Advancing to the FAA Tournament finals each year for decades and deep into the NEPSAC Class A playoffs numerous times, the Greenwich Academy field hockey team’s season usually lasts longer than most of its foes.
Possessing depth at each position, while returning an experienced nucleus of players from last season’s 16-3 squad, Greenwich Academy could once again, be one of the few teams that’s still competing in mid-November.
“I’m super excited about the season, because we lost only one senior, so we have a lot of returners,” GA senior forward/co-captain Grace Schulze said. “We’re an older team, so our chemistry is really strong and we work well together.”
Schulze and senior defender Maya Walker are beginning their second season as the Gators’ captains.
“I started playing field hockey in third grade at a gym station at GA and throughout the years, I’ve received a lot of support,” Walker said. “I can ask coaches what I can be doing to get better and I’ve never wanted to stop playing, because of the culture of the team.”
GA coach Jamie Brower has fostered a culture of teamwork, while emphasizing the importance of fundamentals.
“We are trying to become more process oriented,” Brower said. “Our goals are to continue to learn about the game, hone our basic skills and work with our teammates. We’re going to dive into that journey and wherever that journey takes us is to be determined.”
The 2018 season saw the Gators make it to the championship game of the FAA Tournament, where it suffered a 2-1 overtime defeat to rival Sacred Heart Greenwich. In the NEPSAC Class A Tournament, GA was edged by top-seeded Phillips Andover Academy, 2-1, in the semifinal-round.
“We’re really hoping to win a New England championship and take home the FAA title,” Walker said. “Not giving up until there are zero seconds left on the clock is important.”
Greenwich Academy’s season starts Sept. 11 against host Hackley School.
AT THE HELM: Brower begins her sixth season as GA’s coach. She led the Gators to a record of 16-3 last fall and a berth in the FAA finals. In 2017, Brower coached Greenwich Academy to the NEPSAC Class A title, which it claimed by beating Phillips Andover in the final. Returning as an assistant coach is Sally Duval. Greenwich Academy has won the FAA regular season title in each of Brower’s first five seasons with the team.
WHO’S GONE:? Lily Berger was the lone senior on last season’s squad. Hamilton Doster, the team’s starting goalie a year ago, is not playing on the team, as she is focusing her time on ice hockey.
WHO’S BACK?: Schulze, who possesses a lot of speed, quickness and has a knack for tallying in crucial situations, returns at forward, along with senior Elektra Rodger and junior Lila Murray.
“We’re a fast team and we move the ball well, so we’ve been working on quick passes and touches in order to get the ball down the field and create scoring opportunities,” Schulze said. “We’ve been focusing on our fitness in the preseason to make sure we are in shape.”
The Gators should be tough to contend with in the midfield with the return of senior Katharine Glassmeyer, junior Julia Freedman and senior Evelyn Barringer. Defensively, the back line should be solidified by Walker, junior Sophie Freedman, Ada Shaffer (junior) and senior Antonia Packard.
Forwards Cameron Brower (sophomore) and Georgia Gallagher (junior) bring depth to their respective positions, as do junior Alessia Packard (junior, defender), Olivia Jonokuchi (junior, defense/midfield), sophomore Elizabeth Dale (defense) and Jordan Pittignano (sophomore, defense). Joining the team is junior Kathryn Gregory, who will fill the role as the Gators’ goalie.
STRENGTHS: “Our strength is going to be speed, which we have all over the field,” Brower said. “Our defenders are super quick, all the way to our forwards.”
Versatility is also an asset.
“The flexibility we have is key,” Brower said. “We have people who can play different positions. Our midfield is really skilled and fast, it’s been fun watching them. Up front, our players really understand where each other is on the field. They are really starting to know how to support the ball and how to support each player.”
CAPTAIN’S COMMENTS: “This year, we’re not thinking about specific teams,” Schulze said. “It’s more about making sure we go into every game ready to play at 100 percent. We’d love to make it far, but focusing on each game is what’s going to get us there. We play a competitive schedule, so every team is strong.”
Added Walker: “We want to make sure we don’t get too much in our own heads. At the end of games, when it’s close, we want to make sure that we are all concentrating on what we need to do.”
SHOWDOWNS: Noble and Greenough, Sept. 14, (away); Hopkins, Sept. 25 (home); Taft, Oct. 2, (home); Kent, Oct. 5, (home); Rye Country Day, Oct. 7, (away); Tabor Academy, Oct. 12, (home); Sacred Heart Greenwich, Oct. 19, (home); Deerfield, Nov. 3 (home).
DID YOU KNOW?: Walker has committed to play field hockey at Columbia University and Schulze will compete at Princeton. … Antonia Packard will continue her field hockey career at Cornell and Glassmeyer will take her skills to Georgetown. … Julie Freedman has committed to the Yale (where she will play) and Sophie Freedman will play at the University of Pennsylvania.