The rapidly approaching season marks the first true varsity season for the majority of the members of the Greenwich Academy field hockey team, which played several scrimmages, but mostly practiced during last fall’s abbreviated campaign.
COVID-19 restrictions that were put in place for everyone, meant a lot of practice time, but little game action for teams such as Greenwich Academy in 2020, so the 2021 season can’t start soon enough. GA opens its season with a home game on Saturday against Oak Knoll School and will play a full schedule of games against its longtime FAA and NEPSAC rivals this fall.
“It’s so exciting, it’s so fun to be out here after last year,” said Jamie Brower, who has coached GA since 2014. “To be able to step on the field and have a preseason, to get ready for games and hold real practices outside – everyone is tired, but giddy at the same time. It’s been so much fun so far.”
Only several current players – Cameron Brower, Jordan Pittignano and Elizabeth Dale – were members of the Gators’ 2019 squad that won the FAA Tournament championship. Last season’s team featured a good amount of freshmen, who are now sophomores and sophomores, now finding their niche on the team as juniors.
Brower, Dale and Pittignano are GA’s senior captains – roles filled by 2021 graduates Julia Freedman and Lila Murray a year ago. Freedman is playing field hockey at Yale, her twin sister Sophie is continuing her field hockey career at the University of Pennsylvania at the University of Pennsylvania and Murray will compete for the USC lacrosse team. Among some of the other 2021 graduates were Ada Shaffer (playing field hockey at Colgate), Alessia Packard (Cornell lacrosse), Georgia Gallagher (Bowdoin College lacrosse) and Kathryn Gregory.
“We’re ready to get back into it and we’re hyped up for the season,” Dale said. “We’ve got a good team and we’re ready to work hard and have a good time.”
Pittignano is impressed with what the younger athletes on the team have shown during the preseason.
“We have a great group of girls and they are adjusting well,” Pittignano said. They’re awesome, they come with a lot of energy and they are hard workers.”
Though last season lacked the usual exciting matchups, it provided valuable experience to the first-year varsity players.
“It was tough with COVID, we were really limited with what we were allowed to do with practice, but we took a lot of new girls last year and we were able to integrate them into the team and create those bonds,” Pittignano said. “We started working together on and off the field.”
Coach Brower is proud to see the captains embracing their increased roles.
“These three have kind of sat back and learned when they were freshmen and sophomores and they got to learn from some great captains and upperclassmen,” Brower said. “Last year, they got to play a little more and now they are thrown into the driver’s seat and it’s neat to see that they value the experience they have so far. They’ve really taken whatever their role was each year and tried to make the most of it and all three of them are trying to use it to be the best leaders they can possibly be.”
Generating goals against GA should be a tough feat, with junior Ellie Johnson, Dale, Brower and Pittignano returning on defense.
“All three captains can play in the backfield, it depends on what situation we have,” coach Brower said. “Ellie Johnson will play a big role for us in the backfield, She’s very smart, tough and a real leader by nature.”
Said Dale: “Our ‘D’ team is really strong and we’re building off each other, as well as our forwards. They help us in practice get better by pushing us to do better on defense.”
Sophomore Dylan Casazza and freshman Isa Packard are also defenders who will see significant action.
“Dylan Casazza, she was on the team last year has improved her ball handling and stick skills,” coach Brower said. “Isa Packard is a freshman this year and she also put a ton of work in the offseason and will be a good player for us.”
A versatile player, Cameron Brower, the coach’s daughter, will play midfield, forward and defense if needed. Pittignano is also expected to help solidify the midfield.
“We always have a really fast team, I think speed is one of our biggest strengths on the forward line, especially,” said Cameron Brower, who will play field hockey at Quinnipiac next year. “We’ll have a composed backline and our forward line is extremely fast. I think scoring with be one of our stronger suits this year.”
Indeed, Brower learned plenty from the players who graduated from the successful program in recent years.
“It’s been really inspiring to see all the field hockey players and athletes that have come before us, because they definitely have inspired all of our work ethics and team values that we’ve had four years,” Cameron Brower said.
Junior Laetitia Cartellieri, sophomore Caroline Busler and Gigi Caldero (sophomore), are among some of the midfielders along with sophomore Devon Grills and junior Sanna Kulskadino. Sienna Tejpaul, a junior, Brooke Bertrand (sophomore) and Lavinia Cartellieri (freshman) bring quickness to the forward position.
“They are speedy forwards that we’ll be zipping around,” Jamie Brower said. “We have a versatile group of kids on our team.”
Ellie Volpe, a junior is the Gators’ goalie.
“Ellie came last year and learned a lot from Kathryn Gregory,” Jamie Brower said. “She put in a ton of time in the offseason and we’re really excited to see how she does this year.”
With a wealth of FAA championship trophies in the school’s display cases, GA hopes to contend for another league title, then make its mark in the NEPSAC Class A Tournament. Sacred Heart Greenwich, GA’s main rival, will be one of the teams it will contend with.
“We have a very competitive schedule with Oak Knoll, Hotchkiss, all the boarding schools like Tabor and Taft,” Cameron Brower said. “We’re looking forward to the season.”
“Reaching our full potential is one of our goals and we just want to play together and make it really far in New Englands,” Pittignano said. “If we do everything that we are supposed to do, that will result in us reaching our goals.”