Epke Graduates as an All-Time Guilford Great
What does it take to become a successful high school athlete? According to Maddie Epke, the answer is quite simple: hard work. Maddie entered Guilford High School four years ago with a desire to make an impact on its field hockey, ice hockey, and girls’ lacrosse teams. Four years later, Maddie is graduating from Guilford having helped all three programs become dynasties.
Maddie has etched her name as one of the best athletes in the history of Guilford sports. In field hockey, Maddie holds school records for the most career goals (90), assists (69), and points (249) in 81 total games. As a member of the ice hockey team, Maddie also holds the all-time records for goals (162), assists (92), and points (254) in 78 games played. With the lacrosse squad, Maddie has the school record for the most assists (197) and draw controls (609) in her 62 games.
While she certainly showcased her talents during her four years at Guilford, there was no better feeling for Maddie than helping her teams win multiple championships during her high school tenure. Maddie and her Grizzlies’ teammates won a combined nine SCC championships and five Class M state titles between her three sports.
“It feels so well-deserved after all of the effort that we put in and I see how hard everyone’s working around me. What matters is you work hard for your team and they’re here and they’re trying to work just as hard as you,” says Maddie, who served as a senior captain for all three teams. “You have to work together and it gets you get to your ultimate goal. It definitely feels amazing every single time.”
Maddie guided the Guilford field hockey team to an SCC title in all four of her seasons to go along with winning the Class M state championship in 2018, 2019, and 2021. In ice hockey, Maddie claimed the SCC crown with her Grizzlies’ teammates in the 2020 and 2022 campaigns. On top of that, Maddie helped the girls’ lacrosse squad take the SCC title in 2019, 2021, and 2022 and also win the Class M state title in 2021 and 2022.
Maddie’s freshman season with the Guilford field hockey squad opened her eyes to the possibility of creating something special with each of her three teams. Guilford’s victory versus Cheshire in the 2018 SCC final gave Maddie the belief that success was always possible through hard work.
“Just go into everything and work your hardest. Good things are completely bound to happen if you do that. No one was expecting to be this winning team,” Maddie says. “We came out and worked our absolute hardest. They were a better team than us, so we just worked so hard that year and we got it. That’s what matters when it comes down to these games especially.”
Maddie earned All-SCC First Team and All-State First Team honors as a member of the Grizzlies’ field hockey team in her sophomore, junior, and senior seasons. She was also named the Most Outstanding Player of the SCC Tournament as a sophomore and a senior. Maddie’s junior season may have been her most successful of the bunch as she came away from the campaign having been named the SCC Player of the Year, the New Haven Register All-Area Most Valuable Player, and the Connecticut Player of the Year, in addition to making National Field Hockey Coaches Association (NFHCA) All Region Team and the NFHCA High School Impact Senior Team.
As a leader of the ice hockey squad, Maddie earned All-SCC Second Team honors in her freshman year, after which she garnered All-SCC First Team and All-State First Team accolades the next three seasons. She was also named the SCC Player of the Year in each of those seasons.
With the lacrosse team, Maddie got to play under the guidance of her mother Wendy Epke, who is the program’s head coach. Maddie made the All-SCC First Team and the All-State First Team in 2019, 2021, and 2022. In her junior and senior seasons, Maddie was selected as the SCC Player of the Year, the Register’s All-Area MVP, and the Player of the Game for the Class M state final, in addition to receiving USA Lacrosse All-American honors. She also made the All-State Academic Team this year.
In 2020, Maddie earned recognition from the Connecticut State Nutmeg Games as an Athlete of the Year recipient. In 2021, she was named a Hank O’Donnell Female Athlete of the Year recipient by the Connecticut Sports Writers Alliance. Maddie went on to be selected as the Register’s Female Athlete of the Year for her the 2021-’22 school year.
Maddie’s unique talent led to a tremendous amount of success during her career with Guilford’s field hockey, ice hockey, and lacrosse programs. However, there was nothing in Maddie’s historic high school career that topped the experience of being coached by her mother Wendy in lacrosse.
“I loved it. She grew up coaching all of our girls because she had been a youth coach for so long. She knew everyone’s strengths and weaknesses, knew how to help everyone, and just made us so much better in the end,” says Maddie. “She knew how to help me. She knew when I needed encouragement.”
Coach Epke was impressed with the work ethic that Maddie displayed on the lacrosse field. Epke saw her daughter excel in all aspects as a student-athlete at Guilford and feels extremely proud of Maddie’s efforts in doing so.
“As her parent, we’re beyond proud of anything she does. As her coach, it’s been great to be a part of the success,” Epke says. “She’s the kind of kid that doesn’t stop. There’s a few seconds left in the game, and you’re still looking for her to push herself and push the team, and she does that. She’s a really good leader by example.”
Maddie had confidence that she could succeed in all three of her sports as she competed on a year-round basis. Maddie used the skills that she had mastered in one sport to her benefit when the next season began. Being a three-sport athlete is a challenging task, but Maddie perfected it by maximizing her abilities with each of her three Grizzlies’ teams. For instance, Maddie’s knack for being quick on the draw in lacrosse stems from her work in the face-off circle in ice hockey. Along those lines, Maddie’s ability to handle the stick in a low position in field hockey helped her gain strength to move the ball effectively as a lacrosse player.
“Part of my specialty in different games is that I use my other sports in those games. Everything transferred over,” says Maddie. “For high school, I really loved how it wasn’t the same movements every single season. I think of cross country runners, and all they do is one motion of running, but field hockey and lacrosse are such different types of running. Ice hockey is totally different muscle groups. It kind of adds up when you go into the different sports.”
After achieving so much during her first three years of high school, Maddie wanted to accomplish more than just success on the field during her farewell season. Knowing that it was her last time suiting up the Grizzlies, Maddie wanted to leave it all on the field and soak up every moment of her senior year.
“Every single game and every single practice, I just went out there and I was like, ‘This is one of my last times doing this, so why not just give it all out there?’” Maddie says. “If I watched every single one of my finals games this year, it was probably one of my best games of the season, because I had that mentality. I just wanted to go off on a good note and remember that I finished great and I wouldn’t have any regrets.”
Following her historic career at Guilford, Maddie will continue playing lacrosse at James Madison University, which has one of the top Division I lacrosse program in the country. Maddie, who committed to James Madison in her junior year, is excited about getting to work in a new program. The thought of playing just one sport is unusual for Maddie, but she’s ready to start all over again in her quest to become the best version of herself at the next level. As she leaves Guilford High School as an all-time great, Maddie feels happy to have made a plethora of precious memories while competing for three top-notch programs alongside a supportive group of teammates and coaches.
“The sports are amazing, but the memories you get to make with the team and the people you get to meet and work with was so great. I wouldn’t trade anything,” says Maddie. “When your teammates are cheering you on, it all just adds up. It gives you these feelings that are so wonderful and you want to keep doing it forever.”