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Article Published September 27, 2020

Tigers Striving for More Success Despite Key Graduations

By By Dean Bibens

Sue Leckey is entering her 18th season as head coach of the Daniel Hand High School field hockey team this fall. Leckey has high hopes for the Tigers coming off of a campaign that saw squad advance to the championship game of the Class M State Tournament.

“We were right there last year,” said Leckey. “We competed at a really high level and grew as the season went on. Ultimately, we fell short on the scoreboard, but the girls did really well.”

Hand finished with an overall record of 14-8 on its way to making the 2019 Class M state final, where the Tigers took a 3-2 loss to Guilford. Even though Hand graduated 12 players from last year’s team, including nine starters, Coach Leckey still has plenty of confidence in her returning players.

“We don’t have a lot of those girls back this year, but we have a smattering of returners,” Leckey said. “Of the 12 seniors that graduated, nine were starters, so it’s going to be tough, but I know we still have a lot of talent on this team.”

Seniors Grace Hartmann, Abby Cody, Grace Goddard, Shea Docker, Erin Patla, Maddie Kilduff, and Mia Rice are among the athletes coming back for Hand this year. Last season, Hartmann was the Tigers’ leading goal-scorer on her way to earning All-SCC Second Team and All-State Second Team honors. Goddard was also one of the squad’s top scorers. All seven seniors are serving as captains for Hand this year.

“It’s been fun so far. The girls have been very optimistic since we’ve been allowed to play again,” said Leckey. “I know these seven seniors are going to do a great job, and they are looking forward to the opportunity, no matter how many games we are able to play.”

Other key returning players for the Tigers include juniors Reilly Dolan, Natalia Nolan, and starting goalie Megan Hart.

“We will also get varsity contributions from several other juniors, sophomores, and freshmen,” said Leckey.

Like hundreds of coaches around the state, Leckey has never experienced anything like the COVID-19 pandemic. Still, she remains steadfast in her goal of trying to develop her players into the best people they can be. Leckey enjoys coaching at the high school level, because she knows that there is always room for her athletes to improve.

“Since I started coaching, I’ve always tried to be a coach that can foster and develop these players,” said Leckey, a Hand graduate who went on to play field hockey and softball at the University of Vermont. “We try very hard not to shut the door on any athlete. Time and time again, I’m impressed with how hard these kids work to get better, and it really shows by the time they are seniors.”

The Tigers are scheduled to begin the 2020 season with a road game against Lyman Hall at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 1, after which they will host Branford for their home opener on Monday, Oct. 5 at 7 p.m. Hand is slated to play 10 regular-season games and, although the CIAC isn’t hosting its typical State Tournament this fall, Coach Leckey is hoping that there will be some sort of a round-robin tourney at the end of the season.

“The team always does a cheer with the date of the State Tournament incorporated into the cheer. This year is going to have to be different, because there isn’t going to be a State Tournament,” Leckey said. “We are going to enjoy competing regardless, and we want to win as many of our games as possible. We will just have to get creative with the new cheer.”

While Leckey is looking forward to the season, she also knows that the potential for a resurgence in Connecticut COVID cases still exists. Consequently, Coach Leckey wants her players to enjoy any moments that they get to spend together both on and off the field throughout the next few weeks.

“My greatest concern is that there could be an uptick in cases,” said Leckey. “I’m worried that others would be affected, and that it would close down our opportunity to continue competing with each other this year. But we will continue to take it one day at a time.”