Dave Dikranian wants what any other coach of a program would want: to be playing your best at the most opportune time of the season.
That time normally would be heading into postseason play. The girls soccer season is still a few weeks away from that, but if Hand does play at its best at that time, look out. The Tigers are already on an eight-game winning streak.
“To be 8-1 and have not played our best, that’s a positive,” Dikranian said. “We’ve played in spurts. Our best is yet to come.”
Dikranian credits the season-opening 1-0 loss to Guilford at home for some of this early success. The Tigers got some payback with a 2-1 win at Guilford last Monday.
“I talked to Scott (McMahon, the coach) from Guilford and told him that I really respect the rivalry we have with Guilford,” Dikranian said. “Every time we play them, we have to work extra hard because they work extra hard. Losing to them motivated us. We realized we had to pay attention to detail, to be more disciplined. I joked with him, ‘You guys helped us a lot.’”
Obviously, Hand has been a perennial SCC title contender since the league was formed more than two decades ago. The Tigers advanced to the SCC tournament final last year, losing to Cheshire in penalty kicks and lost to eventual Class L state champion St. Joseph in the semifinals.
But it’s been quite awhile since the Tigers have tasted championship success. They were last co-SCC champions in 2009 and outright winners in 2008. And despite five trips to the state finals, the last coming in 2006, Hand has never won a state championship.
“The girls are hungry off of reaching the SCC finals last yer and having a taste of success in the states,” Dikranian said.
Dikranian said he is “blessed with great athletes” who are going to play Division I in other sports. Forward Taylor Scully, last year’s leading goal scorer, and center-midfielder Riley Kokoruda are committed to play Division I lacrosse in 2018-19 for UConn and Boston University, respectively.
Gabby Egidio, a midfelder, was a key contributor for Hand’s run to the Class L state girls basketball championship in March.
“Kokoruda is an all-around great player. She distributes the ball, she’s a great defender, she’s the anchor of the team. She does a lot of little things,” Dikranian said. “Scully is very aggressive, very fast, she gets in behind defenders making runs and she’s a lot better laying balls off, distributing to the other forwards. Egidio is very athletic, physically strong, fast and good on the flank. Her best soccer is yet to come for her.”
Hand still has non-conference games remaining Saturday at Newtown and Oct. 18 against Norwich Free Academy at home, as well as a key SCC Oronoque Division showdown with Lauralton Hall on Oct. 20. All are chances for Hand to not only continue its win streak, but to also keep a high seeding for both the league and state tournaments.