Fall sports

Sacred Heart Greenwich field hockey team ready to make another run toward FAA, NEPSAC championships

Photo by David Fierro: From left to right: Ines Araujo, Olivia Caponiti and Delfina Gonzalez Lobo are senior captains of the Sacred Heart Greenwich field hockey team, which begins the season with high expectations.

Sacred Heart Greenwich’s field hockey program has been synonymous with success, especially the past six seasons, which has seen it contend for the FAA and NEPSAC Championships.

The 2021 season was yet another storybook season for the Tigers’ varsity field hockey team, which won the FAA Tournament and regular season championship, then advanced all the way to the title game of the NEPSAC Class A Tournament.

“Last year was great, we made it all the way to the finals of the FAA and we won the FAA,” said Sacred Heart coach Alex Gheorghe, who is starting his 10th season as head coach of the Tigers’ varsity squad. “Overall, it was a great performance for Sacred Heart. We’ll try to retain the FAA title, though it’ going to be very difficult. But the players on our team have known each other for a long time and the dynamic of the team is very strong.”

Photo by David Fierro: Alex Gheorghe has coached Sacred Heart Greenwich to numerous highly successful seasons.

Last season saw the Tigers finish undefeated in the FAA during the regular season to clinch the regular-season title, then defeated rival Greenwich Academy, 2-0, in the FAA Tournament title game. From there, Sacred Heart earned a spot in the championship game of the NEPSAC Class A Tournament, where it lost to Phillips Academy Andover, 4-1, at Winsor School in Boston, Massachusetts.

“Last season was awesome,” Sacred Heart senior tri-captain Ines Araujo said. “We made it super far and we grew as a family. Everyone is coming off of a long summer vacation, but everyone has been working their hardest and the team looks good.”

Araujo, Olivia Caponiti and Delfina Gonzalez Lobo are the senior captains of Sacred Heart, which hosts The Hill School, a very formidable foe, in its season-opener on Friday at 6 p.m. Sacred Heart’s FAA opener is Sept. 14 against visiting School of the Holy Child.

Photo by David Fierro: Ines Araujo is one of Sacred Heart Greenwich’s senior captains.

“It feels great to be a captain,” said Araujo, who will play field hockey at “There are a lot of seniors on the team. I think that we’re all leaders. But I’m glad I have a role where I can speak up and talk to the coaches and communicate to the rest of the seniors.”

Caroline Nemec and Erin Griffin, both of whom served as captains, were among the players who graduated from last season’s FAA championship squad. Nemec was an offensive and defensive threat in the midfield and one of the team’s leading scorers.

Nemec was a 2021 NFHCA First Team High School All-American, selection and a 2021 MAX Field Hockey First Team High School All-America honoree. She was a member of the 2020 USA Field Hockey Rise National Team and played on the 2019-2020 USA Field Hockey Junior National Indoor Team. Nemec recently began her field hockey career at the University of Virginia.

A playmaker on the forward line, Griffin was a great leader on and off the field for Sacred Heart. She is continuing her field hockey career at William & Mary.

“Our captains last year, Caroline and Erin, were the best role models,” said Aruajo, who plays at the center back position. “Liv, Delfi and I are looking to fill those shoes.”

Olivia Caponiti is a senior captain of the Sacred Heart field hockey team. She is the team’s starting goalie.

Caponiti returning in goal is a welcome sight to the team. She tore her anterior cruciate ligament and meniscus last year and was sideline for the season.

“It is so fun to be out there,” said Caponiti, who will play field hockey at Princeton University next season. “It’s so great to be back. I realized how much I love the sport and I love the community and everything about Sacred Heart and playing for my school.”

Caponiti spent months of intense rehabilitation to get her knee back in shape to play the sport she always looks forward to competing in.

“To be back is amazing,” she said. “I worked really hard to get back like I was before and even better. I’m excited to see what this season holds.”

“Olivia will definitely help us in goal,” Gheorghe, who will once again, be assisted on the sidelines by Sarah Hill this season. “She great experience and knowledge of the game.”

