Top 5 Storylines to Watch
1. Stop us if you’ve heard this one: Darien tough in Class L
Plot line: Darien defeated Wilton 14-10 to claim its third straight CIAC Class L title last season and the Blue Wave are poised to make it four straight.
Depth is once again the forte of the Blue Wave, led by high-scoring midfielders Kate Cronin, Chandler Kirby and Laura Murphy. Kaeleigh Morrill, Emma Lesko and Susannah Ropp are among the top scorers and Carly Schoudel has developed into a solid goalie.
Darien is coming off a 12-11 OT win over New Canaan in the FCIAC tournament championship where Ropp scored the game-winning goal.
You should know: Since the CIAC went to a Class L-M-S tournament system in 2011, Darien has been in four of five tournament finals with titles in 2011 (Class M) and 2013-2015 (Class L).
2. Ditto New Canaan in Class M
Plot line: New Canaan defeated Hand 13-7 in last year’s Class M final, and it’s very likely there will be a rematch this season. The Rams excel in every phase of the game including winning draws and ball possession. That strength allowed the Rams to take a 7-1 lead over powerhouse Darien in the recent FCIAC tournament final.
The Blue Wave fought back and went on to take a 12-11 win in OT for the FCIAC title, instilling a little motivation for the Rams to have success in Class M. Midfielders Catherine Granito and Samantha Stewart are two of the team’s key players on offense. Stewart also contributes with draws, ground balls and caused turnovers.
You should know: The Rams have been in the last four Class M finals with titles in 2012, 2013 and 2015.
3. But can Hand knock off the Rams?
Plot line: While New Canaan is in the Class M lower bracket, No. 1 Hand is in the upper bracket. If the Tigers stay aggressive and focus on playmaking, they have a clear path to the final.
Another New Canaan-Hand matchup would be an exciting one for fans. Among the senior leaders on the team are midfielder Cam Ruberti who is the team’s field general and defender Annie Hesse who leads a strong defense.
But will anyone be able to stop sophomore sensation Taylor Scully? She has developed into a strong, prolific and clutch scorer for the Tigers.
In the recent SCC tournament final against Cheshire, Ruberti scored with 33 seconds left in regulation to tie the game at 10. Scully scored the game-winning goal with 3 seconds left in the first overtime.
You should know: Hand defeated Greenwich 9-8 in the Tigers’ only matchup with an FCIAC team in the regular season.
4. This could be Old Lyme’s year
Plot line: Granby and Somers are among the teams with a shot to go far in Class S. Granby has four Class S championship appearances in the last five years and a Class S title last season. Old Saybrook will be focused on getting back to the Class S final after losing 14-13 in OT to Granby last season.
The third time could be the charm for Old Lyme, which has advanced to the semifinals the last two seasons. The Wildcats (17-1) are led on offense by Sloane Sweitzer, Lauren Quaratella and Sydney Crowell and on defense with goalie Hannah Guenther.
In the recent Shoreline Conference tournament final, Sweitzer and Crowell had four goals each to lead Old Lyme to a 16-6 win over Old Saybrook.
You should know: Old Lyme has won seven in a row since a 15-11 loss to Hand on May 7.
5. Other teams with a shot
Plot line: Among the top teams in the north are Glastonbury, led by Maddie Norman, and Conard, led by Gwen Geisler. They will be tough in Class L.
Other FCIAC teams that could get on a roll are Ridgefield (Class L), Staples (Class L) and St. Joseph (Class S). In addition to Hand, the SCC is loaded with talent and should have an impact in Class L with Cheshire and in Class M with Branford, Lauralton Hall, North Haven and Sheehan.
You should know: The biggest wild card in the tournament will be Cheshire.
After overcoming injuries and illnesses early this season the Rams are healthy now. If the Rams play the way they did the first 20 minutes against Hand in the SCC final, when they took a 6-1 lead, they will be very tough. And here’s the wild card of the wild card — attack player Meghan Dutchyshyn.
Speed and quick moves combined with size and strength make her tough to defend if left alone in front of the net. Double and triple team her and five other Rams can put the ball in the net.
Top 5 Players To Watch
• Cameron Ruberti, Hand
mpressive sophomore Taylor Scully has certainly made an impact as the Tigers’ top scorer. But senior Ruberti’s midfield role as a point-guard/field general type of player will be key in the CIAC Class M tournament. She is one of the team’s top distributors and key players in transition. She has also developed into a strong scoring threat for the Tigers.
• Meghan Dutchyshyn, Cheshire
While the Rams have been developing chemistry and roles throughout the season, senior attack player Dutchyshyn has been a constant as the team’s top scorer. Dutchyshyn is a matchup nightmare. If left alone she will usually score. If she is double- or triple-teamed, the Rams’ balanced offensive attack will take advantage with scoring coming from five or six other players.
• Catherine Granito, New Canaan
She is one of the prolific scorers for the Rams and usually scores in bunches. She had three goals in the Rams’ 13-7 win over Hand in the Class M final last season. The speedy, aggressive player has made a verbal commitment to play at Michigan.
• Carly Schoudel, Darien
The Blue Wave have waves and waves of elite players who could be in this spot and many who are prolific scorers. But defense will be key for the three-time defending Class L champs. First-year goalie Schoudel has proven formidable in leading Darien to a 15-1-1 record. She has shown no ill effects from the pressure of postseason play with seven saves in a 15-3 win over Greenwich in the recent FCIAC semifinals.
• Maddie Norman, Glastonbury
Norman is one of the top attack players in the north. She led a Tomahawks team that had one of the toughest regular-season schedules among northern teams. She led the Tomahawks to a 10-6 regular season record. The six losses came against SCC power Hand, FCIAC powers New Canaan, Wilton and Greenwich and two out-of-state teams.
- Overview: Can anyone beat No. 3 Darien? The Blue Wave went 13-0 against Connecticut teams including the FCIAC tournament. No. 5 Cheshire should advance to the semifinals where it will face Darien.
Upsets on the horizon: This tournament looks chalky with favorites dominating play.
- Final Four: Darien, Cheshire, No. 2 Ridgefield, No. 3 Conard.
- Champion: Darien defeats Ridgefield 12-6.
- Overview: Like last season, with due respect to the other teams, I don’t see how this tournament can come down to anything but a No. 1 Hand vs. No. 6 New Canaan matchup in the final. Both teams’ depth, draw control and ball possession will be tough for opponents to overcome.
- Upsets on the horizon: No. 10 North Haven should beat No. 7 East Lyme in the first round.
- Final Four: Hand, No. 4 Barlow, No. 2 Branford, New Canaan.
- Champion: New Canaan will be tough, but there is something special about Hand sophomore Taylor Scully who is talented, focused and exciting to watch anytime she is on the field. Add in the experience and talent around her and this could be the year of the Tiger. Hand beats New Canaan 13-11.
- Overview: Last season’s finalists No. 11 Granby and No. 8 Old Saybrook are certainly top contenders. But No. 1 Old Lyme advanced to the semifinals the last two seasons and will be focused on taking it one more step to the final.
- Upsets on the horizon: Granby over No. 6 Stonington in the first round and Granby over No. 3 Somers in the quarterfinals.
- Final Four: Old Lyme, Canton, No. 2 East Catholic, Granby.
- Champion: Old Lyme defeats Granby 10-8.