the 50- and 100-yard freestyle events in the team’s 90-73 loss to NFA last week. In addition, sophomore Anna Kate O’Donnell won the 500 freestyle in that meet and has qualified for the Class M state championship in three events, two in her first meet.
“I’m very happy to have the girls,” Kokomoor said. “They’re just a joy to coach.”
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