Tigers Notch Winning Mark in First Year with McConville
Junior goalie Brooke Salutari recorded four shutouts on her way to earning All-SCC Division B accolades on behalf of the Hand girls’ soccer squad this fall. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Source | Buy This Photo)
Junior forward Maddie Hummel garnered All-SCC Division B honors after tallying six goals and five assists for the Tigers during the 2020 season. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Source | Buy This Photo)
Junior Mia Forti and the Hand girls’ soccer squad notched a winning record by going 5-4-2 in the recent fall campaign. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Source | Buy This Photo)
Sophomore Lydia Doraz is one of several underclass athletes who Head Coach Rob McConville will by relying on next fall. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Source | Buy This Photo)
The Hand girls’ soccer team saw some ups and downs during the 2020 season, but first-year Head Coach Rob McConville has no regrets about how the Tigers performed throughout the course of the campaign. McConville, a former member of the Hand boys’ soccer team, enjoyed every second of his homecoming at his alma mater.
After going 7-9-3 last year, the Tigers finished with an overall record of 5-4-2 this fall. In its final game of the season, Hand took a 1-0 loss against Branford in the semifinals of the Southern Connecticut Conference Division B Tournament.
In the end, Coach McConville felt pleased with the way his team competed this season, especially since the Tigers had a limited amount of time to find their stride on the field.
“We had a very successful campaign this year. It was the longest, short season. We had been meeting since July, but only were able to start playing together as a group on Sept. 21. It was hard to really know the team dynamic until that point,” said McConville. “From a statistical standpoint, we increased our goals scored per game and reduced our goals against. But more importantly, the girls came together as a group and played every game as a team.”
While there was no State Tournament this year, the SCC hosted three divisional tournaments so that the teams in the league would have a chance to experience some form of a postseason. Hand competed in the Division B Tournament as the No. 2 seed and had a first-round bye. In the semifinals, the Tigers squared off against No. 3 seed Branford dropped a 1-0 decision to the Hornets.
During the regular season, Hand claimed two wins over Branford (3-1 and 2-1) to go with victories versus East Haven (2-0), Guilford (1-0), and Wilbur Cross (9-0). The Tigers also earned ties against Guilford (2-2) and Branford (0-0). Hand’s regular-season losses came against Guilford (1-0), Mercy (3-0), and East Haven (1-0).
In a quite unusual season, Coach McConville felt that his players did a great job of rolling with the punches on their way to producing a winning record.
“It is hard to say anything was normal this year, but the girls adapted very well to the circumstances. And I told them, for 80 minutes each game, everything seemed normal,” McConville said. “I am proud of the way the kept their focus and worked hard through everything that was put in front of them. Our level of our training sessions was very high, and it showed on the field. I am looking forward to the future with this group when we can get a full season in.”
Three members of the Tigers solidified spots on All-SCC Division B Team by virtue of their performances this year. Junior goalie Brooke Salutari, junior forward Maddie Hummel, and junior midfielder Ella Skonieczny were the team’s All-Conference honorees. Salutari posted four shutouts and allowed just 10 goals all season, while stopping 56 shots en route to her second-straight All-Conference nod. Hummel scored six goals and handed out five assists on the campaign. Skonieczny played each minute of every game on the defensive line for Coach McConville’s squad.
“I am so proud of the girls and how they embraced the new philosophy of Hand girls’ soccer,” said McConville. “The coaching staff did a tremendous job working tirelessly in difficult circumstances.”
Out of the Tigers’ five wins, Coach McConville said that Hand’s 1-0 home victory against crosstown rival Guilford on Oct. 27 was the team’s biggest achievement of the season.
“Handing Guilford its first loss in over a year was a big moment for our program,” McConville said. “It was a mental turning point for the girls. The confidence from that win will pay off in the years to come.”
Hand was led by senior captains Anna Cohen and Julia Kuhn this year. Coach McConville complimented the duo for the way they led the Tigers throughout the campaign.
“This season was a difficult season to be a captain in, but Anna and Julia did a great job figuring out creative ways to bring the team together in the safest way possible,” said McConville.
Aside from the captains, the Tigers’ roster also included seniors Skylar Knibbs, Delanie Rourke, and Nina Maranaccio; juniors Mia Forti, Emily Gervais, Maddie Hummel, Perry Jensen, Karleigh Kokoruda, Adelia McGuire, Brigid O’Keefe, Brooke Salutari, Ella Skonieczny, Lila Sullivan, and Meryl Sullivan; and sophomores Adelynn Arroyo, Aubrey Canth, Maddie Coulis, Lydia Doraz, Lilly Fried, Maya Howard, Abby Leckey, and Dakota Rourke.
While Hand is losing a few seniors from this year’s team, Coach McConville feels optimistic about the fact that the Tigers will be bringing back the bulk of their roster in 2021.
“We are returning the core of our team for next season,” said McConville. “Having a full offseason and getting right back to work should help us push the program even further next year. There is no learning curve as there was this season with it being my first year with the program. The girls know the expectations going into the season and are ready for the challenge.”
In addition to appreciating the contributions of his players, McConville feels grateful for all the support that his program received from the players’ parents and Hand’s administration this year. It means a lot to McConville that he got to coach at the same high school where he played.
“Being back at Hand is great. While it was not how I envisioned it, we accomplished a lot of what we set out to do,” McConville said. “Our parents and boosters were very supportive this year. Overall, I am thrilled to be back at Hand going forward.”