Grizzlies Hungry for More Success in 2021
Senior captain Maddie Epke and the Guilford field hockey team are ready for another big year after claiming the SCC Division A title last season. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier)
Senior captain Allie Petonito is one of eight returning starters for the Guilford field hockey squad as it enters the 2021 campaign. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier)
Junior Ella Clarke and the Grizzlies will begin their fall season by playing a road game against Stonington this week. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier)
After winning the SCC Division I title last year, the Guilford field hockey team is poised to have more success in the 2021 fall season. Head Coach Kitty Palmer’s squad enters the campaign with returning eight starters from a club that finished with a record of 13-1-0-1 in 2020.
Guilford has won three-straight SCC titles and also claimed the Class M state championship in the 2018 and 2019 seasons. There were no state tournaments held last fall due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but they are scheduled to be played this year, and the Grizzlies have their eyes on both prizes as they hit the field with an experienced roster. Guilford opens its season with a road game versus Stonington at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 10.
“With eight returning starters from last year’s SCC Division I- winning team. I am cautiously optimistic about this coming season,” Coach Palmer said. “However, the girls still need to perform as a team with the three new players that will be introduced to the lineup.”
While Guilford is bringing back plenty of talented athletes, the team did graduate several solid players from last year’s team. One of the biggest voids the Grizzlies will have to fill is the graduation of Hannah Tillier, who scored 24 goals on her way to being named the SCC Division I Player of the Year last season.
“It won’t be easy to replace Hannah,” said Palmer. “She meant so much to our offense, and her leadership last year was invaluable.”
Coach Palmer will be looking to this year’s senior captains, Maddie Epke and Allie Petonito, to provide both offensive production and some stingy defense for Guilford. Out of the 77 goals that the Grizzlies scored last year, Epke and Petonito accounted for 34 of them. Both players earned All-SCC Division A honors in 2020, and Epke was also an All-State selection.
“Maddie and Allie will be called on to lead us with their offensive and defensive play in both circles,” Coach Palmer said. “Their teammates will look to them in both situations to take the important shots or make the important defensive stops.”
The Grizzlies’ lineup also features senior goalkeeper Julia McDonald, who was in the net for Guilford when it won the state title in 2019. The defensive line in front of McDonald features her sister and fellow senior Olivia McDonald, along with juniors Scout Climie and Delaney Victor.
“I am hoping that we improve a lot in the defensive circle. We gave up too many shots last year in that area,” said Palmer. “The team has been working hard as a whole in the preseason to tackle and mark better.”
Guilford’s core of forwards includes juniors Ella Clarke, MJ Santa Barbara, and Grace Barlage, as well as sophomore Payton Root. All four athletes saw playing time for the team last season. Coach Palmer will also be looking for contributions on the offensive end from seniors Daniella Vickerman and Isabel Matthews, in addition to junior Kim Evans, as the Grizzlies take on their grueling SCC schedule.
“We have a tough schedule this fall with tough league games,” Palmer said. “We have four girls that had playing time last year for the three forward positions. They will need to pick up the slack that the loss of Hannah has created. They have the speed and skill, but their success will be determined on how they coexist as a group.”
Coach Palmer and the players are well-versed in the challenges that come with playing through the COVID-19 pandemic. Consequently, they are doing everything in their power to ensure that Guilford has a healthy and complete season.
“We know that COVID could rear its ugly head at any moment, and we do worry that our season will be impacted,” said Palmer. “We enjoy every day that we are on the field as a group, and hope we end the season in late November as a team.”