CANTON >> Lost in the disappointment of a loss in the first round of the Class S state tournament was how far the Canton High field hockey team traveled this season. The Warriors fell to No. 10 Westbrook on Tuesday afternoon, 1-0 on the green grass at the high school.
It was a different story just twelve months ago. Canton finished 2-11 with its fourth straight losing season. Then, the Warriors began this year with two losses.
But Canton turned it around beginning with a 1-0 win over Avon – their first victory over the Falcons since 2007, ending a 10-game winless streak. Canton won 10 games for the first time since 2007 and finished tied for second in the league with Granby.
Canton (10-4-2-1, 8-2-1-1 NCCC) won seven of their final eight regular season games. They’re only loss in that stretch was a 1-0 overtime loss to Avon.
In that strong surge to close out the season, the Warriors beat Granby for the first time since 2006 with a 1-0 win that snapped a 13-game losing streak to the Bears. They also beat Haddam-Killingworth, 1-0, a team that finished the season with a 12-4 record.
“It was a great season,” Canton co-coach Margaret Bristol said. “I couldn’t be happier on how the whole season worked out. To go from where we were to having a tournament game at home was just incredible.”
Sophomore goalie Natalie Nardello ended up with nine shutouts this season. Senior Kylie Delos was the leading scorer with 10 goals, including the game-winning goal against Valley Regional she also had two game-winning penalty strokes in 1-0 victories over Avon and Suffield.
In the final eight games, Canton outscored their opponents by a combined score of 11-2.
“We really started to mesh well and click,” Bristol said. “We were communicating and making passes from stick to stick. When we support each other, we play very well.”
Unfortunately against Westbrook, the Warriors had a tough time. Canton knew it would be a tough game. They played a 0-0 overtime tie against the Purple Knights under the lights at Bowdoin Field in early October.
“They stopped every ball on that bumpy field,” Bristol said. “We knew they would stop everything on our field. And they made some good stick to stick passes.”
No. 10 Westbrook (9-3-4) had several penalty corner opportunities but had a tough time getting quality shots on net. Senior Deidre Kronshnabel broke up several plays and had an excellent game along with junior Maggie Bidwell and sophomore Sarah First and Nardello in net.
But Westbrook was finally able to get one past Nardello with about 14 minutes left in regulation on a line drive off a corner that buzzed through the air and into the net.
Ziemnicki wins 300th in Avon’s opening game win
AVON >> Junior Emily Stross scored off a corner for the second straight game as the Avon High field hockey team won their Class M tournament opener with a 1-0 decision over No. 13 Brookfield.
The victory was the 300th career win for Avon coach Terri Ziemnicki, now in her 24th season. Ziemnicki, whose Falcons have never missed qualifying for the CIAC tournament, has a career record in field hockey of 300-97-44-6.
Stross deflected in the shot from Hannah Deppe on a corner hit from All-American Caroline Schaefer late in the first half. The No. 4 ranked Falcons (12-3-2) outshot Brookfield by a 13-1 margin and had a 19-1 edge in penalty corners.
Goalie Natalie Sawicki earned her 11th shutout of the season in goal. Defender Sarah Katherine Mascoli played well for the Falcons.
Ziemnicki is glad that pressure of getting her 300th win is behind her team.
She saw her players get a little tight in the waning minutes of a 2-1 loss to Simsbury in the regular season finale. Simsbury scored two goals in the final 1:28 including the game-winning goal with nine seconds left.
“I told them not to win the game for me but to play because you love the game,” she said. “Do the things you can do and that will get you there. I’m glad we have the win. Now, let’s move on.”
Avon hosted No. 5 New Fairfield in the quarterfinals on Thursday. If they won, they will play in the Class M semifinals on Tuesday or Wednesday at a neutral site.