HIGGANUM>> There’s not an athletic program in Connecticut where the phrase “tradition never graduates” has a more enduring and special home than with the Haddam-Killingworth field hockey team.
Program founder and head coach Patsy Kamercia begins her 38th season this fall with a resume that includes 14 Shoreline Conference titles, three state championships, 13 state quarterfinals appearances and eight trips to the state finals.
“We usually play as overachievers and that’s what I’m most proud of as a program,” said Kamercia, who has a career record of 399-159-81-4. “We have often exceeded our expectations, or where we think we should be. It has happened a lot over the years.”
The Cougars went 13-2-1 during the regular season a year ago en route to winning the Shoreline title. H-K then made a heroic run in the state tournament, blanking Waterford, Stafford, top-seeded Lauralton Hall and Stonington to capture their first Class S crown since 2005.
“A lot of it is belief in yourself and each other and believing in your team and that’s what happened last year,” Kamercia said. “They started believing they could do it. Then it becomes a mental thing.”
H-K’s graduation losses include Sammy Waskowitz, Marissa Moncata, Taylor Burger, Jennifer Venuti, Nikki Hausherr, Sammi Mackowitz, Jourdan Milardo, and Shannon Sledzik.
“We’re having fun putting a new varsity starting lineup together,” said Kamercia. “It’s still a jigsaw puzzle where we are trying to fit all the pieces. But the players all have a great attitude and great work ethics. They are really putting out the effort to improve and be successful while having a lot of fun.”
Leading the way will be senior tri-captains Kiley Anderson and Allison Sheahan, and junior tri-captain Kolby Burger.
“They are terrific,” Kamercia added. “They are very dedicated and they’re doing a great job setting the tone for the season.”
Anderson and Sheahan, along with junior forward Julia Babbitt and senior midfielder Christiana Fields, will power the Cougars offense.
Burger anchors the defense, along with sophomore goalkeeper Meghan Cerino, who didn’t allow a postseason goal during H-K’s title run a year ago.
“We’ve got some goal scorers,” said Kamercia. “The kids are working hard. We’re real pleased with what they’ve given us so far.”
H-K opens its season at home against Canton on Tuesday, Sept. 10 (4:15 p.m.). Two days later the Cougars travel to Simsbury for another non-league contest (Sept. 12 at 6:00 p.m.).
“It’s going to be competitive right from the get go,” Kamercia said. “We’ve got the talent and the kids came back in condition, which is huge. We hope to win both (Shoreline and Class S) titles again and we’re looking to do a good job defending both.”