New Cheshire High School field hockey head coach Kya O’Donnell admitted to being nervous heading into last Thursday’s opener at Lyman Hall. A 2015 CHS graduate and former three-sport captain for the Rams, O’Donnell was confident in her team’s ability, but knew that she had big shoes to fill in following her mentor.
This year, O’Donnell was hired to succeed Eileen Wildermann, who chose to step down after compiling a 200-43-9-8 record in 13 years as Cheshire head coach.
“Leading up to this game, I had a rush of memories of playing here and competing for Eileen,” reflected O’Donnell, who won three Southern Connecticut Conference titles and a Class L crown with CHS field hockey. “It is so special to come back and coach this program.”
Once the opening whistle sounded, O’Donnell settled in and enjoyed watching her team open with a 7-0 victory.
“It feels awesome to win the first game,” said O’Donnell. “We have been working hard since the season started and we got to see the result of that today.”
Cheshire wasted no time taking control at Lyman Hall, building a 5-0 lead in the first quarter. During the surge, senior Avery DePodesta tallied two goals and an assist and classmate Jenna Kemp contributed a goal and two assists (personal best).
Senior Leah Black and junior Julia Bailey also scored in the opening quarter.
“I thought it was a great start,” said Kemp. “We set the tone for the game. Our forward line has been playing really well together.”
Bailey picked up another goal in the second to put the Rams up 6-0 at halftime. Coming into the game, she hadn’t tallied a varsity point before.
“It was very surprising,” stated Bailey, whose older sister Raegan co-captained last year’s team. “I’m having fun with the girls. We are playing great as a team.”
Cheshire converted once more on a penalty corner with 5:35 left in the opener. Junior Ava Matikowski tipped the ball in front of the cage and Taylor Fitzgerald sent it into the cage.
Fitzgerald and Matikowski secured their first varsity points in the same sequence.
Senior co-captain Lauren Houle and sophomore Ellen Barto added assists in the victory.
“We’ve been trying to find a formation that works for us this year,” said O’Donnell. “It is good to know that we are flexible and can play different ways.”
In her debut, sophomore goalkeeper Ginny Curello was well protected by the Rams defense, but she did need to make a kick save at the end to clinch the opening shutout.
Cheshire is finishing up an eight-day break before they travel to play three-time reigning Southern Connecticut Conference Champion Guilford on Friday at 3:45 p.m.
Last fall, Cheshire snapped Guilford’s 33-game unbeaten streak with a 3-1 win in the regular season, but the Grizzlies earned a 5-1 victory in the SCC Division A final at CHS.
“We are going to go into that game with the same energy. They have a good team and we need to be ready to play,” stated O’Donnell.
On Sept. 21, CHS travels to play Mercy at 3:45 p.m.