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Senior captain Jacqui Sandor and the Hand field hockey squad are looking to use the depth on the roster to produce another solid season in 2019. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Source | Buy This Photo)
Junior Grace Hartmann scored the only goal of the day to lift the Tigers to a 1-0 win at Cheshire in their season opener on Sept. 12. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Source | Buy This Photo)
Senior Erickson Richard is leading the defensive corps for the Hand field hockey squad this fall. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Source | Buy This Photo)
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Ask Hand field hockey Head Coach Sue Leckey about the prospects for this year’s edition of her squad, and the response comes back in a hurry.
“The sky could be the limit,” said Leckey.
Leckey’s club is already off to a strong start to the year. The Tigers began the 2019 campaign by earning a 1-0 road win over Cheshire on Sept. 12. Junior Grace Hartmann scored the lone goal of the game on an assist from senior Jacqui Sandor 2:24 into the second half. Junior Maddy Kilduff and sophomore Megan Hart combined to earn the shutout in net for Hand by making four and two saves, respectively.
Last season, the Tigers finished with a record of 13-6-2 and took a defeat to Guilford to in the first round of the Class M State Tournament. Hand lost 11 players from the team to graduation, while goalie Karen Newtown and defender Ciara Halloran have moved on to the prep school level.
Despite these departures, Coach Leckey likes what the Tigers are bringing back to the field this season. Hand will be looking for big contributions from Sandor, a senior captain who’s moving from forward to the midfield. Sandor was an All-State selection in 2018 and has already committed to continue her career at Williams College in Massachusetts.
“We need her in the midfield. That’s why she’s there,” Leckey said. “Jacqui is one of those kids who so nicely mixes her academics with her athletics. It will be important that we provide lots of assistance around her, because she likes to play the entire field.”
Part of that responsibility will fall on Maeve Connors. A senior, Connors is serving as the Tigers’ other captain this year.
“She’s the workhorse on this team,” said Leckey. “A kid with a great work ethic.”
Senior Kennedy Richard is looking to fill the void on defense following the loss of Halloran. A returning starter, Richard will be anchoring a unit that’s out to support Kilduff and Hart in goal. Senior Jessica Murphy and juniors Mia Rice and Abby Cody are also expected to patrol the defensive end of the field for the Tigers.
In the midfield, Hand will be led by senior Tessie Sheehan, junior Ashley Wagner, and sophomore Peytyn Gies.
The Tigers also feature a large flock of forwards on their roster. Included in that group are seniors Amy Woods, Carly-Anna Barba, and Hailey Funk, along with juniors Hartmann, Grace Goddard, Shea Docker, and Emma DeMartino. Sophomores Reilly Dolan and Natalia Nolan provide even more depth for Hand up front.
Overall team depth will be a plus for the Tigers this season. One of the questions marks for the Tigers is their lack of experience.
“We’re working on that. Our large senior group needs to bring those juniors and sophomores along,” Coach Leckey said. “It’s one of those day-by-day processes. Hard work that can be translated into success. As a coach, you need to see steady improvement. I feel that this group has the ability to do that.”
Hand will definitely be tested by a challenging schedule that features plenty of strong SCC opponents, in addition to some stiff non-conference competition, throughout the 2019 season.
“We open with Cheshire and have them twice. Then the rest of our SCC schedule doesn’t get any easier. Guilford will be very good. Amity has athletes galore,” said Leckey. “We also have outside conference games against Glastonbury, Norwalk, and Darien. Over the past six or seven years, all three of those schools have either been at the top or near the top of the state’s rankings.”
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