Julia Freedman and Lila Murray experienced the thrill of winning the NEPSAC Class A title in 2017 and the FAA Tournament championship last season as members of the Greenwich Academy field hockey team, but this fall most of their exciting moments have occurred during practice.
Since their season is limited to a handful of scrimmage games due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced the cancellation of the FAA and NEPSAC regular and postseason sports schedules, the Gators’ 2020 season has been about sharpening fundamentals, further developing their team bond and staying motivated.
Murray and Freedman, who are each in their fourth season on the squad, are senior captains intent on helping their teammates enjoy their unique season.
“The challenges of this season have lied in staying motivated,” said Freedman, a midfielder, who will continue her field hockey career at Yale University in 2021. “It’s such an honor to lead this team and we’re happy to have a chance to play, even if it’s only a few games.”
Making the championship moments of 2017 and 2019 even sweeter for Freedman was sharing the excitement with her twin sister Sophie, a forward for GA.
Sophie Freedman will also play field hockey in the Ivy League next season, as she is headed to the University of Pennsylvania.
“Playing on this team has been the highlight of my whole high school career,” Julia Freedman said. “There is such a sisterhood that exists on our team. We’re very close to one another and I feel that I can tell them anything.”
She and Sophie are eagerly anticipating their next field hockey chapter at the collegiate level.
“I’m excited about the high level of competition I’ll be facing and pushing myself at the college level,” Julia Freedman said. “My twin sister is also very excited and we’re looking forward to playing against each other in college.”
The Freedman sisters have helped spark GA’s forward and midfield lines since their arrival in 2017.
“It is really competitive between us,” Julia Freedman said. “We motivate each other a lot and we are competitive with each other a lot. On the field, we have twin telepathy. It’s fun to play on the same field with each other.”
Greenwich Academy coach Jamie Brower, who is in her seventh season at the helm, appreciates the leadership she’s witnessed from Freedman, her co-captain.
“She’s been doing a great job of leading them in practice,” said Brower, whose team registered a record of 17-3-1 in 2019. “She takes players to the side and works with them, which is great to see. The progress I’ve seen in her in terms of her field hockey IQ has been fun to watch.”
Murray, also a four-year member of the varsity squad, helps anchor GA’s forward line. Also a standout lacrosse player, Murray will join the University of Southern California women’s lacrosse team after graduating from GA.
The Gators’ co-captain notices how the skills involved in field hockey transfer to lacrosse.
“I think that in both sports it’s a lot about communication and team chemistry,” Murray said. “It’s important in both sports to share a good team bond and have a supportive team. I love how both sports involve running around and being on the field with teammates — they are not individual sports.”
Murray said the coaches, seniors and captains have tried to keep the modified season interesting and enjoyable.
“It has definitely been different this season, but we’ve been able to practice four times a week and it’s been nice to be back together,” Murray said. “It’s been an interesting challenge, but it has been fun to come up with ways to keep us focused. We just try to keep our practices engaging and we have stressed team bonding, even though we’re not allowed to meet together after school.”
Brower has seen the difference Murray’s athleticism has made on the field.
“Her biggest strength is her speed and she has been doing such a fantastic job with the leadership she’s shown on the field,” Brower said.
Versatility is one of Sophie Freedman’s assets.
“Her game has really grown from her freshman year,” Brower said of Sophie Freedman. “She plays almost every position for us and she’s doing a nice job of working the plays in the middle of the field. Sophie has a rocket shot that she’s always excited to use and provides a great presence on the field.”
Ada Shaffer is another senior who is in her fourth season on the team. Also a key contributor on Greenwich Academy’s ice hockey team, Shaffer is one of GA’s defensive leaders.
Shaffer, who will play field hockey at Colgate, is competing at a defensive position that Maya Walker previously anchored. Walker, who graduated this past spring is playing field hockey at Columbia University.
“Ada has really stepped up her game, especially the last two years,” Brower said. “I’m really happy with how she’s owning the position. She has great understanding of her position, confidence on the ball and she also is a great leader.”
Senior defender Alessia Packard, who is going to play lacrosse at Cornell University, is another four-year varsity member.
Packard’s sister Antonia is a freshman at Cornell, where she plays on the field hockey squad.
“Alessia is pushing herself and the people around her to improve,” Brower said. “She too, has been a great leader this fall.”
Georgia Gallagher, who is headed to Bowdoin College, where she’ll play lacrosse, is a returning senior and key role player on the field hockey squad. Kathryn Gregory is the Gators’ senior goalie, a position she’s held and excelled at for three seasons.
“Kathryn quietly joined the team as a sophomore and has done a great job as our goalie,” Brower said. “She didn’t have a ton of training prior to playing the position, but she learned quickly and has been so consistent.”
Cameron Brower, Elizabeth Dale and Jordan Pittignano are GA’s three juniors. Cameron Brower, coach Brower’s daughter is a versatile forward and midfielder, who has committed to play field hockey at Quinnipiac University.
Pittignano helps solidify the midfield position.
“All three juniors have worked hard in the offseason and have raised their game exponentially,” Brower said.
Ellie Johnson, a returning sophomore, is one of GA’s top competitors on defense. Also a standout lacrosse player for Greenwich Academy, Johnson was on the CONNY high school girls lacrosse team that won the Command Division title at the Under Armour All-America Lacrosse National Tournament in Virginia Beach, Va., last week.
“Ellie has been starting on defense,” Brower said. “She’s so coachable, she knows all the right things to do and her game has jumped to a whole new level,” Brower said of Johnson.
Laetitia Cartellieri, Sarina Kulsakdinun and Sienna Tejpaul are sophomores in their first season on the team and freshman Dylan Cassazza and Caroline Busler have also joined the squad.
Among some of the graduates from the FAA tournament champion 2019 GA team were offensive star Grace Schulze, who is playing field hockey at Princeton, Walker, Antonia Packard (field hockey, Cornell), Katherine Glassmeyer (playing field hockey at Georgetown), Elektra Rodger (playing field hockey at Connecticut College) and Evelyn Barringer.
This season, Greenwich Academy has played three scrimmages and has two remaining.
“I’m proud of how our seniors and this team has handled the adversity,” Brower said. “They’ve had to revise how to lead the team, instead of doing so at big games and during van rides.”
Added Freedman: “This year, we have the unique opportunity to have fun in practice and be able to let loose, play field and develop our skills. It’s really about just being with the team.”