Co-coaches begin new era for Wilton field hockey

Filling the shoes of one of the state’s most successful coaches does bring added pressure to the job, but fortunately Toniann Cortina and Liz Pisko won’t have to face it alone.

Cortina and Pisko are the the new co-head coaches for the Wilton High varsity field hockey team, replacing longtime coach Deirdre Hynes, who resigned this past spring.

The arrangement to share head coaching duties was the result of several factors, said Cortina — the fact they were hired so late in the search process, and because both had full-time jobs.

“We thought it would better to share the head coach title,” Cortina said.

“It’s a blessing to have someone else to work with. Whatever happens, there’s always someone who will be there,” said Pisko. “It’s something new for the program. I know it’s not new to the town. We’re excited to work together.”

Pisko played field hockey for John Jay High School in Cross River, N.Y., where she was captain of the team in her senior year in 2005-06.

She went on to play for the University of Scranton, where she was again captain of the team as a senior. After college she was an assistant coach at John Jay, coached with the Hudson Valley Futures program and more recently coached youth field hockey in Greenwich, where she worked as a special education teacher.

She just started working as a special education instructor at Miller Driscoll Elementary School.

Cortina previously was head coach at Putnam Valley (N.Y.) High School from 2007 to 2010, leading Putnam Valley to the Section 1 Class B championships in 2008 and to the finals the next year. She was named Coach of the Year in 2008 for Section 1, which includes Westchester, Putnam and Rockland Counties.

The two coaches, who had never met until this month, have gotten off to a positive start.

“Our personalities seem to mesh well,” said Cortina.

“We made a connection right away,” said Pisko. “She’s a fantastic coach. She’s won championships and won Coach of the Year awards.

“We’re excited,” she continued. “I’ve only been told great things about Wilton. The girls love the game. They work hard and they care for each other, and it shows in their play.”

During Hynes’ 15 years as head coach in Wilton, the Warriors won five state championships and played in eight state title games.

Wilton is coming off a 16-2-2-1 season that was highlighted by its first-ever FCIAC championship. In the last six seasons, the Warriors have averaged nearly 19 wins per season and reached the state championship five times, with four state titles.

Both coaches realize they have big shoes to fill and big expectations to meet, but are ready to take on the challenge, together.

“There’s pressure coming into into such a great program. The program is fantastic. The girls are known for their championships,” said Pisko. “I think being together is going to be an asset.”

“I’m excited about it. I’m excited about being part of the reputation that they’ve built here. It’s a little nerve-racking to come into the level of success that they’ve achieved,” said Cortina, who is impressed by what she’s seen thus far from the team.

“They all seem to be very hard-working and determined. They’re self-motivated, too. They’ve been brought up in this program for so long that it’s instilled in them already.”

Notes: The Warriors open their season on Friday, Sept. 8, at Fairfield Ludlowe.