Greenwich Country Day School

Greenwich Country Day School girls lacrosse team finishes second in FAA

Photo courtesy of Whit Hawkins of Greenwich Country Day: Saedi Gibbs, left, helped spark the Greenwich Country Day School varsity girls lacrosse team to a winning season this spring. The Tigers finished in a tie for second place in the FAA.

Oftentimes, it takes a new sports program some time to successfully compete against its league opponents, but Greenwich Country Day School’s varsity girls lacrosse team quickly made its mark in its first official season in the Fairchester Athletic Association.

A 6-2 record, good for a second-place tie in the FAA – now that’s an impressive feat sfor a brand new team in its inaugural varsity season.

Coached by Caitlin Copelan, Greenwich Country Day joined the FAA in 2020, in what would have been its first season. Yet the COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancelation of the last year’s spring season. So the Tigers eagerly waited for their chance to test their skills for the first time at the varsity level and they certainly took advantage of their opportunities.

“Last year would have been our first season, so this was our first real season,” Copelan said. “We just had a couple of practices last year. It was tough, because last year we were slated for a JV schedule in 2020, so this year we went right into varsity competition.”

Indeed GCDS, which featured a roster that was laden with underclassmen, had to quickly get into the mindset of competing at the varsity level.

“We didn’t have a grace period to get the kids acclimated to that level of play,” Copelan said. “The kids stepped up as sophomores and did a great job.”

The Tigers’ 24-player varsity roster consisted of one junior and five eighth-graders. The rest of the team featured freshmen and sophomores.

Photo courtesy of Whit Hawkins of Greenwich Country Day: Ella Wilner, center, of Greenwich Country Day, sprints down the field with the ball during a recent FAA game. Wilner helped provided plenty of leadership and production to the Tigers.

Greenwich Country Day won six of its eight FAA matchups and finished its 2021 campaign with a record of 8-3 overall. The Tigers began their first varsity season in style, defeating St. Luke’s School in its season-opener, 13-7, then beating Kingswood-Oxford, 11-8.

“In our season-opener against St. Luke’s, for our team to come out that way and win a 13-7 game was impressive,” Copelan said. “It was their first real high school lacrosse experience.”

In their third game of the season, the Tigers posted a 13-1 win against King School, then beat Rye Country Day School, 18-7. Their first loss of the season came against Sacred Heart Greenwich, which went undefeated in the FAA to win the regular season championship.

“Going up against Sacred Heart, we were quickly put in our place,” Copelan said. “Going up against great teams like that and seeing what we can aspire to be in the future is always great. The team learns from experiences like that.”

The Tigers also earned victories against Wooster School, Hamden Hall, School of the Holy Child and Hopkins School. They were edged by St. Luke’s in their second matchup against the Storm, 10-9, and the Tigers played well in a 12-8 loss to Greenwich Academy’s varsity B team. One of the squad’s signature wins came when they pulled out an 18-17 decision against Holy Child in a game that went to overtime.

“That was probably our most complete game,” Copelan said. “I thought that was a marquee event in our inaugural year. Our team battled the whole game and our game-winning goal came from an eighth-grader and our sophomore had six goals. We are excited to build on some of those events.”

Photo courtesy of Whit Hawkins of Greenwich Country Day School: Caitlin Copelan, center, is Greenwich Country Day’s varsity lacrosse coach. She guided the Tigers to a strong finish in their first varsity season as part of the FAA.

Sophomore Saedi Gibbs and eighth-grader Ella Wilner powered GCDS offensively. Gibbs saw minutes at both attack and in the midfield.

“She is one of the kids that stepped up, she was new to GCDS and stepped up as a leader on and off the field,” Copelan said of Gibbs. “She did everything she asked us to do and we put a lot on her shoulders.”

Wilner provided clutch scoring throughout the season.

“Ella was new to GCDS and played great all season,” Copelan said. “She scored our game-winner in OT against Holy Child and she’s a gamer. She goes hard every game. We’re looking for the two of them to pace us next season.”

Junior Katherine Sternberg was among the Tigers’ defenders who excelled in her role.

“She is a competitive kid that has been at GCDS for a while,” Copelan said of Sternberg. “She loves the school’s traditions and she loves being a Tiger. Katherine is that leadership figure for us in terms of what she knows. We’re going to rely on her to be a leader for our team.”

Sophomore Claudia Citrin was among the midfielders that stepped up for the Tigers this spring. Copelan took over as Greenwich Country Day’s coach in 2020. Prior to arriving at Greenwich Country Day, she spent two seasons as the varsity girls lacrosse coach at St. Luke’s and three successful seasons as the varsity girls lacrosse coach at Greenwich High School.

Photo courtesy of Whit Hawkins of Greenwich Country Day School: Saedi Gibbs led Greenwich Country Day’s offense.

A native of Wilton, where she earned All-American honors as a member of Wilton’s lacrosse team, which she helped lead to two FCIAC and state championships, Copelan was an All-America player at North Carolina. While starring on the Tar Heels team, Copelan helped lead the squad to the NCAA title in 2009 and to three Final Four appearances. At Greenwich Country Day, Copelan is assisted by Jess Griffin and Catherine Fowler.

Copelan, whose husband Andy coaches Greenwich Country Day’s boys varsity team, is also the Director and Founder of the Sound Lacrosse Girls Program. She was highly impressed with how her Tigers team adjusted to playing against opponents which had more experience competing on the varsity level.

“One of the challenging aspects was asking the girls to step up as leaders,” she said. “It’s easier for high school programs that have been around to do that. They have some players who have been on their teams for two, three or four years and they have traditions in place from upperclassmen from previous seasons. We are asking ninth and 10th-graders to act like seniors and none of them had that varsity experience. We asked a lot of our young players, but they were great.”

Indeed, Copelan is excited about the future of the school’s lacrosse program.

“We have the majority of our team coming back and hopefully, some other girls transferring in,” she said. “We are in a unique situation, because we are not graduating anyone in a leadership position. What the school is doing for its athletic programs is breathtaking. They are creating a high-end, top-notch experience for the athletes, between the facilities and the resources they are providing.”

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