(Golden) Bear sightings in West Hartford

WEST HARTFORD – It wasn’t quite an infestation but there were a fair share of Bears congregating on the University of Saint Joseph’s field hockey field Wednesday morning.

Not those loveable black bears that like to overpower your bird feeders and slug and ravage garbage cans. These were of the brown and gold variety. On one of those it’s too early to go back to school steamy late August days more in tune with beach and sand instead of books and backpacks, familiar faces abounded.

These were Golden Bears or more accurately those with Golden Bear DNA. Four former Thomaston High players carried their pedigree and sticks around the Blue Jays thick turf. Ariana Komonaj, Mckenzie Fairfax and Aurelia Barker for St. Joe’s and Emma Sanson for Eastern Connecticut.  

Not bad representation for the 200-student public school that sits on Route 109. And a pretty good show for a healthy contingent of support from parents, siblings friends who enjoyed the matinee.

Team-wise the fan support was on different pages. Individually? Yeah, no deviation there. Go Thomaston.

For Barker and Sanson, both sophomores, this was a first, new territory. They walked the title trail together during their days at Thomaston. Four Berkshire League field hockey titles, an undefeated season, a state semifinal appearance. It always started there in the fall.

Then came the season with the bigger ball. Sanson, the lefty power train and Barker, the off the shoulder shooter with dig-down defense. Three BL titles and the crown jewel of it all, the 2022 Class S state championship.

They aren’t the first two former teammates to play against one another in college, but it was different. They have shared so much. Seasons and titles, moments that have infinite shelf life. Small-town stuff. Parents that played together.

This was a scrimmage and neither thought too much about it although acutely aware of one another. They didn’t mark one another, they didn’t clobber one another, neither scored, both earned their lunch with solid efforts in the steam.

Both came to the other side of the field to chat with moms and dads and relatives and small-talked with one another. Both took time to let a few pictures be taken. Both smiled broadly. There was a touch of home in the air. Then it was back to their respective campus as the beginning of classes beckoned. Not this week, but soon.

Sanson is going into her second season, coming off a solid freshman campaign in which she scored five goals and had three assists for the 7-11 Warriors. Barker is on a restart.  

Barker attended Wingate University in North Carolina as a freshman and played on a first-year program team that finished 2-15. Deciding she wanted to be closer to home, she transferred to St. Joe’s. Back in familiar surroundings, she is ready to help St. Joe’s continue its rise as the program begins its fourth season.

For one early-season day though it was back to do business with and against some old friends.  Nice to see these Golden Bears back on the field. For Barker and Sanson it was a fleeting moment. On different teams but together again on the same field. It was good stuff.

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