Darien field hockey dives into new season with state final rematch vs. Staples

Darien’s Katie Elders sends the ball upfield during a game last season. This year, Elders is a senior co-captain alongside Bridget Mahoney, Shea van den Broek and Daphne Cutler. — Darien Athletic Foundation photo

Talk about starting the season off with a bang.

After losing the Class L state championship to Staples last fall 1-0, the Wave will face the Wreckers in their season opener at home on Thursday.

“It’s the opening game, and we have the whole rest of the season to prepare for. But opening up against Staples has really put a fire under me, and under the girls, to be as ready as we can for our first game,” head coach Maureen Minicus said. “It’s definitely provided great, easy motivation to get prepared and work hard.”

And work hard they did, Minicus said, showing up for preseason in shape, looking ready to make a run all the way back to the state championship.

Molly Hellman gives the Wave some added speed from the junior class. — Darien Athletic Foundation photo

“The girls right now, they’re looking good,” Minicus said. “This year, we have great speed, our girls are fit and I think our strength this year is midfield offense. We certainly have a great goalie this year, senior Grace Aronsohn, so, I think from the forward line down to the goal cage, we’re pretty steady.”

That strength comes despite the loss to graduation of 12 seniors, who led last year’s team to a 19-3-1 overall record, winning the FCIAC championship before becoming runners-up in the state championship.

“We always miss the graduating class, but every year we just seem to rebuild,” Minicus said. “The girls that didn’t really have a chance to play last year are hungry, and ready to take advantage of the opportunity they have this year to make the starting lineup or be one of the first subs off the bench.”

This year’s team is led by senior captains Bridget Mahoney, Katie Elders, Shea van den Broek and Daphne Cutler.

“They are leading well so far, they’re all in great shape and working hard,” Minicus said. “All four of them will be our strength in our attack.”

The senior class also includes Lily Kulesz and Olivia Stein at attack and midfield, Emily Schwartzman on defense, goalie Aronsohn and Riley Joyce who plays “all over the field,” according to Minicus.

Returning juniors include Molly Hellmann, who Minicus describes as “super speedy,” and Tala Garcia who Minicus said “will be holding down our defense for us.”

Joining the team are varsity newcomers Maggie Quick, Sammy Lindell, Carlyn Florio, and backup goalie Catherine Vogt, as well as Catie Duggan, who took last year off from field hockey.

“Right now we are having them learn our system,” Minicus said. “We’ll put them in where they can help us most. Right now it is kind of open.”

The team also includes four new sophomores: Lindsey Olson on defense, forwards Teddy Maloney and Sarah Bogdan, and midfielder Brinsley Rushe.

“You always at this point rebuild from the year before,” Minicus said. “We did lose a very strong, large senior class but the new seniors and the underclassmen seem ready to go and ready to step up.”

In addition to facing Staples in the home opener, Minicus said that big games for the Wave this year include Greenwich, New Canaan and Wilton. But as Minicus knows all too well after a one-goal loss in the state championship, anything can happen.

“Losing the championship last year was disappointing, but that’s field hockey: It’s low scoring, you can outshoot, you can dominate and you can still lose,” Minicus said. “With the FCIAC, you really don’t take any team lightly, because you never know. I think it is the strongest league in the state, so you really don’t overlook any opponent, especially with field hockey being such a flukey, low-scoring game.”

That includes last year’s nemesis, Staples.

“It will be a fun season opener, for sure,” Minicus said. “I’m trying to settle the girls. This game is certainly more about bragging rights than anything, and we’ve got the whole rest of the season to go. But I think the girls are definitely excited.”