Trumbull field hockey team moving forward

If the Trumbull High field hockey team played all of its games out of conference, it probably would have qualified for the state tournament weeks ago.

The Eagles are now 3-0 against teams outside of the powerful FCIAC. That included a 2-1 victory over Masuk High on the grass at Benedict Field in Monroe on Oct. 13.

Talented sophomore forward Sophia Hopwood scored both goals, including the game-winner in the second minute of the second half to lead Trumbull, which finished with a 17-0 advantage in penalty corners and an 11-3 edge in shots.

Trumbull improved to 6-6 overall with the victory, putting the Eagles one win away from qualifying for the state tournament for the first time since 2008 when they went 7-8-2 with a first-round loss to Mercy of Middletown.

For a program which has won no more than three games in any season since 2008, just getting this close to the states is a major accomplishment.

“We haven’t had six wins in three years put together,” Trumbull head coach Cindy Gallucci said. “Last year we had one win, so for us to even be considered for the states is a huge shift in our program.”

Trumbull had to overcome some adversity to get past Masuk (0-12). The Eagles were missing two starters, which forced a number of players to shift positions, and were also playing its first game of the season on natural grass.

“We might have a few JV games on grass, but we never, ever, ever play on it,” Gallucci said.

The Eagles had six penalty corners in the first half, but produced no shots. Trumbull’s only goal came from Hopwood off a scramble in front of Masuk goalie Rachel McGinnis (6 saves) in the fourth minute.

Masuk tied it one minute later when senior captain Kayla Porricelli beat Trumbull keeper Kourtney Soderholm on a rebound, converting on one of the few scoring chances the Panthers managed in the game.

Soderholm was supported by strong defense by Caroline Forster, Amy Smith and Rory Morrison.

With the officials calling plenty of obstruction fouls, Trumbull’s leading players like Hopwood, senior forward Emily Uus and senior midfielder Avery Collins had a tough time finding space.

The Eagles went into halftime tied 1-1 and thoroughly frustrated. But Trumbull came out in the second half and got the job done quickly.

The Eagles manufactured a penalty corner in the first minute, the first of 11 in the second half. Hopwood sent the initial pass out to Uus at the top of the circle. Uus sent it right back to the left side of the cage and Hopwood deftly tipped a one-time shot past McGinnis for a 2-1 lead.

Other than a few transition runs by the Panthers, the Eagles held continuous pressure for the rest of the game and won easily.

Trumbull had a number of other quality scoring chances behind the play of forwards Cate Micinilio and Caroline Prezioso and midfielder Keara Chapman.

“We told each other at halftime we were not going to walk off this field without getting a win,” Gallucci said. “And they walked out in the first two minutes and did it. That’s the type of team I have. That’s the tenacity and intensity I have with these girls.”

Trumbull has come a long way since last season when it went 1-12-1 overall. But even during that long season, Gallucci saw the makings of a team that was ready to turn the corner.

The Eagles have done just that, posting a number of solid victories, including a 4-0 shutout against Fairfield Ludlowe on Oct. 1.

“We were determined to be competitive and that we were going to turn the program around,” Gallucci said. “We started the legacy last year. My mission when I took over the program was to change the culture. We don’t want this to be the sport people tried out for after they didn’t make anything else. You had to earn a spot. Our direction this season was to meet those goals.”

Even Trumbull’s losses show how much more competitive the team has been within the FCIAC, one of the top conferences in the state.

The Eagles held Staples of Westport scoreless for 45 minutes before falling 2-0. They nearly toppled Greenwich during a 3-2 setback and stayed within 2-1 late in a game against New Canaan before the Rams pulled away for a 4-1 win.

After that game, New Canaan head coach Erin Gildea was quoted as saying her team received an unexpected threat from the Eagles. If Trumbull continues to improve at its current pace, it won’t be sneaking up on anyone in the future.

“Those losses represent huge progress in our game. In an off-handed way, it also motivated us,” Gallucci said. “Our girls have really started to believe and have confidence that they can play with anyone. Trumbull field hockey is on the map, and we’re not going backwards.”