GREENWICH — Eight games into the season, a question surrounding the Sacred Heart field hockey team is, can anyone score against this squad?
Another question is — can anyone defeat the Tigers?
Scoring six times in the second half, while posting yet another shutout, Sacred Heart continued its perfect season, rolling to a 7-0 win over visiting Loomis Chaffee School on Wednesday.
The defending FAA Tournament champion Tigers, who sport a record of 8-0 have yet to allow a single goal on the season. Wednesday’s win marked their fourth straight 7-0 victory and they have outscored the opposition 54-0 so far this season.
“We really work well as a unit,” said Tigers senior co-captain/forward Ryan Smith, who registered one goal. “All 11 of us are playing attack, or all 11 of us are playing defense. We work together very well.”
Senior forward Ellie Manriquez and freshman midfielder Caroline Nemec each tallied twice to pace Sacred Heart offensively. The Tigers entered halftime with a 2-0 halftime lead, then raised their play to higher level in the second half.
“At halftime we came together and talked about the things that were working and weren’t necessarily working too well in the first half,” said Sacred Heart senior co-captain Hillary Hoover, who helped anchor the squad’s effective defensive play. “We just wanted to make sure we were coming out as strong as we could and we used the first half as a learning tool to come out as strong as we can.”
Senior midfielder Olivia Batal added one goal, as did Sophia Curto for Sacred Heart, which controlled possession the majority of the game — a trademark the team has displayed in each of its games.
“We have a really strong defense that is able to support each other and does a great job of transferring the ball to our midfielders,” Manriquez said. “On offense, we have a lot of girls coming toward the posts, which makes it easier to find good passes into the scoring area.”
Nemec’s unassisted tally in the opening minutes gave the Tigers a 1-0 lead. Pressuring Loomis’ defenders in the circle, the home team took a 2-0 edge when Smith gathered the ball off a pass from Peyton Lauricella and drove a short shot past Pelicans goalie Bridget Hall with 15:56 remaining in the first half.
Sacred Heart continued to carry the momentum in the first half, generating a pair of penalty corners. But the Pelicans kept it a two-goal game in the opening half.
“Our team showed a lot of heart and went all out, making strong passes and communicating,” Loomis Chaffee coach Maya Steinfeld said. “Sacred Heart is a very talented team and I think we got tired toward the end. I thought we stepped well toward the ball in the first half and defended a lot of their chances.”
The Tigers were the aggressor right from the start in the second half and it reflected on the scoreboard. Manriquez got a rebound at the top of the circle and drove a shot inside the left post, making it 3-0 with 23:34 left in the second half.
Nemec scored from deep in the circle at the 19:26 mark and Batal lifted a high shot over Hall’s shoulder with 14:47 left, giving the Tigers a commanding 5-0 lead.
“The first half we started a little bit slow, but the second half we created more opportunities,” Sacred Heart coach Alex Gheorghe said. “We are happy with the scoring we are getting.”
Curto and Manriquez sealed the scoring with second-half goals.
WATCHING THE PROGRAM RISE
A standout on squad for several seasons, Manriquez has been a part of the Tigers’ emergence as an elite program.
“I came here when our field hockey program was really starting to escalate,” Manriquez said. “So I’ve been able to see the progress that we’ve made. We continue to get new and younger players that are really able to work hard for the team.
“It’s been a pleasure to see everybody grow individually and as team players.”
Maintaining possession most of its games is one of the reasons why the Tigers have yet to yield a single goal. Another reason is the performance of its defenders, anchored by Hoover and junior Morgan Smith. Eighth-grader Olivia Caponiti was impressive in goal once again, making two saves.
“We work really well as a unit up and down the field,” Hoover said. “Even if the ball gets past one of our players, we are there to support each other. So we are a layered unit up and down the field.”
Sacred Heart visits King School on Friday and yes, it’s aware of its unscored upon streak.”
“We are not nervous about it,” Smith said of the streak. “It motivates us even more to make sure nothing goes in.”
SACRED HEART 7,
LOOMIS CHAFFEE 0
LOOMIS CHAFFEE 0 0 — 0
SACRED HEART 2 5 — 7
Records: Sacred Heart 8-0; Loomis Chaffee 1-4; Goals: SH — Ellie Manriquez 2, Ryan Smith, Olivia Batal, Caroline Nemec 2, Sophia Curto; Assists: SH — Olivia Caponiti (2 saves); LC — Bridget Hall (9 saves).