Scoring against SHG was, indeed, a challenge last fall, as many opponents were shut out. With Caponiti playing goalie and Araujo helping to lead the backline, that should also be the case this fall.

“Our defense is amazing, I work so hard with them,” Caponiti said. “We’re really good at communicating.”

Said Araujo: “It’s great to have Liv and I leading the team defensively. We have two new right and left backs. It’s great working with them and they have already improved so much. I really see the team shaping up.”

Photo by David Fierro: Delfina Gonzalez Lobo is a midfielder/captain for Sacred Heart.

Gonzalez Lobo has helped spark the Tigers offensively for several seasons from her position as a midfielder. She’s headed to Columbia University, where she will take her field hockey skills.

“It feels amazing to be a leader on this team and I’m so happy that we have the energy that we do,” Gonzalez Lobo said. “The energy we manage is amazing. I can see the potential that brings, because attitude is everything in our games.”

The Tigers’ standout midfielder is impressed with the team’s dynamic.

“We’ve been working a lot with our forwards and we have a good balance of new players and returning players up front and in back,” Gonzalez Lobo said. “We have all come together as a team very well.”

Gheorghe appreciates the talent and intangibles the team’s captains bring on a daily basis.

“They are tremendous players with great experience,” he said of the captains. “I think they’re going to really well and they are going to bring the team together to work really hard.”

Photo by David Fierro: Vivi Caruso, left and Kate Nemec will ignite Sacred Heart’s field hockey team in their respective roles.

Among some of the returning seniors are Vivi Caruso and Kate Nemec. Caruso, who has committed to play field hockey at Amherst College, is a forward, while Nemec, who will compete at Stanford University is a midfielder. They should both help power the team offensively. Sacred Heart hosted Darien, Staples and Wilton for a day of scrimmages on Saturday to get prepared for the upcoming season.

“I think we’re off to a really good start,” Caruso said of the scrimmages. “The first game, we weren’t connecting as well as we could have, but then the next few games we were scoring a lot and connecting really well. I think that was our mentality.”

Said Nemec: “We’ve been working on jelling together after not playing for so long and I think this was a great warm-up for us, because we have a long, hard season ahead. So, we’re excited.”

“I play in the midfield line, so it’s really important for me with the other midfielders to play as connectors to transition from offense to defense,” Nemec continued. “So, I’m really working on our passing and connecting up the field.”

Added Caruso: “I play forward, so I think it’s really important for the forwards to press up on the defense and cut to the open space so we can attack the goal.”

Kate Nemec moves the ball up the field for Sacred Heart during a recent scrimmage against Staples.

Araujo, junior Julia Randolph and senior Caterina Pye give SHG an experienced backline of defenders. Kate Nemec, her sister Charly Nemec, a sophomore, junior Emma Gonzalez Lobo and junior Gabi Pye are among the midfielders.

Caruso, junior Payton Sfreddo, junior Ainsley Clough and junior Skyler Stewart comprise a forward line that should produce a lot of goals. Caruso and Sfreddo provided key goals throughout the 2021 season.

“We are hoping to score goals a lot on corners,” Gheorghe said.

SCHEDULE: Sacred Heart’s home games include: Hill School (Sept. 9), Holy Child (Sept. 14), Kent (Sept. 17), Hopkins (Sept. 19), Loomis Chaffee (Oct. 12), Hotchkiss (Oct. 15), Greenwich Academy (Oct. 22), Westminster (Oct. 26) and Greenwich Country Day (Nov. 2). Sacred Heart will compete in the MAX Field Hockey High School Invitational in Philadelphia on Sept. 23-24.

“We are definitely going to face some challenges this year, but I think we will make it a very good season,” Gonzalez Lobo. “Expectations are very high because of last season. I think we will get very far.”

“Our goals are to work together and form a family like we did last year,” Caponiti said. “We want to have that type of team culture and to put 100 percent effort in everything we do. I think that will get us to where we want to reach in terms of winning FAAs, winning NEPSACs.”

Sacred Heart’s captains are Ines Araujo, Olivia Caponiti and Delfina Gonzalez Lobo.

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