Kitty Palmer, in her 35th season coaching the Guilford field hockey team, had two goals as the Indians’ preseason practices and scrimmages came to a close – have a good run in the regular season, especially against Southern Connecticut Conference teams, and carry that momentum for a strong run in the postseason.
Palmer said helping the effort would be the Indians dropping from Tier I to Tier II in the SCC where they would have to only play SCC powers – defending SCC tournament champion Lauralton Hall, 2011 CIAC Class L tournament champion Cheshire, 2014 Class M champion Hand and 10-time Class M champion Branford – only once instead of twice in the regular season.
So far, so good.
Despite losing two of their last three games, the Indians are off to an 8-2 start (not including Tuesday’s SCC matchup at Lyman Hall). The losses were to Lauralton Hall (4-1 loss) and Cheshire (3-1 loss).
Palmer, who has a 363-192-72-10 career record, is off to the best start in her 35 seasons with eight wins in her first 10 games. This includes a 7-0 record before losing to the Crusaders on Oct. 5.
“This is the best record to start the season that I’ve ever had and one reason is we were moved down a tier (in the SCC) this fall,” Palmer said. “Even though we have had some close one-goal games in our tier, we did not have to begin the season playing the perennial league powerhouses of Cheshire, Hand, Branford or Lauralton.
“Lauralton played a great game against us last week, using their speed to test our defense. I feel that the Lauralton game taught us a lot because we played a great game against Cheshire on Saturday. We played much better defense and had some great offensive chances. It was 2-1 with three minutes to go before they scored their third goal.”
Top scorer Olivia Clarke has provided the offensive leadership for the Indians. Palmer added that sophomore Celia Mariconda “has also scored many important goals” this season.
Experience is another factor for the Indians’ success.
The Indians are led in the midfield by three-year varsity players and senior co-captains Teddi Stanley and Julia Ellman. Defensively, Guilford is led by three-year players senior Kendra Luden and junior Mallory Peters.
“Our team MVP up to this point has been our goalie and hard-working co-captain Cami Makula,” Palmer said. She has five shutouts this season. “Our team strength has been the amount of effort that each player puts into every play. We might not execute, but so far they never have disappointed me in how much they give to make the right play.
“Our league has much more depth these past few years and that makes every game competitive. We are hoping our last six games (including Lyman Hall on Tuesday) are our best performances to carry us into the post season.”
Westbrook coach Dickey 2 wins shy of 200
The Westbrook field hockey team is off to one of its best starts at 9-1 and as a result coach Janet Dickey is two wins shy of 200 career victories.
Dickey, in her 26th season as the White Knights coach, has a 198-193-54-9 career record. The White Knights’ next two games are both at home against Shoreline Conference foe North Branford on Friday at 3:45 p.m. and on Monday against non-league foe Granby at 4:15 p.m. Westbrook defeated North Branford 1-0 in their first meeting this season on Sept. 21.
“I am very excited to reach this milestone and never thought I would be this close to it,” Dickey said. “Honestly, until I got close, I didn’t really pay attention to my overall record. Each prior season is the one I remember and try to build upon.
“Not graduating anyone is a huge part of this season’s success. But we did a lot of work last year using the season as a building block for this year. We also have a deeper bench this year, which helps.”
Among the top players for the White Knights are Zoe Ehlert at midfield, forward Alexa Mulvihill and defender Cassie Vitti. Entering this week Mulvihill led all Shoreline Conference scorers with 38 points (15 goals, eight assists). Teammate Biance Ferrucci has 16 points (seven goals, two assists) and Ehlert has 11 points (two goals, seven assists).
“Lauren Wright has done a great job as a first year goalkeeper for us,” Dickey said. “Alexa Mulvihill and the seniors have led by example since last year and have helped the younger girls become more disciplined in their play.
“I think our strong start has helped with momentum and confidence. But it has also made our players aware of how hard they need to work each day to keep it going into the postseason.”
SCC tournament dates announced
The dates of the seventh annual SCC field hockey tournament have been posted on the SCC website with the top eight teams in the final regular season standings qualifying for the event.
The tournament begins with quarterfinals on Oct. 29 at the site of the higher seeds with times to be announced. The semifinals will be held on Nov. 1 at the site of the highest remaining seeds with times to be determined. The championship game will be on Nov. 3 at Lyman Hall in Wallingford at 7 p.m.
Lauralton Hall defeated Hand 2-1 in the championship game last season. Cheshire has won the most tournament titles with three from 2011-13 and Hand has won twice in 2010 and 2014.