Saturday, May 08, 2021

Sports Person of the Week

Longway Brings Versatility to the Hornets


Lenora Longway has transitioned to defense to start her junior season with the Branford field hockey team, but will play multiple other positions throughout the year based on the Hornets’ needs. Photo courtesy of Lenora Longway

Lenora Longway has transitioned to defense to start her junior season with the Branford field hockey team, but will play multiple other positions throughout the year based on the Hornets’ needs. (Photo courtesy of Lenora Longway )

Lenora Longway has been a solid player for the Branford field hockey team throughout her tenure with the Hornets. As a junior, Lenora is taking on a new role as one of Branford’s defenders in the 2020 season. Never one to back down from a new challenge, Lenora is ready to do anything that increases the Hornets’ chance of success.

Heading into her junior year, Lenora had only played the forward position on the field. She had been in that role since her first season as a 7th-grader at Walsh Intermediate School. Prior to this season, Hornets’ Head Coach Pete Frye watched Lenora compete in a preseason tournament. To his surprise, Lenora was playing on the defensive side of the ball, rather than offense.

Coach Frye talked to Lenora about making her game more versatile and improving defensively. Lenora got the message and took those words to heart. On Oct. 1, Lenora started on the defensive side of the ball for the first time in Branford’s opening game against Cheshire.

“It made me realize that it’s not just about where you play. It’s about what is best for the team as a whole,” Lenora says. “If the best position for my team is to play defense, then I was of course going to play it. I wasn’t going to shy away from that.”

Lenora had been playing softball prior to joining the field hockey ranks in 7th grade. At the time, Frye was the head coach of the Walsh field hockey program. Frye reached out to Lenora and asked her to join the team, and making that decision changed Lenora’s life. Seeing Frye’s passion for coaching made Lenora and her teammates want to play that much more.

In Lenora’s freshman season, Frye was hired to take over the field hockey program at the high school. Lenora says that it was great having a coach who already knew her style of play. While Lenora earned her varsity letter during her freshman year, she didn’t see much playing time for the varsity team. However, that season showed Lenora exactly what it would take to succeed at the high school level.

“It was a big jump. Playing in middle school, you can just exist on the team. You show up to practice, you play, and you go home. But in high school, you have to be committed to the team and the program,” says Lenora. “You have to bring things you wouldn’t when you were younger—your passion, your fire, your mental toughness.”

By her sophomore season, Lenora had become a starting forward for the Hornets. In her transition to the starting role, Lenora felt that it was helpful to connect with the younger athletes who were playing freshman or JV.

That season marked the fourth year that Coach Frye had Lenora in his program. Frye has been impressed with Lenora’s growth on the field, as well as her willingness to do whatever it takes to help the team win.

“When she came in as a freshman, she basically just understood the offensive part of the game. She’s very aggressive, and she has a nose for the goal,” says Frye of Lenora. “Now, she is really becoming more of a complete player. I would have never thought to try her on the defensive side. Now, she can really play any position on the field. That is a rarity in field hockey. She has transcended that. She really plays both sides of the ball really well.”

While Coach Frye has enjoyed Lenora’s work on defense, he says that she is likely to see time at multiple spots on the field throughout the season. Lenora feels that speed is one of her best assets as an athlete, regardless of whether she’s playing offense or defense.

Lenora’s interest in field hockey was sparked by Frye’s coaching style, but she has come to love the people that she’s playing with just as much. Aside from her own hard work, Lenora believes that her Hornets’ teammates have helped her become the field hockey player she is today.

“It’s the best experience I’ve ever been a part of. We are all so close. We’re a family,” Lenora says. “We all love and appreciate each other, no matter what. It shows when we play. We trust each other with the ball. Teams that don’t trust each other don’t play together well.”

As she continues through her junior season, Lenora’s goals are to continue progressing into the most complete field hockey player that she can be, while helping the Hornets build their family atmosphere. She also wants to make sure that her teammates embrace coming to practice. Lenora likes the fact that field hockey is a sport where she can learn a lot both on and off the field.

“I’ve learned so much from field hockey that I can attribute to other parts of my life—my job, my schoolwork,” says Lenora. “Field hockey has taught me so much that I can build on for the rest of my life. It’s not just field hockey.”

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