Staples’ bid for 5th straight title
Heading into the 2019 season, one big question was whether Staples could win a fourth straight CIAC Class L title. The answer, as we know now, was a resounding yes after an exciting 4-2 win over FCIAC rival Darien in the Class L final. In a normal season, the Wreckers would be poised to win a fifth straight title with their returning playmakers in every phase of the game. But this isn’t a normal season. COVID-19 has made its impact in the regular season, limiting competition to teams within a 30-mile radius. To accommodate that limit, leagues have been split into regions of 4 to 6 teams, and teams can only compete within that region. Beyond that regular season there will only be a CIAC tournament experience slated for Nov. 7 to Nov. 21. There is no expectation for a state tournament. Staples’ depth starts with four returning standouts on offense and defense: Laine Ambrose, Maya Reiner, Izzy Deveney and Jess Leon.
Encore for Wethersfield
The 2019 season was a special one for the Eagles, who went 15-1 in the regular season, entering the CIAC Class M tournament as the No. 2 seed and winning their first tournament game in 30-plus years. The Eagles defeated Barlow 1-0 in the first round of Class M and lost 1-0 to eventual Class M runner-up Hand in the quarterfinals. The Eagles return experience and depth with standouts Lorien Touponse, Kate Anzidei, Molly Bowers and Emily Messina. “We’re coming off our best season in program history,” Wethersfield coach Colleen Budaj said.
It’s uncertain whether Guilford players are fans of the Go-Gos, but they certainly didn’t miss a beat in the 2019 season, defeating Amity 1-0 in the SCC tournament final, then defeating SCC rival Hand 3-2 in the CIAC Class M final for their second straight state title. No matter how this COVID-19 season turns out, legendary Guilford coach Kitty Palmer has her team ready for another strong season, led by offensive standouts Maddie Epke and Hannah Tillier. “Our Guilford home games will have no spectators and all our games will be in the afternoon because of COVID-19,” Palmer said. “We’re looking forward to the regular season and I just hope we get to play the games.”
Class S still has many top teams
Class S is loaded with so many talented teams that each year it’s a wide-open affair when it comes to who could compete for postseason championships. While there will not be a state-wide tournament this year, the trend of parity in Class S continues. The last seven seasons have produced seven different champions — eight counting Class S co-champs Haddam-Killingworth and Westbrook in 2016. Many Class S teams are poised for solid regular-season competition. Granby has its usual share of talent led by midfielder Avery Bryanton. There are several Class S teams that could open eyes this season, including North Branford, Immaculate, Westbrook and Stonington.