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Nonnewaug, Mills - A winning rivalry

POSTED September 23, 2011
BY Rick Wilson
Twitter: @scribewilson

Field Hockey

                                                  Nonnewaug, Mills – A winning rivalry

             They are the rivalry now, two teams with different styles and different coaches that set the tone for the rest of the league while giving opponents neck spasms from consistently looking up in the standings.

            Where Shepaug Valley used to stand for so much of the Berkshire League field hockey action in the 1970s, `80s and `90s under the guidance of Hall of Fame coach Joan Gauthey and Jaye Stuart, is now space occupied by Lewis Mills and Nonnewaug.

            You talk the BL’s best, you talk Spartans from the Harwinton-Burlington way and the Chiefs.  For Mills it has been a decade or so rise under the leadership of Maggie Tieman. Nonnewaug has been in and out of the BL limelight, snaring a state title in the early 1990s, but been around the top often during Kathy Brenner’s 14 years at the helm.

            Mills brought a string of seven straight titles into the 2010 season only to find Nonnewaug to be more than it could handle, dropping 3-0 and 2-1 decisions and relinquishing the BL crown to the Chiefs who were spotless at 16-0.

            The Chiefs were also the only team able to horn in on the Spartans’ seven-year championship party, earning a tie for the crown in 2005.  You want some BL gold you go through these two teams. As for the Spartans and the Chiefs, they know they have to go through one another.

            “It’s always a nice contest, the two teams have such different styles,” said Tieman. “It’s about who can adapt and stop the other.”

            To put it delicately, Nonnewaug is more blue collar and Mills more white collar.

            “Mills has a really nice field and they can teach sweeps and a short passing game,” said Brenner. “The Nonnewaug field is bumpy, although we do have grass this year even if it is crab grass. We have to teach more long ball and chase.”

            Field conditions have produced different styles, but the numbers say both have been effective. Mills, coming off of a 16-3 campaign, has been putting the hurt on opponentsNo in the early going posting wins over Wamogo (6-0), Thomaston (5-1) and Litchfield (4-0).

            Meanwhile the defending champion Chiefs have yet to allow a goal with successive shutouts over Shepaug Valley (6-0), Housatonic (3-0) and Northwestern Regional (3-0).

            While Mills has been getting great play from Katelynn Mudgett with six goals and four assists, Nonnewaug has been calling on players like defenseman Erin Kenny, midfielder Kaitlin Drakeley (3 goals, 1 assist), forward Michelle Cowley (2 goals) and center-mid Alexa Brazauskas (1 goals, 3 assists).

            For Mills the first place thing is ingrained, not taken for granted, but part of what the program has become. Nonnewaug is learning.  Elevating to Mills’ level took time.

            “It was a confidence thing,” said Brenner. “I remember last year when we went up, 1-0 against Mills and Maggie called a timeout. One of my players came over and said, “We just scored a goal on Mills.” It was then we said we can beat Mills.”

            With the title comes the bull’s-eye. But it may be one the Chiefs can handle much better than in the past.

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