With 12 seniors and a stellar regular season record, Southington field hockey wants to make some noise in the state tournament

In the past, if the Southington field hockey team finished .500, it was considered a pretty good year. And twice in the past decade, when the Blue Knights won 10 games, they went to the state tournament and promptly lost in the qualifying round.

This year has been different and the the team hopes it will be different in the postseason as well. With a 2-1 win over Avon Tuesday, Southington finished its regular season with a 13-0-1-2 record. The Blue Knights tied Conard 2-2, they had a 4-3 overtime loss to Simsbury Sept. 13 and a 2-1 overtime loss to Glastonbury last Friday, when Glastonbury scored with 12 seconds left.

“Twelve seconds,” Southington coach Erin Luddy said. “We’ve never beaten Glastonbury. We’ve lost to Glastonbury 10-0 in the past, so 12 seconds was a little bitter.”

Luddy was smiling when she said it. She’s coached this team for 14 years and before that she was the JV coach. Her players all started playing field hockey in their freshman years. There are no feeder programs, no middle school team.

As far as she knew this was the program’s best record. Their best record previous to this year was 1999, when the Blue Knights went 10-2-4, losing to Trumbull in the first round of Class L.

“It’s been fantastic, a little surprising, but at the same time an enjoyable ride,” Luddy said. “They have the confidence they can compete.”

Southington has 12 seniors, including forward Makayla Winegar, who scored twice in the Avon game and leads the team with 15 goals.

“We’ve never been this good,” Winegar said. “It’s really good chemistry with the team right now. We’re all friends, we all hang out.

“Our Senior Night, that was probably our hardest game, against Pomperaug [Southington won 2-0]. We talked with each other and jelled together. Also, Glastonbury, we haven’t even scored on them in a while. Even though we lost in overtime, we stayed with them the entire time.”

Last year, Avon, whose coach Terri Ziemnicki won her 400th career game this season, beat Southington 3-0.

“They play hard,” Ziemnicki said. “They play to win the game. They keep going forward. They don’t give up. There’s a relentlessness about them.”

Many of the girls play other sports like softball and lacrosse. Field hockey is not their primary sport.

“This at first was a pickup [sport], but they realized they’re good at it,” Luddy said. “Last year there were games that were one goal, two goals that could have gone either way and this year we’re winning those, because they have that confidence, so it’s been great.”

The Blue Knights trailed 1-0 in the first half Tuesday but rallied to score twice in the second half. Avon (9-7) had a flurry of penalty corners at the end, but Southington’s defense repelled them.

Last year, the Blue Knights went 7-9-1, the 17th and last seed to get into the Class L tournament. They lost in the qualifying round, 3-1 to Norwalk, the 16th seed. In 2019, they won six games and lost in the play-in game. They won 10 games in 2017 but lost once again in the play-in game. The two years before that, they didn’t make the state tournament.

To play in Class L is difficult, especially as a lower seed, with the FCIAC teams dominating the class the last six years. Southington would make it to the tournament then find itself traveling to Fairfield Warde or Ridgefield and losing. This year, the Blue Knights are ranked third behind perennial FCIAC powers Darien and Wilton in Class L and will get a home game for the first round. The state tournament brackets will be announced Friday.

The last time Southington won in the tournament, it was a play-in game in 2008. The Blue Knights promptly lost in the first round to Pomperaug 3-1.

This season, Southington beat Pomperaug 2-0. That game, the game against Glastonbury, the win over Avon – all of that has given the Southington players the confidence that they can play with higher level teams in the state tournament.

“Our goal is to go as far as we can,” senior midfielder Taylor Foresi said. “After playing Glastonbury, we know we can hang at that level.”

Lori Riley can be reached at lriley@courant.com.