STONINGTON — First there was a ceremony, then there was a party.
After Stonington High held a pre-game ceremony to commemorate the first scholastic game played on the new $1 million Donald Palmer Field turf complex Sept. 11, the Bears’ field hockey team continued the festive atmosphere to the tune of a 12-0 victory against Windham in an ECC season opener for both.
The Bears, the defending ECC champs and Class S state tournament finalist, scored 11 first-half goals against the over-matched Whippets and proceeded to play keep-away with passes to each other in an attempt to exercise score management in the second half.
Among the scoring barrage, Libby Morrison, Tia Lafrance Boyce, Molly Crowley, Casey Williams and Abby Blanchard scored two goals apiece.
Mackenzie Mahar scored with an assist from Emma Genovesi with 16 seconds left in the game for Stonington’s only second-half goal. Dreher, Celeste Courtney and Crowley contributed assists as the Bears produced seven unassisted goals.
Of significance in the scoring onslaught, Morrison tied Kathryn Tabor’s school record of 25 career assists with an assist on Meagan Dreher’s goal to make it 3-0. A senior, Morrison broke Tabor’s school record for career goals last season. Morrison now holds the record of 55 career goals, needing one more assist to hold the assist record outright. Tabor, who played at UConn, was a Stonington standout from 1992 to 1995.
For Stonington coach Jenna Tucchio, the ceremony and Morrison’s milestone made for a memorable night in an otherwise one-sided game.
“There was a ribbon-cutting ceremony with all the teams who will use the field there in attendance,” Tucchio said. “It was a nice night. This field is definitely going to be a fun place to play.”
Tucchio admitted the turf field could contribute to more blowouts of weak opponents.
“A thick grass field is somewhat of an equalizer of talent,” Tucchio said. “The game is much faster on the turf. You can really see the separation of talent level more than on a grass field.”
Stonington outshot Windham, 32-0. Bear goalies Annie Knizeski and Cameron Dreher were not called upon to make any saves.
Offensively, Stonington scored 43 seconds into the game on LaFrance Boyce’s first score. The Bears ran up seven goals in the first 12 minutes. Gabrielle Lambert made 20 saves for Windham, which won just one game in the last two seasons.
LEDYARD — Nic Rosa connected on a penalty kick late in the first half snapping a 1-1 tie and the Bears made the lead hold up for the remaining 43 minutes and 11 seconds of Sept. 11’s season opener.
The penalty kick was called when a Stonington player, not Rosa, was pushed from behind in the box, Stonington coach Paul deCastro said.
Ledyard took a 1-0 lead 16:06 into the first half on an unassisted goal by Caile Johnson.
The Bears tied the score a little more than 5 minutes later on a goal by sophomore Chandler Ray. Chris Tsang, another sophomore, was credited with an assist.
“We had the ball pretty far out. Tsang made a pass to Ray and he ripped a shot from probably 25 to 39 yards out,” deCastro said.
“We kind of got lucky because right when he struck it it deflected off a defender and dipped down making it an even more difficult shot to save.
“We started off pretty poorly, we were a little flat. Our strongest part was the last 20 to 25 minutes of the half when we scored those goals,” deCastro said.
“At halftime we talked about really needing to defend well, about our shape in the back, and cleaning things up. They definitely put some pressure on us in the first 10 minutes of the second half but we sustained it. Then in the last 15-20 minutes we actually had some good chances to make it 3-1.”
Ledyard had 12 shots and seven corner kicks. Stonington had 10 shots and one corner.
Steven Zelepos made seven saves for the Bears. Jake Skilered made one for the Colonels.
deCastro said defender Ian Kilcoyne improved as the game went on and freshman Harrison Graham played well on defense. Graham had to move from the outside to the middle in the second half because Jonah Roberts hurt his knee and was real solid.
Ledyard had a strong team last year, going 8-3 in the ECC-Medium and 13-3 overall in the regular season. The Colonels were moved up to the Large for the this season and next.
“They lost a big class of seniors including several players who moved on to play in college, but I think we’re definitely making improvements and have gotten better,” deCastro said.