Cheshire High School students have experienced a far from ordinary return to school this fall. Along with adjusting to safety protocols brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, they have had to adapt to a combination of in-person classes and remote instruction.
For junior Emily Curtis, those changes extend way beyond the classroom. In moving to Cheshire from Stratford-upon-Avon, a town in the county of Warwickshire in England, this summer, Curtis has made a new home in a place that she didn’t know anything about earlier this year.
“It was very overwhelming,” reflected Curtis, of hearing that her family would be coming to the United States. “We’ve moved a couple of times in England, but it was different to go seven hours around the world.”
Before arriving in Cheshire on July 18, she had to fly from England to Switzerland and then spend another 16 days quarantining in the Dominican Republic.
“England has gone back into lockdown (due to COVID-19). I think we were lucky to get out when we did,” reflected Curtis. “It was still upsetting to leave because I had made connections with people from the last eight years.”
While sad to say goodbye to friends, she feels fortunate to have been able to keep up with her favorite activity in Cheshire. In joining the CHS field hockey program this year, Curtis has become an immediate starter and played a key role in the team’s 6-0 start this year.
“I was never going to give up field hockey,” stated Curtis, who has tallied three goals and four assists for the Rams. “I’m so happy that the high school does it. We practice every day and play two or three games a week.”
She likes how the sport has allowed her to quickly make new friends.
“Everyone is so welcoming. I think field hockey is giving me a good place to start,” said Curtis, who started playing about five years ago. “The sport, in general, is so fun. It is amazing when you have such a great buzz on a team.”
“She is a really good player,” said CHS Head Coach Eileen Wildermann. “She has already made a difference on the team.”
Curtis loves being able to learn from Wildermann, who played field hockey at Quinnipiac University before coming to coach the Rams in 2008.
“She will give you constructive criticism,” said Curtis. “I love playing for her and the school. It is such a nice working environment.”
Curtis also credits seniors co-captains Raegan Bailey and Tarana Eldredge for setting a positive example on the team.
“They are organized,” stated Curtis. “I think my skills will develop so much more now that I’m playing with these skilled players.”
For Curtis, representing her school is a new experience. In England, she played for a club team with many older players.
“I’m used to playing against ladies, so it is nice to be competing against girls my age now,” explained Curtis. “The level of play wasn’t as high quality as it is out here. We hardly practiced or played games.”
She has adjusted to a faster pace of play at CHS and learned new terminology.
“They call it (the shooting area) the circle and we call it the ‘D’ in England,” explained Curtis. “I’m surprised by how well I’ve fit in with the team.”
Curtis appreciates how Wildermann allows players to make decisions on the field.
“Playing in England, sometimes my friends and I didn’t get to have a say in things, being on the younger side, so it is nice playing here and getting to choose who takes (penalty) corners and hits.”
She enjoys working closely with classmate Lauren Houle in the mid-field.
“Lauren is an exceptional hockey player. She is so highly skilled,” said Curtis. “We work well on the field and talk a lot.”
While starting her career as an attack player in England, Curtis feels most comfortable contributing in the mid-field.
“I don’t like staying in one place,” explained Curtis. “I played defense in a couple of games, but I love being (involved) on both ends of the field.”
After being told that she had earned a starting spot at CHS, she had a memorable debut on Oct. 1. Before playing against Branford, Curtis watched 13 of her teammates be recognized on Senior Night.
“It was a privilege to be in their ceremony,” said Curtis. “We didn’t have anything like that in England.”
Not only did Cheshire earn a 3-0 victory, but Curtis also put in the game’s second goal.
“Scoring a goal in my first game created such a buzz for me,” recalled Curtis. “We worked together and everyone was so supportive that night.”
In another highlight last Thursday, Curtis scored on a penalty corner to help CHS win 3-1 over Guilford and end their rival’s 33-game win streak. In the last two years, Guilford has won back-to-back Class M and Southern Connecticut Conference titles.
“It feels amazing to play against skilled players,” said Curtis. “I love being part of this team.”
Last Thursday, Curtis earned three assists in a 7-0 shutout at Lyman Hall. With the pandemic still going on, she is thankful that she has the opportunity to play this fall.
“We are taking the guidelines seriously, such as standing six feet apart and wearing masks,” said Curtis. “We all have self discipline.”
After the fall season is over, Curtis is going to look at honing her skills with a club team. Going into her senior year at CHS, she wants to stay on varsity and continue to jell with teammates.
“As a team, it will be really exciting to see where we will be in another year,” explained Curtis. “My goal is to play in college.”
Back in England, Curtis competed as a track runner and javelin thrower, so, along with improving in field hockey, she wants to see if she can play lacrosse or join the outdoor track and field team next spring.