Young Shepaug field hockey squad growing up
WASHINGTON - The success that the Shepaug High School field hockey team was going to experience this season hinged on how quickly a young roster could adjust to the varsity game.
As the regular season winds down the young Spartans have acquitted themselves nicely and are heading to the Class S state tournament once again.
Entering their final two regular season games, Shepaug sported a record of 6-6-1 and booked themselves another trip to the postseason. The Spartans have been competitive just about every time out and own wins this season over both Lewis Mills and Thomaston, the last two Class S state champions.
“We are very young and I think that the upside of any team that is young is that they don’t know,” Shepaug coach Jaye Stuart said. “So they don’t know enough to be concerned about this team or that team. It’s not the reputation of the teams or about the opponents. They were more worried about stepping on a varsity field and doing the right things.”
Shepaug was 10-6 last season and earned the 11th seed in the Class S playoffs. When the season ended with a tournament loss to perennial power Granby, Stuart and the Spartans said farewell to 13 seniors, a large number for any program and a huge one for a small school like Shepaug.
With just one senior on the roster, Paige Johnson, the Spartans were a work in progress to start the season but the team made the commitment necessary to get better and week by week it showed.
“The team just really worked hard on conditioning,” Stuart said. “They know that to be competitive they have to stay in the game especially the juniors and our senior.”
Stuart said that she also has what she calls her traveling platoon, a group of sophomores and a couple freshmen that are playing both jv and varsity, which also has whipped them into shape.
Down the stretch of the season one thing that has stood out is the Spartans’ defense. Shepaug has allowed two goals or less in six of its last seven games.
“Our goalie, Grace Thermer, has really stepped up this season,” Stuart said. “She has jumped from an average jv goalie to emerging varsity goalie.”
Aside from providing the young team with some experience and leadership, Johnson has formed a formidable tandem at center mid and center back with junior Olivia Moore.
“I flip flop them from time to time and they have the highest assists and goals between the two of them on the team,” Stuart said. “They have decided they are going to play both circles and
they are getting involved on both ends.”
The partnership that Johnson and Moore have is a result of many games together and not just on the hockey field.
“They play basketball together, they play softball, they compliment each other and work together,” Stuart said. “The experience they have together really shows and they are a lot of fun to watch play. They just know where the other one is on the field.”
Also helping on defense according to Stuart is junior Lexi Guilbeault, who has also made the jump from jv to a very solid defender for the Spartans and has brought some explosive speed to the lineup.