Guilford Field Hockey Sees a Banner Campaign in 2020
Senior captain Madden Cunningham and the Guilford field hockey squad claimed a playoff title for the third-straight season by earning a 5-1 win over Cheshire in the SCC Division A championship game this fall. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier)
Senior captain Hannah Tillier scored 24 goals on her way to being named the SCC Division A Player of the Year on behalf of the Guilford field hockey team. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier)
Maddie Epke had a huge junior season for Guilford by netting 20 goals and solidifying a spot on the All-SCC Division A Team. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier)
Junior Allie Petonito earned All-SCC Division A honors after scoring 14 goals for the Guilford field hockey team this season. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier)
The Guilford field hockey squad was successful on many levels during the 2020 fall campaign. Not only did Guilford win a Southern Connecticut Conference title in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, but the team also finished the season with all 43 players remaining healthy, and that was biggest victory in Head Coach Kitty Palmer’s book.
“This season was a success in so many ways. Most importantly, all 43 players stayed healthy and completed the season,” said Palmer. “All three teams [varsity, JV, and freshman] combined for a 25-2-1-1 record—a very successful fall for the program. The girls were able to have a season with the normal day-to-day ups and downs. The camaraderie they built with their teammates during 2020 was a very positive experience.”
Guilford’s varsity team capped off its season with a 5-1 win against Cheshire in the Nov. 11 championship game of the SCC Division A Tournament at Cheshire High School. With the victory, Guilford avenged its 3-1 loss to the Rams in a regular-season matchup and also claimed an SCC title for the third year in a row. Palmer’s squad finished the season with a record of 12-1-0-1.
“My favorite moment was definitely our last game versus Cheshire,” Palmer said. “To go to Cheshire and win on their turf field for the first time for the Division A SCC championship and play so well and determined—it was so great to see all the girls so happy when the final whistle blew.”
Coach Palmer credited senior captains Madden Cunningham and Hannah Tillier for guiding Guilford in the right direction throughout the season. Palmer added that seniors Janna Ellman, Ella Kagan, Kathryn Amatruda, Izzy Gurnham, Kelly Calistro, and Eve Young also provided solid leadership during a year that featured a ton of uncertainties.
“Certainly, the leadership of Madden Cunningham and Hannah Tillier meant a great deal to the team,” Coach Palmer said. “The other six seniors were all on board to giving their best efforts every day, thus the underclassmen followed suit. Everyone was happy to be playing, and the seniors showed it.”
As the season the progressed, Palmer felt all the COVID-19 safety precautions became a normalized routine for her team. Guilford took the guidelines in stride as the squad met Palmer’s primary goal of staying healthy.
“Our COVID precautions became normal as the girls got into a pattern early on to stay healthy,” said Palmer. “It was never normal to not have fans. We were happy to be allowed parents partway through the season.”
Much of Guilford’s success stemmed from the excellent play of senior goalkeeper Eve Young and fellow goalie Julia McDonald, a junior. The duo combined for five shutouts on the year, while stopping a total of 65 shots and only allowing 13 goals.
On the offensive end of the field, Guilford netted 77 goals on the season, led by 24 goals from Tillier. Junior Maddie Epke scored 20 goals for Guilford, and fellow junior Allie Petonito had 14 goals this year. Tillier earned All-SCC Division A honors and was additionally named the All-SCC Division A Player of the Year. Epke, Petonito, and Young were also selected to the All-SCC Division A Team.
Guilford is set to graduate eight seniors from this year’s club, but Coach Palmer still has great expectations for her program heading into the 2021 campaign.
“We have a lot of talent throughout the program. It will be up to the coaches to put the girls in the right positions to succeed,” Palmer said. “It won’t be easy to replace these 2020 seniors, but I am always hopeful that we can rebuild another successful season.”
During the regular season, Guilford posted a pair of victories versus Daniel Hand (3-1 and 4-1), Sheehan (6-1 and 9-0), Mercy (10-2 and 7-1), and Branford (6-0 and 5-0) to go with a win over Lyman Hall (10-0). Guilford also dropped a 3-1 decision to Cheshire and took a 2-1 overtime loss against Amity in regular-season play, finishing with a record of 9-1-0-1 for the slate.
In the SCC Division A Tournament, 2nd-seeded Guilford earned a 7-0 win versus No. 7 seed Lyman Hall in the first round, defeated No. 3 Hand by a 4-1 score in the semifinals, and then notched a 5-1 triumph over top-seeded Cheshire in the final.
Guilford’s roster includes senior captains Madden Cunningham and Hannah Tillier; fellow seniors Janna Ellman, Ella Kagan, Kathryn Amatruda, Izzy Gurnham, Kelly Calistro, and Eve Young; juniors Caroline Kane, Olivia McDonald, Allie Petonito, Maddie Epke, and Julia McDonald; sophomores Scout Climie, Gigi Meneo, Grace Barlage, MJ Santa Barbara, Ella Clarke, and Delaney Victor; and freshman Payton Root.