Tuesday’s field hockey game between Greenwich Academy and Greenwich Country Day School featured one team with a storied history, including a wealth of FAA field hockey championships and another team trying to find its niche in its first true varsity season.
Experience won out in this matchup, as Greenwich Academy, a perennial contender for the FAA and NEPSAC Class A titles, earned its first victory of the season, using a solid passing game to generate penalty corners and goals.
Receiving goals from five different players, Greenwich Academy registered a 5-0 win over visiting Greenwich Country Day. The Gators, who began their season with a tough 3-2 loss to Oak Knoll School of the Holy Child on Saturday, entered halftime with a 2-0 lead against the visiting Tigers (0-1).
“Greenwich Country Day came out really hard and they were putting a lot of pressure on us,” GA coach Jamie Brower said. “They put pressure on us the whole game and their goalies played great. We took some solid shots and they made some great saves throughout the game. For such a young program, they’ve got a lot of potential ahead of them.”
Junior Laetitia Cartellieri, junior Sarina Kusakdinun, Sienna Tejpaul (junior), Elizabeth Dale (senior) and Brooke Bertrand (sophomore) each scored goals for GA (1-1).
The host GA team succeeded at applying pressure on the GCDS and getting the ball inside the circle, using impressive ball movement.
“I think just we kept very good possession well and we passed the ball nicely,” Cartellieri said. “Especially at the top, we were able to generate corners and scoring opportunities.”
Goalie Caroline Leicht was one of Greenwich Country Day’s standout players. Leicht made more than 10 saves, while facing an array of shots throughout the game. The Tigers had a junior varsity field hockey program in 2019, then fielded a varsity team for the first time in 2020. However, the COVID-19 pandemic forced teams to just compete in scrimmages last fall, so this marks Greenwich Country Day’s first real varsity season.
“This was our first varsity game and I thought it was an awesome test of what we are capable of,” GCDS coach Stephanie McDonald said. “They were so excited. It is a two-minute bus ride essentially, but the energy on the bus ride was awesome.”
The game’s first goal came with 7:27 remaining in the first quarter. Cartellieri tallied off a pass from senior midfielder/captain Cameron Brower, giving GA a 1-0 advantage. At the 1:18 mark of the opening quarter, GA extended its lead on a penalty corner.
Kusakdinun knocked a shot from close in past Leicht, putting the home team on top, 2-0. Sophomore midfielder Gigi Caldero and junior defender Ellie Johnson each assisted on Kusakdinun’s tally, as they forced the action in the circle.
“I feel really honored to be a part of this team, because obviously GA has had a storied history in field hockey,” Kusakdinun said. “The team is so supportive and I feel so welcome on the team. I love improving with my teammates and I think it’s really evident when we play on the field.”
Meanwhile, in the second quarter, Leicht was solid, hanging tough against a number of shots she faced. Johnson of GA helped pace her team’s stellar defensive play, along with senior captain JP Pittignano. Sophomore Dylan Casazza was also among some of the Greenwich Academy players that led the squad’s charge. Ainsley Carella and Brooke Andrews-Peden, helped spark GCDS.
Tejpaul started the Gators’ scoring in the second half, tallying off a penalty corner. Johnson and sophomore Caroline Busler were each credited with assists on Tejpaul’s tally.
“GCDS started off really strong and they didn’t take their foot off the pedal I think they played with heart all the way through the game and they definitely generated some momentum,” Tejpaul said. “But our backs were really on today and they were a force for us.”
Dale, a senior captain, had a fourth-quarter goal, putting GA in front, 4-0, and Bertrand tallied off a pass from Brower at the 6:00 mark, making it 5-0.
“I felt like we came out and played really hard,” McDonald said. “We had a good first half. We dipped a little in the third quarter and then we rallied around in the fourth. We have a couple of seniors and a couple of juniors, but mostly it is ninth and 10-graders for us.”
Junior Ellie Volpe got the shutout in goal for GA, which visits Choate Rosemary Hall on Sept. 22.
“It was one of our best passing games so far this season,” Tejpaul said. “We were able to connect and play as one, which was awesome.”
“We wanted to work on our attack corners,” coach Brower said. “But as in any game, we continue to have to work on our passing and this was a good game to do that.”
Indeed, passing is a key aspect GA has been emphasizing.
“What’s really special about our team is that we always connect passes really well,” Kusakdinun said. “We’re not a team that takes the ball by ourselves. We always like to give nice passes.”
Executing on penalty corners is another area Greenwich Academy is focused on.
“We’re going to continue working on defense, but also on corners and making sure we’re aggressive and making sure that in front of the goal we are putting the ball in the back of the net,” Cartellieri said.