Sports Person of the Week
Ellman Makes a Smooth Move to Defense
After playing in the midfield for the past few years, Janna Ellman is now shining on defense as a senior with the Guilford field hockey team. (Photo courtesy of Janna Ellman )
Changing positions can be a difficult task for any athlete, especially if you’ve been playing the same position for several years. However, the transition that senior Janna Ellman has made from midfield to defense with the Guilford field hockey team this year is the very definition of seamless.
Janna started playing field hockey as a 7th-grader at Adams Middle School and took a liking to the sport right away. Janna has always enjoyed competing alongside people who she feels proud to call her teammates and friends.
“I decided I wanted to play because my older sister also played field hockey and encouraged me to do it,” says Janna. “My favorite part about field hockey is playing with my friends and having such a great bond throughout the whole team.”
Janna has helped the Guilford field hockey squad achieve a tremendous level of success throughout the last few years. Guilford won back-to-back SCC and Class L state championships in Janna’s sophomore and junior seasons, while adding to a win streak that ultimately lasted 33-straight games.
“My favorite moment from last season was when we won the state championship,” Janna says. “This was such a big deal, because it was our final game of the season, and we had received the state title. We had also had an undefeated season, which was a huge deal.”
After patrolling her familiar spot in the midfield last year, Janna moved back to play a side defense position for Guilford this season. Head Coach Kitty Palmer believes that Janna showed the type of selfless leader she is with her willingness to make that switch for the good of the team.
“I asked Janna to give us solid play and senior leadership. It’s not an easy position, as she has to decide when to tackle and when to run alongside,” Palmer says. “I was confident that Janna would make good decisions because of her field hockey awareness. Janna is very coachable, always asking questions, and wanting to be better for her teammates.”
Palmer’s decision to have Janna play defense paid dividends for Guilford in a recent victory. On Oct. 15, Guilford earned a 3-1 win versus Daniel Hand in a rematch of last year’s Class L final, and Palmer says that Janna turned in an excellent performance to help the team prevail.
“Janna played her best game against Hand, stopping countless Hand rushes and reversing the ball to our forwards,” says Palmer. “I am amazed at how quickly she has made the position change.”
Janna heeded the advice of Palmer and the other members of Guilford’s coaching staff when she made the move to defense. The senior is always looking for ways to improve her game.
“I try to ask questions to all of our coaches about how I can better myself and my playing. Hearing different perspectives really helps when I get out on the field,” says Janna. “[Coach Palmer] is really tough on us, but she does it because she cares and wants to push us to be the best we can be. We wouldn’t be the team we are without her.”
Janna is also a member of the Guilford girls’ outdoor track team during the spring. When she isn’t competing, Janna enjoys spending her time with friends, going on hikes, and working at Bufalina restaurant in Guilford.
Despite her busy schedule, Janna makes sure that she stays focused on her studies. Last year, she received Scholar of Distinction honors from the National Field Hockey Coaches Association for maintaining a 4.0 grade-point average over the course of the year.
Guilford owns a record of 4-1 in the 2020 season, having earned victories versus Sheehan, Mercy, Lyman Hall, and Hand. Janna has great expectations about what Guilford can achieve the rest of the way and is hoping to finish her senior season on a triumphant note at her new position.
“I’m hoping that for this season, we can continue to play as one of the top teams in Connecticut,” Janna says. “I also am excited to continue playing with the other defenders, because I think we are becoming a much stronger defensive line, and I am excited to see us improve and truly show what we can do.”