One of the most rewarding experiences for high school coaches is watching the development and improvement of their players during their four years. One of the toughest aspects of the job is watching players graduate.
For field hockey coaches Janet Dickey of Westbrook and Sue Leckey of Hand, those experiences have hit a little closer to home this season.
Lili Dickey and Hannah Leckey, both four-year starters for their mothers/coaches, graduated in June. Lili developed into one of the top defensive players in the Shoreline Conference. Hannah gained a reputation as one of the top defensive players in the Southern Connecticut Conference.
Leckey, the Register Area MVP in 2014, was on a mission last season to get her mother her first state title. That mission was accomplished, thanks to the Leckeys, midfielder Erin Mammele and the entire Tigers team. Hand defeated Wilton 2-1 in the Class M championship game.
“Hannah did a great job for us last season. She and Erin Mammele set an unbelievable tone from Day 1 last year,” said Sue Leckey, the 2014 Register Area Coach of the Year. “They are definitely missed. We often have a big turnover with graduation, so, like last season at this time, it is still a little scary and we are trying to develop confidence.
“There are many rookies on the field, but they are working hard and getting better every day. I am really happy for Hannah. We miss her, but she misses Hand too.”
Hannah, playing this season as a post graduate at Hotchkiss, used her speed and stick skills to dominate on defense. But she also contributed on offense with 11 goals and 16 assists as Hand went 20-2-1.
Hand, led by midfielder Sam Pavano and forward Cameron Ruberti, is 4-1 this season.
“I think our team learned a lot from last year’s team, especially on how to compete and how to work hard,” Sue Leckey said. “They can envision much of what we did last year and we are trying to emulate that in our play now, but in our own way. We are working hard, but we need some time to grow, just as last year’s team needed time and experience to grow.”
Lili Dickey, a Register All-Area selection last season, was a key defensive player in leading the White Knights to one of their best seasons. Westbrook advanced to the Class S quarterfinals and finished 10-5-3-1. Dickey is now playing at Connecticut College.
“I have been adjusting myself all summer to the idea of Lili not being with us this year,” Janet Dickey said. “She was such a huge component to not only the team, but her input and insight after games was invaluable to me.
“One of the things we always stress at Westbrook is the concept of team, so even last year the girls were expected to be ready to step up into anyone’s place at any time.”
Dickey said sophomore Lauren Wright and junior Cassie Vitti “have been working hard” to fill the defensive gap left by Lili. Westbrook started the season 1-2.
“Our junior co-captains, Alexa Mulvihill and Zoe Ehlert, are doing a great job in the midfield keeping everyone organized and on task during play,” Dickey said. “We are focusing on keeping it simple and taking it one step at a time, but so far I am very happy with how everyone is gelling.”
While Leckey and Dickey miss their graduated daughters, the void is a little more bearable for Leckey.
“I certainly miss Hannah, but I am very lucky,” she said. “I have Taylor Leckey playing for me this year. So, the car ride home is not as lonely as coach Dickey’s might be.”