MERIDEN — Two years ago, believe it or not, we did not name a Record-Journal Field Hockey Player of the Year at the 2018 “Best of the Bunch” awards brunch.
You better believe we heard about it. And rightly so.
While we haven’t had an area state champion since Cheshire claimed the 2011 Class L crown, field hockey has always been a fine staple of the fall manifest.
Cheshire, home to nine field hockey state champions, is a perennial contender. The Rams reached five state finals in the past decade alone.
Southington, despite not having a youth feeder league, has put together a nice string of postseason appearances behind the best player to ever come through its program, if All-State recognition is any measure.
Even in Wallingford, where winning seasons haven’t been as frequent, we have the two annual rivalry games between Lyman Hall and Sheehan. They’re staged well — prime time, under the lights — and are often the most dramatic contests of the season, such as last fall, when Sheehan twice won 1-0.
Sydney Rossacci scored both goals for the Titans. That helped secure her a spot on the All-Record-Journal Team.
In all, there were 15 girls on that 2019 All-RJ Field Hockey Team. Our three finalists for Player of the Year, naturally, were culled from that group.
No surprise, a Cheshire girl is among them. The Rams have monopolized this category. Goalie Alyssa Stevens was Player of the Year in 2016 and 2017 before moving on to Sacred Heart University. Midfielder Mikayla Crowley got the nod last year before heading to Boston University.
In this sport of penalty corners, will Cheshire continue to corner the R-J market? The Rams certainly have the numbers. They won 11 games in 2019 and featured four All-SCC players, including junior Sophie Vagts, who led the area in goals with 14.
Our finalist from Cheshire is one of the team’s three All-SCC seniors: Kiley Jackson.
A two-year cornerstone for coach Eileen Wilderman, Jackson notched a team-high 15 goals as a junior on Cheshire’s 2018 state runner-up squad. As a senior, she scored nine goals and assisted on four.
Jackson was named All-SCC and All-State in 2019 along with classmate Olivia Salamone. Jackson and another All-SCC Cheshire senior, Megan Daly, are going on to play at Southern Connecticut State.
Our second finalist hails from Wallingford: Sheehan senior forward Kaylee Drobish. The linchpin of coach Katie Gill’s offense, Drobish scored four goals and assisted on seven last fall.
She and the Titans had a nice late-season push. They scored 17 goals in winning four of their last five games to qualify for the Class M state tournament.
Drobish was a two-sport athlete at Sheehan. She’ll continue playing both — field hockey and lacrosse — at Eastern Connecticut State.
Our final nominee is our most checkered: Southington senior Jenna Sheehan.
For a third straight year, Sheehan was All-State. After an Honorable Mention sophomore season, she was First Team as a junior and again as a senior.
With Sheehan in the lineup, coach Erin Luddy and the Lady Knights were able to change their whole approach. They shifted from being a defense-oriented squad to one that pushed the attack.
Sheehan could definitely score. She had 13 goals as a sophomore and 13 more as a junior. At the heart of a more balanced attack in 2019, Sheehan scored seven goals and dished eight assists.
She and teammate Emma Doran were All-Conference and All-Record-Journal for a second straight year.
Hey, we’ve been wall-to-wall field hockey since that “null” year of 2018. The 2020 Record-Journal Field Hockey Player of the Year will be announced on Thursday, June 18 during the airing of the “Best of the Bunch” awards video on Facebook at 6:30 p.m.
Finalists in the various awards categories will be unveiled through June 18. Up next: Boys Cross Country.