Conard’s field hockey team lost to Granby Wednesday night at Robert McKee Stadium in West Hartford, but throughout the season the field hockey community in West Hartford and beyond has come together in support of a Conard player undergoing treatment for Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Hall’s field hockey team beat E.O. Smith, and will face Conard in the final regular season game next week.
By Ronni Newton
Fourteen seniors walked out onto the field at Conard High School for their last home field hockey game Wednesday night, accompanied by their families, in a tradition that is always bittersweet.
The ceremony was even more touching than usual for team co-captain Ellie Brown and her family, because it was the first game Ellie was able to play this season. Field hockey is Ellie’s passion, but after being diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in July, she has been undergoing treatment at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center and has been sidelined all season. Ellie was cleared to play in time for her senior night game.
Honoring Ellie Brown (additional photos below)
The Conard field hockey team, which has been so supportive of Ellie all season, wore periwinkle blue “Ellie’s Entourage” shirts and matching ribbons in their hair as they warmed up before facing Granby Thursday night.
The game against Granby was also a fundraiser for the Connecticut Children’s Medical Center Oncology Clinic, where Brown is receiving treatment. The usual fee to attend a night game was waived in lieu of collecting donations, and the team also held a bake sale, run by the JV and freshman players, and a total of $1,280 was raised.
On Oct. 2, when Conard played at Glastonbury, their team captain, Hana Lataille, presented Ellie with a beautiful blanket in the Connecticut College colors that was knit by her mom, Gail. Ellie’s mother, Beth Brown, said that Gail Lataille sewed a field hockey charm on the blanket and her idea was that other people could give Ellie charms to be added to the blanket.
When Conard played at Newington High School, the Conard girls wore their Ellie’s Entourage shirts and the Newington girls wore periwinkle bows in their hair in honor of Ellie.
According to Beth Brown, Ellie Brown’s mother, crosstown rival Hall High School also held a “Play for the Cure” tribute game in honor of Ellie on Oct. 18, and raised $800 for Connecticut Children’s Medical Center’s Oncoloogy Clinic through a bake sale. The Hall girls wore purple shirts to honor Ellie, and each player also wrote her a note of encouragement with a charm attached.
On senior night, the Conard girls also wrote notes to Ellie, and presented her with charms.
That’s not the only way that the team, and the field hockey community as a whole, has embraced Ellie. Beth Brown works for William Raveis Real Estate and several weeks ago about 200 people, including two busloads of students – many of whom were field hockey players from Conard as well as from Hall – wore their Ellie’s Entourage shirts as they participated in the William Raveis RideWalk, a fundraiser for the Damon Runyon Foundation, an organization supporting groundbreaking scientists dedicated to finding cures for all types of cancer. To date, Ellie’s Entourage has raised more than $16,000 for cancer research.
“Our family has been incredibly touched by the support we have received as Ellie battles cancer,” Beth said.
Beth is thankful to Conard’s assistant field hockey coach, Leigh Kumpa, for coming up with the “Ellie’s Entourage” name, and to the West Hartford Youth Field Hockey League for subsidizing the shirts, which were created by Dave Austin at Fresh Ink on Park Road.
“We are incredibly grateful to the dedicated, caring nurses and doctors and staff at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center who have been caring for Ellie and we will continue to raise money so that they can continue to offer such incredible care,” Beth also said.
Anyone interested in donating to Connecticut Children’s Medical Center in honor of Ellie can follow this link: give.connecticutchildrens.org/
Conard vs. Granby (see photos below)
The spirit of competition was running high Thursday night, and after the senior day celebration, an all-senior group of starters took the field to face Granby, which came into the contest with a record of 13-1, their only loss coming against Longmeadow (Massachusetts).
Conard held Granby scoreless for more than 25 minutes, when Lauren Roy scored the only goal of the game.
Granby had eight offensive corners in the game. Conard head coach Carlie Dailey noted the strong defensive stop play of right back Grace Kneidel, and goalie Emily McDill, who had 11 saves for the night, including blocking a stroke with 4:15 left in the second half.
“I think it was a very exciting game,” Dailey said. “It was wonderful to have our seniors be honored and celebrated today,” she said, noting how wonderful it was to have Ellie Brown start and play for several minutes of the game, something that the team did not know for sure could happen until the day of the game.
Because there are more seniors (14) than positions on the field (11), not all of the seniors could start. Dailey said that one of the seniors, who is a regular starter, approached her and said she wanted to give someone else the opportunity to start. “It just shows the kind of true sportsmanship and the kind of character that these girls have.”
Dailey said that overall the team played well but she was disappointed with the score. “This was a game that we really wanted to win, we felt like we could win.”
Conard, now 9-5, is currently in 13th place in Class L. They have qualified for the state tournament, but won’t have a home game and may need to have a play-in game before the first round.
“We’re excited to get into states and excited to play, but there are definitely some things we need to work on,” Dailey said.
The final game of the season is against Hall (14-0-1). “It’s going to be exciting, it’s always a good game playing Hall,” said Dailey, who coached the Warriors before she took some time off to have her twin daughters and returned to West Hartford to coach at Conard.
Hall vs. E.O. Smith
Hall played its second-to-last regular season game on Thursday night as well, defeating E.O. Smith 7-1 in Mansfield.
“It was freezing cold and all the girls on the sidelines were shivering. Yet never once did they stop cheering on their teammates,” team manager Valentina Moran reported.
Within the first 12 minutes of play, Hall was up 4-0. Goals were scored by Bridget McGann, Chloe Nordyke (assist by Elizabeth Pillow), and two were scored by Allie Crawford with assists by Lucy Paul and Nordkye.
Moran said that head coach Cat Hanks was constantly subbing in players to keep them warm, and making them run up and down the sidelines every few minutes to keep the blood circulating.
Pillow scored, as did Olivia Birbara, giving Hall a 6-0 lead going into the break.
The team dragged a bit in the second half, as the energy level plummeted along with the temperature. After a Hall player was hit in the ear by a high ball, the team found its momentum
As it got to the second half Hall started to become a bit fatigued. Having a lot of opportunities to shoot on goal. The energy was just hard to grasp with the temperature dropping, it felt as though it was dropping five degrees a minute.
The game started to pick up after a player for Hall was hit by a high ball in the ear. Hall found its momentum again and Birbara scored with an assist from Lauren Sussler.
Gabi Petrone scored E.O. Smith’s goal in the second half.
“Tonight’s game – we came out strong in the first half. I thought we could have done better to play our game second half,” Hanks said.
“Conard will be a great game. I think if we continue to play how we know how, we will be successful. West Hartford has done a great job at supporting field hockey,” said Hanks.
Hall is currently in third place in Class L.
Tuesday night’s game vs. Conard begins at 5:15 at Hall. It will be Hall’s senior night, and the team is hoping for great crowd support.