Nearly every team Greenwich Academy played this season was a postseason caliber squad, so when it faced Taft School in Sunday’s NEPSAC Class A Field Hockey Tournament final it was certainly a battle-tested team.
Riding a wealth of momentum after defeating one formidable foe after another, Greenwich Academy passed its final test of the season on Sunday and the award it received was the NEPSAC Class A championship trophy.
Senior midfielder/captain Laetitia Cartellieri registered two goals for third-seeded Greenwich Academy, which captured the NEPSAC Class A field hockey title with a well-earned 4-3 win over top-seeded Taft School in the tournament’s championship game at Loomis Chaffee School.
The triumph gave the Gators their first NEPSAC field hockey championship since they defeated Phillips Academy Andover for the title in 2017. Prior to that they topped Hotchkiss School in the NEPSAC finals in 2012.
“Our season lends itself to ending on a strong note with tough games against strong teams,” Greenwich Academy coach Jamie Brower said of the team’s competitive schedule heading into the playoffs. “To see them have to have their feet to the fire the last three, four weeks of the season and see them come out on top was so impressive.”
GA had to get past neighborhood rival Sacred Heart Greenwich, the No. 6 seed and second-seeded Phillips Andover Academy, the tourney’s No. 2 seed, just to make it to the championship game.
In Sunday’s NEPSAC Class A final against Taft, Laetitia Cartellieri gave GA a 1-0 lead with 10:17 remaining in the first quarter, scoring off a penalty corner.
At the 3:01 mark of the second quarter, Chloe Agopian tallied for Taft, tying the score at 1-1. Freshman forward Quinn Leahy gave Greenwich Academy a 2-1 advantage heading into halftime, knocking the ball into the goal on a rebound off a penalty corner with 2:06 to go in the second period. Taft scored off a scramble in front of the cage with 10:09 left to play in the third quarter, evening the score at 2-2, the junior Caroline Busler put GA ahead for good with a breakaway goal at the 6:19 mark of the third quarter, making it 3-2.
Laetitia Cartellieri’s second goal of the championship game, off a penalty stroke, extended GA’s edge on Taft to 4-2 in the fourth quarter and it’s a good thing she tallied her second goal, since Taft closed to with 4-3 in the final quarter on a goal off corner by Maisy Ricciardelli.
“Our team really buckled down and played some great defense and came out with the win,” Brower said of her team’s defensive play in the fourth quarter. “They had a penalty corner on us with less than a minute, but our defense defensive corner unit was outstanding throughout the tournament. I’m impressed with how they adjusted to each corner group they played against.”
Laetitia Cartellieri, senior defender Ellie Johnson and senior forward Sienna Tejpaul provided dynamic, clutch play and outstanding leadership to the Greenwich Academy team throughout the season.
“It feels absolutely amazing to have topped off the season as NEPSAC champions,” Laetitia Cartellieri said. “The last three months have been the absolute best and I think it was because of our strong friendship that we ended up with this amazing result.”
Johnson helped pace GA’s stellar defensive performances during the tournament, which saw the squad go 3-0 and complete a season in which they posted an overall record of 17-3.
“The final game was extremely competitive the entire time,” Johnson said. “Both our offense and defense play very strong and I am especially proud of our freshmen and underclassmen that contributed, as it was a very high-stakes competition and they composed themselves very calmly.”
Leahy was one of the underclassmen Johnson referred to, that rose to the occasion.
“She made poised decisions with the ball as a freshman,” Brower said.
Busler made key plays during the postseason and was a playmaker in the championship showdown against Taft.
“Her improvement since last year and over the season has been a game-changer for us,” Brower said of Busler. “Her speed with Sienna (Tejpaul) on the front line – you can’t shut them down.”
Brower paid tribute to GA’s senior trio of captains.
“Their intensity and experience and drive this season, guided the team to where they got to,” Brower said. “Each of them brings something special to the table.”
Chloe Cleves got the win in goal for GA, which ended its 2022 season with eight consecutive victories.
“Overall, it has been a tremendous pleasure to have been on the team this year and every year and I consider myself extremely lucky to be surrounded by such a great group of players, coaches and supporters,” Johnson said.
Greenwich Academy advanced to the NEPSAC Class A final with a 4-1 win over Phillips Academy Andover in Saturday’s semifinals at Middlesex School in Concord, Massachusetts.
Phillips Academy Andover, which was seeded second in the tournament, is a squad that’s eliminated GA from the NEPSAC tourney in the past.
“It was a really exciting game, Andover has been historically, a tough program for our program to go up against,” Brower said. “All four goals of ours were scored off corners, which was a positive for us. Our corner team has done a great job of improving and adjusting. The first quarter and a half were a lot of nerves. Once we settled in and started playing our game, the girls did a great job.”
Laetitia Cartellieri opened the scoring in the first quarter, then after Andover tied the score with a first-quarter goal, the Gators notched three straight goals – with Gigi Caldero, sophomore Lavinia Cartellieri and Johnson each tallying. Caldero and Lavinia Cartellieri each scored in the third quarter and Johnson converted a shot in the fourth quarter.
Cleves made four saves in the Gators’ semifinal-round win. As reported last week, Greenwich Academy edged Sacred Heart Greenwich, 2-1, in overtime in the NEPSAC Class A quarterfinals this past Wednesday. On Nov. 11, GA was victorious against Sacred Heart, 1-0, behind a goal by Johnson in the final two minutes of play. The emotional win gave Greenwich Academy the FAA Tournament title.
“For the kids to get this done, it took an exhausting toll on them – mentally, physically,” GA assistant coach Sally Duval noted. “Playing Sacred Heart, that’s such an intense rivalry that takes so much out of the kids. For them to rally and rise up again and beat them in such dramatic fashion in overtime – that said a lot about our team.”
“As exciting as it was, that was one game out of three it took to win the New England championship,” Duval continued. “Then, we had to go four hours up to Andover and play them and then beat Taft. It required a mindset that you can’t stray from your mission.”
Said Brower: “Winning the championship was an exciting day for our 2022 team and an exciting day for our program.”
Laetitia Cartellieri said: “I’m so proud of every single one of my teammates for working so hard and putting everything they had in them out on the field until the last minute. They played with sheer grit and determination and it definitely paid off. They each hold a special place in my heart and I’m so glad we could finish such a fun season on this note.”