Posing for victory photos, while proudly displaying championship medals around their necks, is a familiar scene for the members of the Greenwich High School girls hockey team.
And it’s one the two-time defending FCIAC champion Cardinals hope to experience once again, this winter.
“Winning the FCIAC title back-to-back was awesome, it was surreal,” said Cardinals forward Paige Finneran, one of the squad’s four senior captains. “We are going to come back and fight harder this year to win it again.”
Greenwich has two FCIAC championships to its ledger and the captains of the team have competed on both squads the past two seasons. Now they’re not only determined to win another FCIAC title.
“After winning the FCIAC the past two years, we are looking to get a state championship this year,” senior forward/captain Grace Fahey said. “I’m very excited about our team this season.”
Following their 2-1 win over New Canaan for the conference tournament title, top-seeded Greenwich was upset by eighth-seeded Branford, 4-1, in the quarterfinal-round of last season’s CHSGHA Tournament.
“It was pretty special to win our second straight FCIAC title,” GHS coach Alex Lerchen said. “It was a great season, but it didn’t end the way we thought it would. In the state quarterfinals, it just wasn’t our day. We are looking to build upon that this year. We have lofty expectations.”
Senior captain/forward Jennifer Kelly, one of the team’s top scorers during the 2017-2018 season, is one of the players the Cards will rely on to meet their high standards.
“We set our goals from Day 1 and our team has the same environment as last season,” Kelly said. “Doing all the little things will hopefully, add up to winning a state championship and FCIAC title. We’re using what happened in the state tournament last year as a learning experience.”
With rivals New Canaan and Darien, both of whom are always formidable foes, Greenwich knows significant challenges lie ahead.
“We have a lot of players from last season returning, so we feel good about our team,” Greenwich senior defender/captain Hayley Duffy said. “This year, we want to get back to states and win a state championship, though we know we have a target on our back.”
Here’s a look at this season’s Cardinals.
AT THE HELM: Lerchen begins his fifth season as Greenwich’s coach. After guiding GHS to the FCIAC title and a 16-4-5 record in 2016-17, Lerchen led the squad to an 18-3-1 mark and another conference crown last season.
Mike Erensen is in his eighth season as an assistant coach.
WHO’S GONE? Graduation claimed Jesse Aselin, Riley Ellsworth and Jennie Piotrzkowski. Aselin started in goal, earning All-State accolades. Ellsworth was one of the team’s top forwards and Piotrzkowski was defender/All-State Team selection.
FORWARDS: Kelly, a dynamic playmaker, registered a team-high 27 points last season (17 goals, 10 assists), while Finneran, an excellent passer, totaled 19 points up front as a junior (17 assists, two goals). Fahey (five goals, six assists last season), skates on a line that’s centered by Finneran and includes sophomore Delaney Roth. Junior Emma Wingrove is coming off a season in which she tallied 13 goals and six assists.
Junior Jessica Marzullo and sophomore Emiri Fukuchi add depth to the forward lines. Freshman Alexis Danielson is in her first season on the squad. Kelly was a First Team All-FCIAC/All-State selection last season. Finneran earned Second Team All-FCIAC honors.
DEFENSE: As her 20-point total from last season showed, junior Sydney Orszulak is adept at scoring from the blue line. Junior Katie Piotrzkowski (12 points last season) is an experienced defender, while Duffy shifts to defense, after skating as a winger for several seasons.
“I am adjusting to it, I like it a lot,” Duffy said of her new position. “I played on defense when I was younger.”
Orszulak earned First Team All-FCIAC/State honors last season.
Joining the team is freshman Teresea Marciano, who should help the squad defensively.
GOALIES: Sophomore Hannah Goldenberg had a 6-2 record in goal last winter. Freshman Morgan Dall joins the Cards.
STRENGTHS: “We have no visible weaknesses,” Lerchen said. “We are not the deepest team up front, but our forwards are creative, fast and can get the job done. They can put the puck in the net.”
Added Kelly: “We’re hoping to have a bunch of scorers, that was our strength last year. We had a bunch of different contributors throughout the season.”
The Cardinals seem like a squad that should generate a lot of shots on goal.
“In our scrimmages, we have been getting a lot of scoring opportunities,” Fahey said. “But we need to capitalize on our opportunities. We are hitting the net, just not scoring.”
CAPTAIN’S COMMENTS: “We are low in skaters, but we have a good amount of talent on our team,” Finneran said. “I’m really confident that we are going to contend for the state championship. That has been a goal of ours since we won the FCIAC championship last year.”
OPENING GAMES: Greenwich opens its season Thursday against Morristown Beard at Dorothy Hamill Skating Rink at 8 p.m. It’s first FCIAC game is Dec. 19 against Fairfield Warde/Ludlowe. Like last season, the Cardinals will compete in the Winter Classic, which is scheduled to take place on Dec. 29 outdoors at Greenwich Skating Club. Greenwich will play rival New Canaan at 12:30 p.m. in the Winter Classic.