Westbrook Takes Two in Early Turnaround to Season
Senior Brooke Neri and the Westbrook field hockey team earned wins in both of their games last week to move to 2-2-1 on the season. Neri has been an important part of the Knights’ offense, especially on corners. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/Harbor News | Buy This Photo)
Senior Megan Greaves and the Knights grabbed a narrow 1-0 home victory against Morgan on Oct. 15. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/Harbor News | Buy This Photo)
Senior captain goalie Lauren Horne and the Knights defeated Haddam-Killingworth by a 3-0 on Oct. 14. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/Harbor News | Buy This Photo)
The Westbrook field hockey team got off to a slow start this season, but has recently turned it around. The Knights recorded a pair of wins last week to improve their record to 2-2-1 on the season.
As Head Coach Janet Dickey’s squad continues to build more experience playing together, the Knights will look to make some noise in the Shoreline Conference this year.
After two losses to start the year, Westbrook played Valley Regional to a tie on Oct. 9, and last week, the Knights earned two victories. Coach Dickey believes that Valley draw was a turning point.
“I think that the Valley tie helped propel us to come into this week with a better mindset. We changed up our line up a bit,” Dickey said. “After the loss at North Branford, I wanted to go to a more attack-principled lineup. We’re also going to work on some holes in our system that need to be fixed.”
On Oct. 14, the Knights showed their more offensive formation off against Haddam-Killingworth and came away with a 3-0 home win over the Cougars. Westbrook went up 2-0 by halftime and added another goal in the third quarter to make it 3-0. Westbrook received two goals from junior Gabriella Koplas, a goal and an assist from senior Marguerite Bartlett, and an assist from fellow senior Karen Sicha.
The offensive scheme kept the Knights in H-K’s end of the field and senior captain goalie Lauren Horne faced no shots, so had no saves. Westbrook fired 14 shots on goal versus the Cougars.
Coach Dickey was pleased to see the offense out in force against H-K. Westbrook’s attack features senior Brooke Neri, sophomore Caroline Dias, sophomore Halley Pierson, Bartlett, and Koplas rotating in and out as necessary.
“Brooke’s on our attack corners, and she’s really aggressive in front of the net. She’s fast, and she’s always moving to the right spot with her teammates on the field,” Dickey said. “Marguerite has the heart and desire that you can’t teach. I never doubt that kid’s working the hardest she possibly can in practice and on plays.
As for the midfield the Knights have quality contributors in Sicha and fellow senior Megan Greaves.
“We moved Karen up to right midfield in the H-K game, and she played outstanding. She’s been a defenseman for three years, but we’re confident in her,” Dickey said. “Meg Greaves is in the central midfield position now. It’s a lot of running, being on attack and defense. She has a giant hit and can see the field very well. She’s also our primary hitter on corners.”
On Oct. 15, the Knights hosted a match against Morgan and earned an exciting 1-0 win. Both team’s defenses were on display in the low-scoring game, and Westbrook was able to get the winning goal with just two minutes left in the game. Senior Cierra Brundage put the ball past Morgan’s goalie off an assist from Neri.
Senior captain Lauren Horne played a huge part in the win over Morgan with a six-save shutout. Horne is the Knights’ everyday captain this year with the other seniors serving as rotating, game-day captains.
“Lauren Horne’s just a phenomenal kid and a great athlete. That translates when you want to make a name for yourself. A little bit of athleticism and a big heart can go a long way, and it has for Lauren,” said Dickey. “Lauren is our one set captain, and we have a speaking captain for every game since we have seven other seniors. They’re all acting as captains. I expect seniors to be carrying themselves as a captain, even if they don’t have the title.”
Horne does a lot of communicating to her defenders Brundage and fellow senior Bailey Roberts, who are also great voices on the field in their own right.
“Lauren is saying all the right things. Bailey and Cierra relay that info upfield,” said Dickey. “Lauren is driving everybody back there and directing the whole show when there are attackers in the circle.”
With the abbreviated season due to COVID, there will be no state tournaments played this year, but the Shoreline Conference will still hold a championship tournament at the end of the season. Coach Dickey sees her team being right there among the other top teams in the Shoreline.
“I’ve always said our conference—even though we’re small—is incredibly tough. I know there are other leagues that roll their eyes when I say that. Having the tournament the way we’re going to is going to be a great showcase for our conference,” Dickey said. “I think now that we’ve seen each other once, going second time through is going to start the really determine the top tier of the league. Every game is important.”
One of the themes for the Knights this year is a Dutch expression that Coach Dickey heard through an archived interview of recently deceased rock guitarist Eddie Van Halen, “gewoon doorgaan.” The expression translates to keep pushing through or to carry on like you mean to do something. Coach Dickey has been preaching that to her student-athletes, especially after the inevitable mistake or bad play. The Knights have taken it to heart after the slow start, and are pushing through to reach that Shoreline Conference Tournament.
“I’m a certified mindset coach. I teach mistake rituals and visualizations. I tell them to do something to help them move on after a bad play like tapping the leg, blowing a kiss, or whatever works for them,” said Dickey. “I was listening to an interview of Eddie Van Halen, and he was asked what he does after making a mistake while playing. He talked about this Dutch expression that his father taught him, and the fact that it came from Holland where hockey is huge, I got chills when I listened to it in the car. I’ve since put it up on the board for the girls, though most of them don’t even know who he is.”