Silver liners at the end of an era of field hockey
The fall pandemic season was the first of its kind and, in field hockey, the end of an era.
After 13 seasons and 200 wins and a state championship, Eileen Wildermann stepped down as head coach in Cheshire.
Then, Monday night, news broke that former Branford coach Cathy McGuirk, winner of 558 games and 10 state titles in 41 seasons, had died a year after suffering from ALS.
A very heavy end at one time.
With the season underway last fall, the outlook was bright, albeit late. After a month of cohort conditioning that turned into an extended preseason, the campaign was launched on October 1.
It was abbreviated, only 12 games, with no state tournament. But after the complete cancellation of the spring 2020 season and the uncertainties heading into fall – there was still so much unknown about COVID-19 – the teams were grateful to simply get back to the field.
Wildermann’s Cheshire team were the best in the area and one of the best in the SCC, falling only to Guilford in the SCC A Division final.
Two of Wildermann’s daughters are on the ballot as nominees for Field Hockey Player of the Year: Senior Forward Raegan bailey and junior midfielder Lauren Houle.
They are joined as finalists by Ashleen Keating, the dynamic senior midfielder from Lyman Hall whose rushes up the field may not always have produced goals, but have always been fascinating to watch.
Her style was clearly influenced by her background in ice hockey, the sport she played with the Lyman Hall co-op team with Hamden and Wilbur Cross.
Keating did All-Conference on the ice and was also successful in field hockey.
Bailey was also an All-SCC two-sport athlete, getting the green light first in field hockey and then lacrosse, the game she will play at New Haven University.
Bailey was the region’s leading field hockey scorer last fall with 14 goals. She ended the Cheshire offense which scored 47 goals in 12 games.
Houle factored in that attack in midfield with four goals and 14 assists. She was also part of a defensive effort that threw six shutouts and allowed just 11 goals.
Houle was also named All-SCC. She and Bailey were ultimately named All-State.
Houle will be back next year. An era in Connecticut field hockey is certainly over, but as with all eras, there are links to it to the next.