5 STORYLINES TO WATCH
STAPLES TOUGH IN A TOUGH CLASS L
Class L is loaded with talented teams but the one to beat is still No. 4 seed Staples with its depth and standouts in every phase of the game. The Wreckers will try to win their fourth straight Class L title led by two of the state’s top two defenders in Grace Cooper and Hannah Paprotna. While top seed Newtown, No. 2 seed Hall (one of the top teams in the north) and No. 6 Amity are formidable foes, the FCIAC dominates this rodeo with 10 of the 21 teams coming out of that league. No. 3 Darien is the top challenger, recently played Staples to a 0-0 tie in the FCIAC tournament final and will likely face Staples in the L final. But don’t count out No. 9 Norwalk, led by forward standout Tessa Albrecht. No. 7 Ridgefield and No. 5 New Canaan also have the talent to get to the final.
GUILFORD PEAKING AT RIGHT TIME
Guilford is rolling. It actually has been on a roll the past two seasons and enters Class M on a 27-game win streak. The No. 1 Indians are the defending Class M champions, they are 19-0 in 2019 and coming off a 1-0 win over Amity in the SCC field hockey tournament final. One the many standouts for the Indians is midfielder Maddie Epke who contributes on both ends of the field and was recently named the SCC tournament most outstanding player. Coach Kitty Palmer has the Indians purring along and peaking at the right time for another deep run in Class M.
WHO CAN CHALLENGE GUILFORD IN M?
Guilford is the favorite, but the six seeds below No. 1 Guilford in Class M have the talent to pull off their own deep run in the tournament. One team is SCC rival No. 7 Hand, which has the talent and coaching to get to the final and face the Indians with a break or two along the way. No. 2 Wethersfield, a top team from the CCC, No. 3 East Lyme, a top team from the ECC, and SWC power No. 4 Pomperaug have the depth to give the Indians a challenge for the title.
NORTH BRANFORD, GRANBY TOUGH IN CLASS S
The No. 2 North Branford and No. 1 Granby teams both went 15-0-1 in the regular season and their talent on both ends of the field are a big reason they seem destined to meet in the Class S final. In 16 regular season games the Bears posted an impressive 14 shutouts and outscored opponents 70-3 (folks, this isn’t a .typo). The Thunderbirds are just as impressive and didn’t allow a goal in their first 13 games. North Branford had 14 shutouts overall in their 16 regular season games and outscored opponents 79-4.
OTHER CHALLENGERS IN CLASS S
Can anyone in Class S beat the kind of dominance the Thunderbirds and Bears have produced this season? There are six teams with the talent to get to the final and two stick out as the top challengers. No. 3 Immaculate, another strong defensive team with 10 shutouts in the regular season, is coming off a 1-0 win over New Milford in the SWC field hockey tournament final. The Mustangs have one of the top goalies in the state with Lauren Oskam and one of the top midfielders with Molly Coyle. No. 4 Westbrook is another team with solid talent front to back led by another top goalie Lauren Horne. The Knights faced the fierce rival Thunderbirds in the recent Shoreline Conference tournament final and gave North Branford a tough battle that the T-Birds won 2-1.
5 PLAYERS TO WATCH
GRACE COOPER, STAPLES
The senior is one of two outstanding defensive backs for the Wreckers (Hannah Paprotna is the other) who have limited opponents’ shots on goal the last two seasons. Cooper was named Co-MVP of the recent FCIAC field hockey tournament after helping limit Darien to six shots on goal. Darien and Staples ended up in a scoreless tie and were named co-champions.
MOLLY HELLMAN, DARIEN
The last two seasons the senior forward has developed into one of the top scorers in the FCIAC. Last season in the 2018 FCIAC tournament championship game she scored the game-winning goal in a 2-1 win over Staples. In the recent 2019 FCIAC tournament final she had one of the few shots on goal in a game that ended in a scoreless tie (Staples and Darien were declared co-champs).
MARY NORMAN, GLASTONBURY
The Tomahawks are one of the top teams in the north (all divisions) and the senior midfielder is one reason why. She was a first team CHSCA All-State selection last season and will likely be again this season. The defensive standout also contributes on offense as a scorer and playmaker and in the transition phase of the game.
LAUREN OSKAM, IMMACULATE
CHSCA All-State the last three years, she is one of the top goalies in the state. The Mustangs went 15-1 in the regular season and Oskam is one reason they had 10 shutouts. The Mustangs posted another shutout in the recent SWC field hockey tournament championship game with Oskam leading Immaculate to a 1-0 win over New Milford on Thursday.
HANNAH TILLIER, GUILFORD
The junior forward has developed into one of the top scorers, playmakers and stick handlers in the New Haven area. She was one of the many reasons Guilford defeated Sacred Heart Academy 3-1 in the 2018 CIAC Class M championship game. Her post-season offense continued on Thursday when she scored the game-winning goal in a 1-0 win over Amity in the 2019 SCC field hockey tournament final.