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Article Published November 29, 2020

North Haven Field Hockey Persevered Through the Challenges of 2020

By Chris Piccirillo/

North Haven field hockey Head Coach Kim Bouffard is proud of her players for the attitude that they displayed throughout the 2020 fall season. While it was a season that featured its fair share of challenges, Bouffard said that North Haven’s athletes always held their heads high and had fun while improving on the field.

In a campaign that saw numerous games around the state get canceled due to COVID-19, North Haven was able to play seven of the 10 contests on its regular-season schedule. After its last three games were canceled, North Haven returned to action for a postseason experience hosted by the Southern Connecticut Conference and took a 4-1 loss to Hamden in the first round of the SCC Division B Tournament.

North Haven finished the year with an overall record of 1-7, but Coach Bouffard feels that her team’s accomplishments go beyond anything that’s represented in the win-loss column.

“Every day they went out there and had fun, worked hard, and took nothing for granted, because they knew that everything could have ended in the middle of the season. That helped us come together as a team and grow and move forward,” said Bouffard. “It doesn’t show in the wins and losses, but it shows in their competitiveness and heart and, with that, the wins will come. We had our ups and downs, but the kids did the very best they could, and I couldn’t have asked for anything else from these kids.”

North Haven displayed all of the traits that Coach Bouffard alluded to during its lone win of the season—a 4-3 overtime victory at Hamden on Oct. 22. North Haven trailed by a goal in the waning minutes of regulation, but responded by netting the tying score to send the game to overtime, where Bouffard’s club won it when junior Juliana DeAngelo scored on an assist from senior captain Mariella Biceglia.

“The biggest thing is that they didn’t give up or put their heads down. They were positive and motivated to win. They weren’t going to let Hamden beat us that day. They believed in each other and fed off that, and that is why we won the game,” Bouffard said. “The overall attitude was always positive. The team had great chemistry, and they never got down on themselves. Even the games that we didn’t have it, they never gave up. They kept trying and gave everything they had. They never left anything on the field.”

Coach Bouffard attributed North Haven’s excellent chemistry to the leadership of her senior captains. North Haven’s captains were Mariella Biceglia, who played midfield and center back; along with defender Mackenzie White and forwards Jannat Butt and Megan Kell. Bouffard said that she “couldn’t have asked for a better group” of captains to lead her team through all the twists and turns of the recent season.

“They were an awesome group of leaders. It was a tough time with the virus and following protocols, but our captains were a great extension of anything that I asked them to do. Their leadership on and off the field was superb,” said Bouffard. “We took our practices seriously, but at the same time, we tried to incorporate some fun activities. We took everything one day at a time. We didn’t know what would happen. We just focused on taking care of each other.”

Biceglia and White received a nice parting gift for their performance during the season. The two senior captains were each selected to the All-SCC Division B Team on behalf of North Haven. Biceglia was also named North Haven’s Most Valuable Player.

“Mariella was all over the field and did anything that was asked of her. Mackenzie was the same way. She has really good stick skills and is a great leader,” Bouffard said. “When I heard the news that they were All-SCC, I was elated. I could not have been more proud of them or happier for them. They’ve worked very hard over the years, and they deserved to be on that team.”

North Haven’s senior class also featured goalie Elliza Sayed, whom Coach Bouffard praised for her efforts in net in her first year as North Haven’s starting varsity keeper. North Haven’s senior group additionally included defenders Jylian Esposito and Alicia Marinuzzi, forward Juliana Seaman, as well as Kaitlyn Ha, Taylor Quinn, and Marisa Santoemma, who all played both forward and midfielder. Quinn and Santoemma each scored two goals for North Haven on the season. Esposito was selected as North Haven’s Most Improved Player for the tremendous progression she displayed throughout the campaign.

“Jylian improved 100 percent from last year to this year. She greatly improved her stick skills and became our starting varsity sweeper,” Coach Bouffard said of Esposito. “Even though she wasn’t a captain, Jylian also brought leadership to the team. She was always calm in the backfield, and that helped a lot.”

DeAngelo, a midfielder, led North Haven with four goals and three assists on the season. Fellow junior midfielder Shea Saracino had one goal to go with three assists. Noelle Carmody, a center forward, was another key member of North Haven’s junior class. At the end of the year, Saracino was presented with North Haven’s Sportsmanship Award.

“Shea is very fierce and competitive, but she’s also very caring,” said Bouffard. “Shea will be a great leader. She has a good heart and wants to win.”

Defender Molly Lillis led the sophomore corps for North Haven’s varsity squad this year. Coach Bouffard also noted freshman goalie Nola Coyle as one of several talented players to watch in upcoming seasons.

“In terms of overall talent, we should be greatly improved next year if our kids go to winter camps and work on their stick skills,” Bouffard said. “We have some really good talent coming up, and I’m really excited about our players that are up-and-coming.”

Bouffard feels confident that everything North Haven accomplished this fall has the team set up well for a bright future. Bouffard believes that North Haven will immediately start seeing the benefits of that next season.

“I think that the leadership from our captains and seniors really changed the path of this team in a positive way. They showed what it was like to be a team that is committed and works hard, and we have hit the turning point,” Bouffard said. “We have turned the corner to really improve and be a competitive team because of this year. This group of seniors showed us where we need to be.”

Bouffard completed her seventh season as North Haven’s head coach this year. North Haven featured a new JV head coach and varsity assistant on the sidelines in Danielle Pannone. North Haven’s coaches and athletes were happy that the team made it to the finish line in a bizarre 2020 season and did so while displaying the hallmarks of a successful program.

“We didn’t even think that we would start the season, so we were ecstatic to finish the season and have a tournament experience. We were very thankful. Some teams didn’t make it,” said Bouffard. “I couldn’t be happier for the kids. They persevered through this. They were great.”