AVON – The rivalry between Canton and Avon has been the most competitive in field hockey. Despite Avon’s recent dominance in the series, it is believed to be the only sport where Canton has an edge in the overall series that dates back to 1972.
Avon’s players didn’t forget Canton’s victory in the season opener a year ago. The Warriors prevailed, 1-0, on a penalty stroke, beating the Falcons for the first time since 2007. “This week before the game, the players reminded each other of that fact. They did that on their own,” Avon coach Terri Ziemnicki said. “It’s a serious game.”
Avon came out and took care of business on Thursday improving to 4-0 with a dominating 2-0 decision over Canton. Shelly George scored a pair of goals in the first half for Avon, which owned a 14-1 advantage in shots on goal and a 12-1 advantage in penalty corners. Emily Stross and Hannah Deppe each had assists for Avon.
“We played together well,” Ziemnicki said. “We’re utilizing the strengths we have and working on the things we need to work on. It’s a matter of gaining confidence in ourselves and getting comfortable.”
A year ago, Avon won its third straight NCCC championship and played in the Class M semifinals for the fourth time in five years, losing to Lauralton Hall in overtime.
“I thought we worked hard,” Ziemnicki said. “We were aggressive and we were hungry. They are hungry to please because it’s an opportunity to play. Last year, some of these kids didn’t have the opportunity. This year, it is their turn and they want to prove they can do it.”
Senior Shelly George has five goals in four games including two goals each in wins over Stafford and Canton. Senior Emily Stross has four goals, including two in a 4-0 win over Enfield. George and Rachel Mobye also scored against the Raiders. Sophomore Lauren Jeandell had the game winner in a 1-0 overtime win over Suffield. Rachel Moore and Abbey Hagan have been playing well for the Falcons (4-0, 4-0 NCCC).
Senior goalie Natalie Sawicki has four shutouts on the season and hasn’t allowed a goal yet. “She’s so positive. She is a great kid and sees the light in everything,” Ziemnicki said.
Avon will play Canton again later on October 21. Before then, Avon has challenging games upcoming against Granby on Tuesday at home and again on Oct. 23 in Granby. Avon also has games scheduled at Glastonbury on Oct. 1. Avon will host Hall on Oct. 16 and host Simsbury on Oct. 30 in the regular season finale.
Canton (2-2, 2-1 NCCC) is trying to continue building upon the success they had a year ago. For the first time since 2007, the Warriors were a contender for the league championship. They finished tied for second place with Granby, two points behind Avon.
This year’s team is a work in progress. There are just three seniors – co-captains Allie Higley, Maggie Bidwell and Peyton Jackson – and five juniors, including starting goalie Natalie Nardello. There are just 19 girls in the entire program. Against Avon, the Warriors struggled to move the ball consistently.
“They’re a great group of girls. They work hard,” second-year Canton coach Margaret Bristol said. “They just need to apply their hard work to game situations. We’re strong defensively. Offensively, we still have a little bit of work to do.”
Several years ago, the middle school field hockey program was eliminated due to budget cuts. Not having a junior varsity team isn’t helping the younger players who get their game experience in varsity competition.
“They are determined,” Bristol said. “It hasn’t come out in a game yet but it is there at practice. If we can continue to build their confidence, it will come out.”
Canton started off 2-0 with a 2-0 decision over Somers and a 1-0 win over Stafford. Grace Giancola had two goals against Somers while Jackson had a goal off an assist from Kaelyn Oliver against Stafford. Canton’s Hannah Bonini had the lone goal in the 3-1 loss to Westbrook.
The Warriors have just one game this week. They host Suffield on Tuesday afternoon on the turf. All but one home game are on the new turf field in Canton. The Warriors will play Granby on grass on Oct. 27.
NOTE: Canton leads the all-time series against Avon in field hockey by a 45-34-13 margin. Avon is 11-1-1 in the 12 games with Canton since the 2007 season.
Avon 2, Canton 0
Canton (2-2) 0 0 — 0
Avon (4-0) 2 0 – 2
Goals: Shelly George (A) 2; Assists: Hannah Deppe (A), Emily Stross (A); Saves: Natalie Nardello (C) 10, Natalie Sawicki (A) 2; Shots: Avon, 14-1; Penalty corners: Avon, 12-1