Beth Yeager has experienced a wealth of memorable moments since she joined Sacred Heart Greenwich’s varsity field hockey team as an eighth-grader in 2016, one of which occurred in 2019, when she scored the game-winning goal in the Tigers’ NEPSAC Class A Tournament title game against Tabor Academy.
Yeager’s goal with 1:21 left in the second half that chilly November day, gave Sacred Heart a 2-1 triumph over Tabor Academy and its first NEPSAC championship.
Today, Yeager is one of the Tigers’ senior captains and though the 2020 season is extremely different than season’s past due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the five-year starter aims to help the squad enjoy the moments they share together this fall.
The NEPSAC and FAA (a league that is part of the NEPSAC) each canceled their interscholastic regular season schedules and postseason tournaments, due to the coronavirus crisis. Yet NEPSAC fall sports teams are allowed to hold scrimmages and conduct practices each day, which Sacred Heart has done.
“We’re really happy that we’re able to come back, it’s great to be back with the team and have the opportunity to compete with each other,” said Yeager, who has powered the Tigers offensively the past several seasons. “The school has done a really good job of getting us to play, whether it’s against ourselves, or other teams.”
Loaded with talent and big-game experience, the Tigers would have contended for both the FAA and NEPSAC titles again.
“It’s unfortunate that we can’t compete for a championship, but it’s still great to be out there at practice each day competing with each other,” said Yeager, a midfielder, who also scored the game-winning goal against Greenwich Academy in the FAA title game her junior season in 2018. “We could have won FAAs this year and the New England Tournament, but we have to make the most out of the season we have.”
After her academic and athletic career at Sacred Heart concludes, Yeager will head to Princeton University, where she will join the Tigers’ successful Division I program.
“I’m going to miss playing at Sacred Heart, but I’m really excited to go play at Princeton next year, because of the opportunities it presents athletically and academically,” Yeager said. “Last year, they were competing in the national championship game and I think they’ve been in the final four about four of the past five years. So I’m excited to learn from the coaches and staff there and help out any way I can.”
Selected as the 2019 NEPSAC Class A Player of the Year, Yeager has played on the USA Field Hockey’s Indoor National Team since she was an eighth-grader and is currently a member of the women’s Senior Team. She played on the Team USA outdoor development squad (Under-17) and is now on the 2020 U.S. Rise Women’s National Team (Under-19 outdoor team). Field hockey has taken Yeager to various venues overseas, as her U.S. indoor field hockey team won the Croatia Cup in 2019 and placed third at the Rohrmax Cup in Austria in 2020.
Besides playing at Sacred Heart, Yeager competes for the WC Eagles traveling club team.
“I was supposed to go to China with my club team and compete in the U-18 Championships, but we couldn’t do that, because of COVID,” Yeager said. “But I was still able to practice with the club team and I learned a lot during the summer.”
Sacred Heart coach Alex Gheorghe has seen the impact Yeager has had on the program.
“I think Beth is truly a legend to our program,” Gheorghe said. “She’s an outstanding player, scoring 40 to 50 goals per season, in a normal season.”
In her second season on the Tigers, forward Fiona Lewis, also provides leadership as one of the team’s captains. So far, Sacred Heart has scrimmaged rival Greenwich Academy and has scrimmages planned against Greenwich Country Day School, School of the Holy Child and GA again.
“Although we can’t win championships, it’s really nice to be back with the team and continue to build ourselves up,” Lewis said. “One of the things we decided on was that we were also going to have intramural games, where we would scrimmage each other. It kind of makes up for the fact that we won’t have as normal a season as usual.”
Lewis appreciates the time the team has spent on sharpening up their skills.
“Starting with the preseason and tryouts, we had a longer preseason than usual, so we did a lot of conditioning and stick work to begin with and as the season has gone on, we have continued to work on our stick skills,” Lewis said. “It’s nice to go back to the fundamentals. Last year was my first year on varsity and I grew tremendously.”
MaryGrace Farrell, a senior, is also in her fifth varsity field hockey season. Farrell, a standout defensive player, will join the field hockey team at the University of Pennsylvania next season.
“Both Beth and MaryGrace have been on the team since eighth grade and their dedication to the program has led to such outstanding results for the program,” Tigers associate head coach Sarah Hill said.
Like Lewis, senior Hanke Govaert is in her second varsity season. Govaert was a pivotal playmaker for the Tigers during their 2010 championship run.
“Fiona and Hanke have been instrumental in our high quality play each season,” Hill said. “The example they have all set has driven our team to become a cohesive group, with high performances every time they step onto the field.”
Added Lewis: “Being able to play with Beth, Hanka and MaryGrace, who are all going to play for top Division I schools has been great. It’s been nice to learn from them how to play. Everyone on the team has been super supportive and they’re all really good about teaching the basics.”
Caroline Nemec, also a member of the 2020 Team USA Rise Women’s National Team and Erin Griffin are Sacred Heart juniors, while Ines Araujo, Olivia Caponiti, Genevieve Caruso, Delfina Gonzalez Lobo and Katherine Nemec are sophomores. Payton Sfreddo, Skylar Stewart and Emma Marvin are the team’s freshmen.
“Everyone on our team is excited to play, they are energetic each day,” Gheorghe said. “Their team spirit, overall, is great. They performed very well in our game against Greenwich Academy and their effort each practice has been great. I’m thankful for our seniors, this program was built around them.”
Though the regular season involves scrimmages and there won’t be a postseason, Sacred Heart still has last season’s NEPSAC title to reflect on.
“Winning NEPSACs last season was amazing,” Yeager said. “I was glad we were able to end it on that note, especially with this season taking a detour. It was a great way for our team to end the season and it was really the pinnacle of my career.”