GREENWICH — After 16 impressive games, the Greenwich Academy field hockey team finds itself in a situation it’s always in this time of year.
Yes, the Gators are in the FAA Tournament finals, a position they’ve been in for three decades.
Top-seeded Greenwich Academy earned its latest berth into the tournament’s title game with a convincing 5-0 victory over visiting Hopkins School in the FAA semifinals.
The shutout was the 10th of the season for GA, which raised its record to a perfect 16-0. The Gators will host second-seeded rival Sacred Heart Greenwich in Friday’s 2 p.m. championship game. The Tigers made it to the final by topping Rye Country Day School, 7-0, in Wednesday’s other semifinal.
“We picked up the pace and the quality of our passing game improved the second two thirds of the game,” GA coach Jamie Brower said. “I’m happy with the latter half of our game. It was one of the best passing games we’ve had the past few weeks.”
Showcasing their offensive depth, Greenwich Academy received goals from five different players — Sofia Viola, Manveer Sandhu, Julia Freedman, Karina Schulze and Elektra Rodger.
“Our communication on the field and the energy we brought into this game helped us take control,” said Schulze, a senior co-captain. “Our offensive line has been together now for two years, which makes us more connected and smooth.”
SETTING THE TONE EARLY
Viola opened the scoring for GA, tallying with 22:51 left in the first half, after sophomore Grace Schulze and senior Caroline Hughes were applying pressure in the circle. At the 21:12 mark, Karina Schulze set Sandhu up for a goal, putting the Gators on top, 2-0.
The home team extended its lead on a penalty corner with 12:10 to go in the opening half. Karina Schulze sent the insert pass to Sandhu, whose shot deflected back to the stick of Freedman. A freshman, Freedman drove her shot past Hopkins junior goalie Naomi Tomlin, making it 3-0.
In transition, the Gators scored again with 10:50 still left in the first half, as Karina scored off a feed from Grace Schulze. Rodger, a sophomore, added a goal with 9:59 to play in the second half.
Senior Maggie Reville made two saves in goal during the second half for GA, which also posted a 5-0 win against Hopkins in the regular season. Tomlin made six saves for the Hilltoppers (9-6-2).
Of Greenwich Academy’s 10 victories, nine have come by a score of 5-0. The Gators have yielded only eight goals in 16 games this season.
“Outside of practice, we are also a very close team,” Hughes said. “The keeps our mojo going — our team dynamic is so strong. In the beginning of the season when we played Hopkins, our communication wasn’t as good, because we had new people. But today, we were spreading out on the field and getting open, while using touch passes.”
The Gators edged Sacred Heart, 3-2, at home on Oct. 21. They beat the Tigers for the FAA title last season and also eliminated Sacred Heart from the NEPSAC Tournament.
“We played them three times last year and that could happen this year,” Karina Schulze said. “They are one of our biggest rivals, so we are definitely looking forward to it.”
GREENWICH ACADEMY 5, HOPKINS 0
HOPKINS 0 0 — 0
GREENWICH ACADEMY 4 1 — 5
Records: Greenwich Academy 16-0; Hopkins 9-6-2.
Goals: GA — Sofia Viola, Manveer Sandhu, Julia Freedman, Karina Schulze, Elektra Rodger; Assists: GA — Grace Schulze, Caroline Hughes, Karina Schulze 2, Sandhu, Maya Walker; Goalies: H — Naomi Tomlin (6 saves); GA — Isabella Santucci (0 saves), Maggie Reville (2 saves)