Best on the Shoreline!
It's time to nominate your favorites for the 2021 Best on the Shoreline Awards!
Senior captain forward Taylor Stone and the Old Saybrook field hockey team turned in a 7-3-1 overall record this year. Stone earned the Shoreline Conference Player of the Year with 15 goals and seven assists. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/Harbor News | Buy This Photo)
Senior captain forward Kayla Holt claimed All-Shoreline Conference First Team honors this season with eight goals and seven assists to her credit. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/Harbor News | Buy This Photo)
Junior Alexandra Coty was a vital part of the Rams’ midfield this season and kept the ball moving upfield. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/Harbor News | Buy This Photo)
Junior defender Chelsea Heinke is part of a returning defensive core that should put Old Saybrook in a great position for the 2021 season. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/Harbor News | Buy This Photo)
The Old Saybrook field hockey team had a fantastic season even with the COVID-19 pandemic looming over the proceedings. The Rams turned an overall record of 7-3-1 including an appearance against North Branford in the Shoreline Conference Tournament final. Head Coach Nancy Gatta’s squad was led by a capable senior class and several of solid contributors up and down the roster.
Given the abundant challenges all teams experienced in 2020 Coach Gatta was happy with what the Rams were able to accomplish this year.
“I’m very happy with how the season turned out. We were unsure where we would end up when we started practices and cohorting in September, and even getting to our first game in October was a huge milestone,” said Gatta. “To play the whole 10-game season was emotional for all the girls, to fulfill that fall season. They were thrilled to get the games in.”
This year marked Coach Gatta’s third year in her role as head coach and Old Saybrook has steadily improved each season. This year’s senior class played a huge part in the Rams’ success, and Coach Gatta is proud to see how far they’ve come.
“When I first started I could see the talent was there. I knew with some work on their part and guidance on my part, they would be successful their senior year. This was a good class of seniors and it was great these last three years to watch them evolve into amazing young women,” Gatta said. “I’m going to miss them. Every year you lose your seniors. It’s hard to lose that feeling of the team being so cohesive and then next year having to try to rebuild that. Every year is a new challenge.”
The Rams’ senior captains this season were center forward Taylor Stone and left forward Kayla Holt. The captains were also to of the most potent offensive players in the Shoreline this season. Stone earned Shoreline Conference Player of the Year and All-Shoreline Conference First Team honors behind 15 goals and seven assists on the season. Holt also earned First Team recognition with eight goals and seven assists. Coach Gatta knew how integral that pairing was for Old Saybrook.
“We call them peanut butter and jelly. They go together so well. Taylor was a dominating figure on the field. She was an impact player—not just scoring the goals, but making the plays happen. She’s a solid, clean player who’s respectful of officials and the other team,” Gatta said. “Kayla was the playmaker at left wing. She would bring the ball up the left side of the field and get by the fielders to cross it. It was impressive because the strong side of the field is usually the right side and Kayla carried it up stick-side no problem. It’s rare to have a left wing do that consistently. It was a combination of stick handling and speed.”
The Rams had junior Grace Adams playing right wing, and she was an impressive offensive player in her own right. Adams scored eight goals and supplied one assist on the season, and she earned All-Shoreline Conference Second Team honors.
“Grace is one of our great junior class. So next year, we should still have a great team. Grace has really come along since her freshman year,” said Gatta. “She gets to where to be for the passes, and she’s an effective post player. She can hang out in that spot and gets those deflections for goals.”
Old Saybrook had a some solid junior representation in the midfield with Libby Stuart and MacKenna Cooke. Stuart provided three goals and five assists on the year and was recognized with All-Shoreline Conference First team distinction. Cooke earned All-Shoreline Conference Second Team recognition.
“Libby was a support player in the middle. The ball would get through the front line, and she would get the ball up to Taylor, Kayla, or Grace. Her skill set has come a long way since she was a freshman. She’s so able to turn it on offensively or defensively. She has a high IQ, and she sees the plays like a chess match. She knows the position she needs to be in,” Gatta said. “MacKenna came here from Suffield, and we’re very lucky that she came. She’s another dominant player. She took most of our free hits in the field. It was her job to dictate where the ball would go. She has a great feel for the field.”
Other midfielders for Old Saybrook who had great showings this year were junior Alexandra Coty and senior Kristina Alsante.
“Coty was the left midfielder behind Kayla and Taylor. She was a huge reason why those players were successful. She was good a keeping the momentum moving forward and getting the ball to Kayla and Taylor. She should get some good recognition on the field next year,” said Gatta. “Kristina was right midfielder behind Grace. She has worked so hard over the last four years. She’s a quiet player on the field. You don’t notice her, and then all of the sudden she’s there. She would help us change momentum.”
Earning All-Shoreline Honorable mention for Old Saybrook this year was senior left back Kate Heiden. Heiden was often tasked with taking on the cream of the offensive crop of the Shoreline Conference.
“Kate was just one of our most solid defenders on the left side holding down the fort. It was the other team’s strong side, and she played against to top players in the Shoreline,” Gatta said. “She was great clearing balls out, and she was there with the goalie. She had some goal-line saves this year. She was working with our newer defensive players as a senior leader helping them with positioning and keeping them motivated.”
Some of Old Saybrook’s other defenders included junior Chelsea Heinke and sophomore Shelby Dorothy. Coach Gatta saw her defense really develop this year, and most of that unit will be back next season.
“Chelsea’s had been playing forward. She’s tall and fast, but this year we needed a defender. I asked her to play defense, and she’s a coach’s dream. She worked her butt off this year. She loves it and she wants to continue next year. She embraced the defender mindset,” Gatta said. “Shelby was our starting sweeper and played every game except one. She’s really solid back there. She worked well with Kate. She’s so coachable and learns quickly.”
In goal for the Rams this year was sophomore Kate Molesky, and she performed admirably in her first year starting as a varsity keeper.
“Kate had some big shoes to fill after Wendy Bowden,” said Gatta. “This was a good year for her. She got her feet wet with lots of practice time and a lot of games under her belt.”
Next year Coach Gatta expects to see continued success with a solid junior class taking the reins as seniors. There was even varsity talent at the freshman level with Amelia Sigersmith serving a utility role this year.
“We have a good core coming back next year. We just have to fill the void to of Taylor and Kayla at the front. I think we’re going to have to spread it out. We have big expectations,” said Gatta. “I have younger players working and drilling. The offense might be more spread out, which would be nice, too. We’re building a good team next year to go after the North Branfords, Valley Regionals, and Westbrooks of the world. Look out Shoreline.”