This is a printer-friendly version of an article from Zip06.com.12/08/2021 11:00 PM
Record breaker, captain, champion—these are just a few of the words you could use to describe North Branford field hockey player Olivia Toto. Olivia was always striving for new heights during her four years with the Thunderbirds and finished her high school career by leading North Branford to the pinnacle of the state this season.
Olivia recently completed a storied four-year run with the North Branford field hockey team. A senior captain, Olivia enjoyed a decorated campaign in which she helped the T-Birds claim their fifth-straight Shoreline Conference title and then win the Class S state championship.
Olivia started playing field hockey as a 7th-grader at North Branford Intermediate School. After playing lacrosse growing up, Olivia was encouraged by her friends to try field hockey. Olivia often practiced in her backyard with her father Kevin, who was her youth coach in lacrosse. As soon as she picked up a field hockey stick, Olivia felt that the sport clicked for her.
“A lot of my friends were playing it, and they got me roped into it. I went to the first practice, and I ended up loving it. So, I stuck with it,” says Olivia. “It was something new to me. I hadn’t heard of field hockey before. But after the first practice I was just hooked on it and practicing all the time.”
Olivia played field hockey through her 8th-grade season and then joined the Thunderbirds in her freshman year of high school. Olivia mostly played JV as a freshman, while getting some playing time at the varsity level. During that first season, Olivia looked up to the older athletes on the team and pictured herself in their shoes one day.
“The level of play was completely different. Watching the team play, it was like, ‘Woah, these girls are really good.’ I wanted to work and be the best that I can,” Olivia says. “Seeing those girls play, I wanted to be like that one day. I wanted to be on the field and doing what they’re doing. It was a big motivator for me.”
In her sophomore year, Olivia became a varsity starter for North Branford. As a junior, Olivia earned All-Shoreline Conference and All-State honors. Heading into her senior season, Olivia was named one of North Branford’s captains alongside fellow senior Braeden LeBeau. Each of these distinctions made Olivia feel rewarded for all of her hard work.
“It was a great feeling to see all my hard work and dedication pay off. Having that captain role, I’m able to pass down my leadership traits onto the rest of the team,” says Olivia. “I can inspire the rest of the team to step up, be motivated, and work hard, even if they don’t have the [captain’s band]. I want them to come out of their comfort zone a little bit.”
Olivia helped North Branford win the Shoreline Conference championship in all four of her seasons with the team. This year, Olivia scored the go-ahead goal when the T-Birds defeated Valley Regional by a 2-1 score in the Shoreline final.
Following Shorelines, North Branford competed in the Class S State Tournament as the No. 4 seed and won four-straight games to capture the crown. In the championship game, Olivia scored the opening goal when the T-Birds posted a 2-0 victory over Stonington to win their first state title since 2017.
“To end my time with the Thunderbirds as Class S champions really is the best way to end my high school field hockey career. I think winning the Shoreline Conference four-straight years gave us the confidence that we needed to make a strong run in the State Tournament this year,” Olivia says. “Being a Shoreline and state champion is not something every player could say. It reflected all of our hard work and dedication over the years.”
Olivia has scored plenty of goals throughout her North Branford field hockey career. As a senior, Olivia broke North Branford’s all-time single season scoring record by netting 42 goals for the T-Birds. Olivia ended her senior season by once again making both the All-Shoreline Conference First Team and the All-State First Team on behalf of North Branford.
While it may be her name in the record book, Olivia says that every single one of her goals is a total team effort.
“It is the absolute best feeling ever. We all know that it wasn’t just my goal—it was the team’s goal. If our defense didn’t get it out of the defensive end and our midfielders didn’t get it up the field, we never would have scored,” says Olivia, who is also an attacker for the North Branford girls’ lacrosse team. “When we’re celebrating, it’s a ‘We just scored,’ rather than an ‘I’ kind of thing. There’s nothing that can really top it.”
When she started playing field hockey in North Branford, Olivia had no idea that she would win four Shoreline Conference titles and a state championship. As she looks back at her time with the T-Birds, Olivia feels proud about everything they accomplished and everything that she experienced along the way.
“I got the skill, the teammates, the fun, the game days,” Olivia says. “Everything that I could have ever imagined, I got.”