AVON, Nov. 2 – This year’s edition of the Avon High field hockey team was seldom satisfied. They were always looking for that next challenge to tackle.
Avon celebrates after beating Granby, 2-1 to win its fifth NCCC field hockey championship. (Photo by Mike Miller)
“This team wants to be challenged. I have to come up with new drills all the time for practice,” said long-time coach Terri Ziemnicki, who completed her 20th season at the helm. “They’re not a team that backs down. They say bring it on. They take on the challenge, get it and it’s ok. Next.”
Avon’s latest achievement was winning sole possession of the NCCC championship for the first time since 2003 and just the second time in Ziemnicki’s tenure that began in 1989. The Falcons, who ended the regular season ranked No. 2 in the state coaches poll, swept Granby with a 2-1 victory thanks to goals from Morgan Collings and sophomore Emily Aricero.
A year ago, Avon had shared the championship with Granby. But this year, Avon beat the defending Class S champions twice – 3-0 in early October on three goals from Collings and a shutout from goalie Julia Plourd and the 2-1 victory in the second-to-last game of the season. Avon hadn’t swept a pair of victories from Granby in 11 years (1998).
“It was nice to win it by ourselves,” Ziemnicki said. “That was a real goal of the girls.”
In the final game of the regular season, Avon (14-1, 11-1 NCCC) handed Glastonbury its first loss of the season in a 3-0 victory. Collings, Arcicero and Jess Portal each had goals. Plourd and her Falcon defenders pitched their 10th shutout in 15 games. “We were focused and fired up,” Ziemnicki said. “It was a challenge.”
Earlier this week, Avon began its quest for a state title in the Class M tournament. The Falcons haven’t won a state title since they won the second of two straight Class S crowns in 1984. They haven’t made the finals since 1998. In their last semifinal appearance in 2007, long-time nemesis Canton eliminated them.
“They want to play and do well,” Ziemnicki said. “They’re not done yet.”
Collings led the team in scoring with 22 goals and 10 assists, including five goals against Suffield, the highest single game achievement in the last 11 years. Aricero had 10 goals and 14 assists while Kelsey Hebert scored 7 goals with 12 assists. Pulling had 7 goals and 7 assists.
“The strength of this year is the ability of each girl and their individual strength,” Ziemnicki said. “They’ve accepted their roles. Certain kids do certain things and this year, it has really come together.”
Plourd is really a field player and Ziemnicki hopes to get her back into the field next year. But this year, the team needed a goalie and Plourd has risen to the challenge. Plourd and the Falcon defense allowed just three goals in 15 games while the offense scored 62.
“We’re really holding true to taking it one day at a time,” Ziemnicki said. “Focus on the moment and the opponent at that moment. When you don’t put out 100 percent and leave it on the field, you won’t win. Don’t take it for granted.”
Other highlights this fall have included a 2-1 win over Simsbury, a rare victory since the Falcons seldom play SHS in the regular season. Collings had both goals. Avon beat Canton twice by a combined score of 8-0 and after losing their one game to Enfield, 2-1, the Falcons ripped off nine straight wins to close out the regular season
NOTES: Avon has qualified for the CIAC tournament each year since it began in 1973. … It’s the second time that Avon has finished the season with just one loss. They were 11-1-4 in 1990. Avon had three regular seasons without a loss – 1981 (10-0-5), 1982 (11-0-4) and 1972 (6-0-4).
Falcons in 2009
15-1, 11-1 NCCC
Sept. 16: Suffield, W 2-0
Sept. 21: Simsbury, W 2-1
Sept. 22: Somers, W 7-1
Sept. 24: Stafford, W 5-0
Sept. 29: Canton, W 4-0
Oct. 1: Enfield, L 1-2
Oct. 6: Granby, W 3-0
Oct. 8: Hall, W 6-1
Oct. 13: Suffield, W 9-0
Oct. 15: Somers, W 8-0
Oct. 20: Stafford, W 3-0
Oct. 22: Canton, W 4-0
Oct. 27: Enfield, W 3-0
Oct. 29: Granby, W 2-1
Oct. 31: Glastonbury, W 3-0