What to know about the 2021 CIAC field hockey state tournament


Fallyn Belisle, Valley Regional, G, Sr.: The Warriors have balanced scoring but the key for a deep Class S run will likely come down to defense. The on-field defense is led by Brooke Lavigne, Emily Kateley, Caroline Haskins and Mimi Siegel who help keep the shots on goal at a minimum. But starting goalie Belisle is the player to watch. She has 10 shutouts and has allowed only 10 goals in 18 games.

Maddie Epke, Guilford F, Sr.: Scored twice to lead Guilford to a 3-0 win over Cheshire in the SCC championship game and was named SCC tournament MVP. Also named SCC Player of the Year after leading conference with 33 goals and 18 assists. A big reason Grizzlies are favored to win their third straight Class M title.

Grace Gilman, New Canaan, G, Sr.: Overall, the Rams (No. 1 seed in Class L) have dominated on offense and defense. Gilman has been a key player on the defensive end allowing only five goals in 19 games and leading New Canaan to an 18-1 record. She has produced 13 shutouts and made 58 saves. Committed to play at Lehigh.

Raina Johns, Darien, D, Jr.: Coach Mo Minicus said Johns is the “quarterback of our team who is very strong, skilled and smart.” Johns contributes on offense (14 goals, 11 assists), on defense as the team’s trail player and is crucial on both of the Blue Wave corner units.

Jess Leon, Staples, F, Sr.: Leon, a team captain committed to play at Bucknell, is one of the Wreckers top scorers with 21 goals and 21 assists. Helped lead Staples to a 12-2-1 regular season record. The Wreckers, going for their fifth straight Class L title (pre-pandemic), are 13-3-1 overall after advancing to the FCIAC semifinals.


New Canaan’s special season: It has been one of the most dominating seasons for the Class L top-seeded Rams who are 18-1 with 14 shutouts. They have outscored opponents 99-5. With that said, the postseason momentum took a bit of a hit in their last game when rival Darien handed the Rams a 1-0 double overtime loss in the FCIAC tournament final. New Canaan had beaten Darien 2-1 on Oct. 22. The Rams’ top scorers are Shawna Ferraro (25 goals, three assists), Molly Mitchell (21 goals, 12 assists, committed to play at Colby College) and Polly Parsons-Hills (11 goals, 19 assists, Cornell). The on-field defense is led by Keira Cooney, Rachel Gilio (Denison) and midfielder Zoey Bennett (Johns Hopkins). Grace Gilman is the team’s goalie and is committed to Lehigh.

Class L tough, competitive: While top seed New Canaan is one of the favorites, Class L is deep in talent. No. 6 Staples (13-3-1) is going for its fifth straight Class L title (no state tournament in 2020 due to the pandemic). Staples is led by high-scoring Jess Leon (Bucknell), Lily Harrington (Colby) and Emma Nahon (UPenn). No. 2 Darien (17-2) is deep led on defense by Raina Johns and Maddy Hult, at forward by Ryan Hapgood (28 goals, two assists) and Molly McGuckin (FCIAC tournament MVP) and at midfield by Kaci Benoit (six goals, five assists). No. 4 Cheshire, coming off a 3-0 loss to Guilford in the SCC tournament final, is 15-3-1 and has been tough on both ends of the field with first-year coach Kya O’Donnell. No. 7 Ridgefield will also challenge.

Guilford team to beat in M: Led by 2021 SCC Player of the Year Maddie Epke (33 goals, 18 assists), the top-seeded Grizzlies (18-1) are favored to win their third straight Class M title. They are coming off a 3-0 win over Cheshire in the SCC tournament championship game. In addition to Epke, the Grizzlies are strong front to back led by midfielder Allie Petonito (seven goals, 17 assists), forward Ella Clarke (12 goals, seven assists), defender Scout Climie and goalie Julia McDonald (11 shutouts, 1 goal (penalty shot) allowed in SCC playoffs).

Postseason northern exposure: While the southern part of the state looks strong, there are some northern teams that shouldn’t be overlooked. Third-seeded Hall, 14-0-2 in the regular season, is led by forward Ellie Goldstein (32 goals, nine assists), midfielder Bridget McGann (17 goals, 12 assists) and goalie Addison O’Connell (93 saves this season) in Class L. No. 5 Glastonbury (12-1-2-1) could also have a deep run in Class L, led by forward Molly Harding (14 goals, 17 assists) and midfielder Kaitlyn Welsh (12 goals, 10 assists). Among the top northern teams in Class M are No. 2 Wethersfield (15-1), No. 5 Simsbury (11-4-1) and No. 8 Avon (9-4-2). Wethersfield has balanced scoring led by Logan Lisella, Molly Bowers, Sadie Ruiz, and Sophia Nower. In Class S, Canton (11-5) is the No. 7 seed and No. 8 Granby (11-5) has a long history of postseason success.

Shoreline tough in Class S: Top seed Valley Regional (16-1-1) hopes to get back to its first Class S final since 1993 when it won the title. No. 4 North Branford (14-2-2) hopes to make its seventh appearance in the final with titles in 1980, 1981 (co-champs with Pomperaug), 2006 and 2017. The Warriors have 11 players who have contributed with scoring and assists led by Abby Amara (Shoreline Conference Player of the Year), Lilly Lavigne and Mia Ali. The on-field defense is led by Brooke Lavigne, Emily Kateley, Caroline Haskins at sweeper and Mimi Siegel. Fallyn Belisle is the starting goalkeeper. The Thunderbirds are led by forward Olivia Toto who has multiple hat tricks. Toto scored the game-winning goal in a 2-1 win over Valley Regional in the Shoreline Conference tournament final. The teams are in the same bracket and could meet in the semifinal. Other top challengers in Class S are No. 2 Stonington, No. 3 Thomaston, No. 5 Sacred Heart Academy and No. 8 Granby.


2019 champion: Staples

Favorites: No. 1 New Canaan; No. 2 Darien, No. 6 Staples

Dark horses: No. 3 Hall, No. 4 Cheshire, No. 5 Glastonbury, No. 7 Ridgefield


2019 champion: Guilford

Favorites: No. 1 Guilford

Dark horses: No. 2 Wethersfield, No. 3 Barlow, No. 4 Pomperaug, No. 6 Branford, No. 11 Hand.


2019 champion: Granby

Favorites: No. 1 Valley Regional, No. 4 North Branford

Dark horses: No. 2 Stonington, No. 3 Thomaston, No. 5 Sacred Heart Academy, No. 8 Granby.