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The Hand field hockey team won SCC Tournament title and then claimed the Class M state championship with a 2-1 win over New Canaan in the 2017 fall season. Pictured with the state title plaque are Tigers’ Head Coach Sue Leckey, senior captain Sophie Schreck, and assistant coach Mike Niekrash. (Photo by Kelley Fryer/The Source | Buy This Photo)
Abi Barry, a senior co-captain and defender, led a defensive wall for a Hand field hockey team that allowed only two goals in four games for the Class M State Tournament. (Photo by Kelley Fryer/The Source | Buy This Photo)
Daniel Hand won in overtime 2-1 over Branford at home. Taylor Leckey (17) (Photo by Kelley Fryer/The Source | Buy This Photo )
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The Hand field hockey squad put itself in elite company after winning its conference and state titles this past fall, but what also made the Tigers a special team was how everyone motivated each other to work their hardest throughout the climb to the top.
In the SCC Tournament, Head Coach Sue Leckey’s club defeated Hamden 3-0 in the quarterfinals, Cheshire 3-2 in the semifinals, and Branford 1-0 in the final by winning 4-2 on penalty strokes to mark Hand’s first conference crown in three years. The Tigers then entered the Class M State Tournament as the No. 2 seed and won their first three games against E.O. Smith (6-1), Sacred Heart Academy (5-0), and Guilford (1-0) to make the final against two-time defending champion New Canaan. The Tigers scratched out a 2-1 victory over the Rams to give Hand its second state title in program history and first since 2014.
When the dust finally settled on a long and prosperous campaign, Hand finished the year with an overall record of 20-1-2. Coach Leckey said the gamesmanship of her athletes lit a fire inside the Tigers that nobody could extinguish.
“This team was special from the beginning. They were hard-working, driven, focused on competing to their greatest capability, kind, and supportive. They were an athletic group from top to bottom and they got along terrific,” said Leckey, whose team finished ranked first in the Connecticut High School Coaches Association poll. “The starters were pushed by the non-starters every practice, and the competitive level was not only present in the games, but also in practices. We had a lot of fun together, and by the end of the season, we had grown to enjoy hard work and competition in practices so much that it seemed no one wanted the season to end.”
Leckey added that Hand’s biggest and brightest moments of the year served as bookends in the campaign. The Tigers staved off some early season tests before stepping up in the pressure-packed postseason by winning several high-stakes clashes.
“Our big moments were the overtime wins early in the season over Cheshire and Branford and then the early 0-0 tie with [eventual Class L runner-up] Darien, who had outscored their opponents 22-0 in the first three games of the season. There was also the late season come-from-behind tie to Cheshire and the 3-0 defeat of Branford,” Coach Leckey said. “And the biggest games of the season were the SCC Tournament semifinal win over Cheshire, the final triple-overtime victory in strokes for the SCC championship over Branford, and then the state semifinal win over Guilford, and the state final win over defending two-time champion New Canaan.”
Serving as senior captains for the Tigers were midfielder Sophie Schreck and defender Abi Barry. Leckey said that Hand’s leading scorers this season were juniors Taylor Leckey, Erickson Richard, Schreck, sophomore Jacqui Sandor, and junior Kathryn Donahey, while senior Kenzie Larson and sophomores Ciara Halloran and Kennedy Richard, “held the back line of our defense in the state championship run.”
Taylor Leckey, Schreck, and Barry earned All-SCC First Team honors, with Richard and senior goalkeeper Kylie Gargiulo making the Second Team. For the All-State Team, Taylor Leckey and Schreck were First Team with Barry and Gargiulo on the Second Team. Taylor Leckey was named the Most Valuable Player for the New Haven Register’s All-Area Team, plus Schreck and Gargiulo also joined her on that squad. Taylor Leckey was also named as a Regional All-American.
Looking at the team awards, Halloran earned the Tigers’ Most Improved Player Award, Sandor and senior Glenna-Kate Gies shared the Coaches’ Award, and Larson took home the Tiger Pride Award for displaying the characteristics that embody the spirit of the Hand field hockey program with “her skill, poise, consistency and coach-ability throughout the season,” according to Coach Leckey.
The Tigers will have to reconfigure their personnel a bit in 2018, but Leckey still has great prospects for the program. In her final reflection on a 2017 campaign for the ages, Leckey said the Tigers created everlasting moments, while contributing to an outstanding fall sports season in Madison.
“We have big shoes to fill with our departing seniors, but great experience and lots of athletic potential still remaining in our returning varsity starters. We will be very solid in goal, and there is also lots of talented players coming up from the JV and freshmen ranks,” Coach Leckey said. “This team accomplished so much and had such a great time doing it. They are one of only two Hand field hockey teams to win both SCC and states [in the same year], and the only team to ever finish the season with the No. 1 ranking in the state. The 2017 team finished with a 20-1-2 record, a state championship, an SCC Tournament championship, and lots of great memories. It was especially fun to be a Hand competitor this fall as we shared our excitement and success with girls’ soccer team, which won the SCC championship; boys’ soccer, which won both the SCC championship and state championship; and the football team, which won the state championship, as well. It was a great fall to be a Tiger.”
• The Hand field hockey team’s varsity roster was comprised of senior captains Abi Barry and Sophie Schreck, along with fellow seniors Kenzie Larson, Nora McCarthy, Skylar Leckey, Lily Arida, Caroline Schreck, Glenna-Kate Gies, Isabelle Kennedy, Meghan Daly, Kelly Cody, and Kylie Gargiulo; juniors Kathryn Donahey, Alison Lord, Jacqueline McKeown, Erickson Richard, Anna Beccia, Katharine Barrett, Taylor Leckey, and Harriet Burt; and sophomores Karen Newton, Lucy Cutler, Kennedy Richard, Maeve Connors, Jessica Murphy, Tessie Sheehan, Jacqui Sandor, and Ciara Halloran.
• Hand finished with a record of 13-1-2 for the regular season. The Tigers scored victories over Cheshire (4-3), Lauralton Hall (4-0 and 4-2), Branford (2-1 and 3-0), Shelton (9-0), Sheehan (4-0), Amity (11-1), Sacred Heart Academy (2-0), Hamden (4-0), North Haven (10-0), Lyman Hall (9-0), and Mercy (3-1). The Tigers’ loss came against Guilford (2-0), and they also tied Darien (0-0) and Cheshire (3-3).
• Sue Leckey has been the head coach of the Tigers’ field hockey team since 2002 and the 2017 season marked her 16th campaign. Mike Niekrash, who is also the Hand softball head coach, was the Tigers’ assistant coach.
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