Field hockey preview: State champs out to defend title

With only four starters back from last year’s Class M state championship squad, the Wilton High field hockey team opens the season on Tuesday with a little more uncertainty than in recent years.

That doesn’t necessarily mean the three-time defending state champs won’t carry on the team’s run of success. There is plenty of young talent moving up the ranks, and coach Deirdre Hynes said it’s a question of putting the right people in the right spots, developing chemistry, and working hard to become a team.

“This team is as capable of any of the past teams I’ve coached. It’s a matter of getting everybody playing with each other,” said Hynes.

Wilton is coming off a banner year, going 21-2 en route to the state title. The squad set team records for fewest goals allowed in a season (five) and most shutouts (19). On the season, the Warriors outscored opponents, 84-5.

Eight starters are gone, however, from that team. Most notably is midfielder Madison Hendry, a second-team All-American last season who led the Warriors with 20 goals and 23 assists.

Wilton also graduated two other four-year players in center back Jill Detrick-Yee and goaltender Lizette Roman-Johnson, both All-FCIAC and All-State picks. Also gone are starting backs Kylie Cafiero and Annie Cornbrooks, along with forwards Emily Arrix, Maggie Mendola and Kailey Zengo.

The Warriors return four key players from a year ago in senior captains Delaney Baxendale, Megan Cunningham, Kristen Godin and Caroline Taverna.

“Those four had significant roles last year. I’m hoping they turn that experience into leadership roles this year,” said Hynes.

Godin was the team’s second leading scorer last year, and scored the winning goal in overtime in Wilton’s 1-0 win over Lauralton Hall in the state finals. She will be back in the midfield along with Baxendale, an All-East Division pick last year.

Cunningham, an explosive attacker on the forward line, was also an All-East Division pick, while Taverna, the lone returning defender, will anchor the back line.

Wilton returns eight other players who saw action last season, including juniors Jillian Mahon (midfield), Maddie Duffy (midfield/defense) and Olivia Deluca (midfield/forward), and sophomores Delaney Chase (forward), Meredith Rappaport (midfield/defense), Bridget Ward (forward), Evelyn Caty (midfield/defense) and Gwen Hall (forward). These players will be looked on to step into greater roles this season, and Hynes hopes the experience gained last year will pay off this season.

Losing a goalie of Roman-Johnston’s quality would kill most teams, but Wilton won’t miss a beat this season with junior goalie Amanda Hendry, a member of the U-17 junior national team, who is ready to step into a starring role.

Hynes said it will take time to develop the final roster, and build a sense of team. But she’s optimistic the Warriors can reach their goals.

"There’s tons of potential," she said. “It’s more a matter of getting experience now. All this takes time. We know that. We’re looking forward to the next month and a lot of development and progress."