Eagles put down building blocks

The record will show that the Trumbull High field hockey team completed its season on the wrong end of a 5-1 setback against Stamford High on Oct. 24, and finished with a 1-12-2 overall record, including a 0-9-2-2 mark in the FCIAC.

But sometimes, numbers don’t tell the complete story. Sometimes, they do no justice to the truth.

For the 2013 Golden Eagles, the reality was this: The days of getting pushed around like rag dolls by perennial powerhouse programs like Darien and Wilton are over. Thanks to a number of eye-opening efforts, the start of a bright future appears to be right around the corner.

“We are such an evolving team. We have made such great strides, and the potential is tremendous,” said first-year head coach Cindy Gallucci, who said goodbye to her first graduating class on Senior Night at McDougall Stadium.

In doing so, Gallucci saw her team improve in almost every category compared to teams of the past, including shots on goal, goalie saves (thanks to the play of junior Kourtney Soderholm) and most importantly, the number of quality players on the field.

“There’s no doubt we’re going to be a team to be reckoned with,” said Gallucci, who took over as head coach after one season as an assistant. “We’re not a pushover team anymore.”

Trumbull proved that with a 1-1 tie earlier in the week against Norwalk, a team that is always in the mix on the FCIAC and state level.

The Eagles gave playoff-bound Fairfield Ludlowe a huge scare during a 4-3 setback, took Ridgefield into overtime and made New Canaan work hard to pull out a 2-0 victory.

“People come in and expect Trumbull to be an easy win, and we’ve proven people wrong this year,” Gallucci said.

“That’s a great, great building block for next year. It’s not great for the seniors, but it is a great building block, and I’m extremely proud that we are not a pushover team anymore.”

Just a few short years ago, the field hockey team at Trumbull was a landing pad for girls who didn’t make it on the soccer field.

With the creation of a youth program in town four years ago, that is no longer the case. Trumbull has teams at the sixth, seventh and eighth-grade levels. The eighth-grade team is 22 players strong.

More kids playing at a younger age means more seasoned athletes coming into high school.

“That’s a big deal for Trumbull,” said Gallucci, who had to make 12 cuts this season because so many girls tried out for the team.

“Now I have that talent coming in that I haven’t had in the past. It’s not a field hockey town, but it’s becoming a field hockey town.”

But try telling that to seniors like captain Jamie Appelberg, a forward who scored the only goal against Stamford, and midfielder Erin Grady, each of whom played a major role in the development of the team, but will take away nothing but the knowledge that they helped set the foundation for the future.

“It’s a tough thing because these girls are working so hard but they’re not reaping the rewards,” Gallucci said.

“I try to tell them, you guys are the pioneers. You might not feel that right now because you want the wins, but you guys are starting the legacy, and that’s something to be proud of.”

Even the 5-1 setback against the Black Knights was a bit deceiving.

Stamford (3-12-1 overall, 3-9-1 FCIAC) was a team the Eagles probably could have beaten, and they proved that, controlling the flow of play with all of their regular starters in the game.

But since it was Senior Night, Gallucci decided it was more important to give her 13 seniors the playing time they deserved.

Many of them, other than captain Eliza Lynch, Maddy Dehm, Lekha Alaparthi and Juliana Decker, are not regulars in the varsity lineup.

That allowed Stamford to score three goals over the first nine minutes before taking a 4-0 halftime lead.

Senior Jasmine Li and Kelly Niesen had two goals apiece.

The game-plan wasn’t going to get the Eagles a win, but as Gallucci said, “It was the right thing to do.”

Next year, the right thing to do for FCIAC teams will be to take the Eagles seriously. Because times are about to change.