Mustangs' veterans setting the bar high
Published 4:14 pm, Thursday, September 25, 2014
This is the time they've waited for since they were freshmen four years ago. For Darci Byington, Kelly Milicia and the rest of the Warde field hockey senior class, this is the season where the Mustangs want to make some serious noise. They don't want to have just a winning season, they want to have a championship one.
"We are really pumped for this year. We want to go to states. We want to win the whole thing," Byington, a senior said after the Mustangs blanked Stamford 6-0 on Monday to improve to 4-1 on the season. "And I think just having that bond for four years, we really have a good relationship with each other and we definitely trust each other with the ball. We're playing really well together."
Four years ago, 11 freshmen joined the team and ever since, head coach Jodie Shannon has watched them develop and mature. Now, it's time for them to win.
"This was one of the biggest (senior) classes that we've had since the schools split," said Shannon, who's in her 14th season at Warde and posted her 96th career win Monday. "They came in really strong as freshmen, they've worked well together, they've dedicated themselves to playing year around and it's showing on the field. We definitely have some monster games ahead of us in terms of Darien and New Canaan and Staples. We know it's not going to be easy but we're gaining momentum going into those games and hopefully, we'll be ready to go."
In Monday's win, Milicia scored three goals and added an assist while Byington scored a goal and had an assist. Senior Sophia Mancini scored twice against Stamford and had an assist while senior goaltender Katie Stepsis recorded her fourth shutout.
"Katie has stepped up huge," Shannon said. "We threw her right in there when she was quite young and so she's had to step up over the course of time."
Said Milicia: "Katie's been playing so well. She's the leader in the backfield and she makes sure that our younger players that are back there on defense, know where they should be and how to play. She puts all the pieces together."
And while Stepsis is the leader on defense, Milicia and Byington are the leaders on offense. Byington has four goals and two assists in her last three games. And through five games, Warde has scored 15 goals.
"This has been one of our higher scoring teams so far," Shannon said. "I'm not always sure we'll score five goals in a game, I'd like to but it's definitely nice to have that confidence that they can put it in the net."
"I think that we've gotten a lot better with our communicating because that helps to really move the ball around well," Milicia said. "You definitely have to know where you are on the field and to know where your teammates are to be able to really move the ball well."
A real big test for the Mustangs will come on Saturday. when they travel to Greenwich to take on the Cardinals, the first game in a week that sees Warde also play at Staples (Sept. 30) and at home (Oct. 2) against New Canaan.
On Monday, the Flacons snapped a three-game losing streak with a solid 1-0 won over McMahon at Taft Field, thanks to a goal from sophomore Lindsay Taylor.
"We've had a lot of talks recently about being mentally focused and being energized," Ludlowe coach Cathy Hamill said after the game. "I really like the bench that we have, we can rely on a lot of girls off the bench, so we're able to sub people in and out but everybody (against McMahon) seemed to stay on their `A' game."
The early schedule had not been kind to the Falcons, who had to play on the road at New Canaan, Wilton and Staples last week -- losing all three games and being outscored 11-1 -- before rallying back with that win over the Senators. And the road again beckons the Falcons as, after Saturday's (11 a.m.) home game against Westhill, Ludlowe will travel to Danbury (Sept. 29) and Trumbull (Oct. 1).
And winning will be difficult to come by if the Falcons can't consistently get the ball into the net. So far in six games, they've only scored five goals.
"We're working on the forwards trying to have that sense of the net," Hamill said. "That's been our big thing, trying to find more people to score."
A key factor, however, that's kept Ludlowe in every game is the play of goalkeeper Julia Enis, who made several big saves against McMahon on Monday and has been making big saves all season long.
"We've had a lot of shots on our goalie," Hamill said. "And she has staved off, I think it was 29 last game (Staples), 39 another game (Wilton), 17 or 19 another game (New Canaan). Julia has a lot of experience. She plays off-season and she's got command when she's in the circle."
Luldowe won on Monday thanks to several players bringing that `A' game mentality that Hamill talked about.
"With any team it's hard for everyone 100 percent of the time to bring their `A' game, physically and mentally," Hamill said. "But when you find that combination, it's something that like, you can't be denied."