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You Still Can't Kill the Bear - Six years later another title

POSTED November 20, 2019
BY Rick Wilson
Twitter: @scribewilson

               THOMASTON – You can’t kill the Bear even six years later.

               The Thomaston High girls sports program won another title last week. No, no, no, we are not talking about coach Mark Olsen’s girls cross country team which won BL and state titles this fall or coach John Long’s field hockey team which shared the BL crown with Litchfield.

               Not them. We’re talking about the 2013 field hockey Golden Bears. A group coached by Brooke Holway that included players with names like Abby Hurlbert, Morgan Sanson, Nicole Schaffer, Gabrielle Hurlbert, Julia Romaniello, Erin O'Neill, Allison  Snow and Nicole Petruzzi.  You might have heard of them before. Over and over again.

               They did a a little winning during their time. A rather accomplished contingent that went on to author one of the greatest eras in league and state history (2012-2016). A few numbers to jog your memory – four state titles in three different sports, seven title games, a 70 -game BL win streak that covered three sports and 454 days without a loss , winners of 16 out of a possible 28 titles.

               Well, make that 17 out of 28 now. The Bears were declared co-champions with Nonnewaug for the 2013 field hockey season after a meeting of the BL Athletic Directors meeting last week. Yeah, I know, you’re all thinking what the heck is going on here so let me take you through 2013 season scenario and then how the issue even came up six years later.

               Coach Kathy Brenner’s Nonnewaug team was in the midst of a powerful period of domination with four straight titles and had nosed out the Bears the previous season when a late shot by Thomaston had hit the goal post preventing the Bears from a share of the title.

               In the first meeting between the two teams in 2013, Thomaston squeezed out a 1-0 overtime victory over the Chiefs in Woodbury when Allison Snow punched in a rebound of an Abby Hurlbert shot several minutes into extra time.

               The second time around on Oct. 28 in the regular season finale for the two teams Nonnewaug extracted revenge on the Bears’ home field  when Rachel Horrocks converted a penalty shot with 7:56 left in the game for a 1-0 win leaving both teams with 13-1 league marks.

 The belief at the time and for the last six years was that despite the two teams having the same record and having split their two meetings was that Nonnewaug was the winner because under the CIAC point system they received a point for an overtime loss thus giving them one more point than Thomaston.

So what changed?

“After (Thomaston’s) last game with Litchfield (this season)  there were rumors that Litchfield being champions because of goal differential, which has been one of the CIAC’s tie-breaking criteria,” said Thomaston A.D. A.J. Bunel. “I remembered 2013 and called Brooke (former coach Holway) and she said Thomaston had lost because of an OT decision. I said there can’t be co-champs this year and not that year if both teams had the same record.”

 So the discussion got started and what was determined was that there was a misinterpretation of the rule and that the point system was meant to seed teams in the tournament, not to determine league champions. Bunel even called the god-mother of BL field hockey,  former Shepaug coach Jaye Stuart.

“Jaye told me the league has always honored co-champs with teams that have the same record.”

The Athletic Directors also went back to league by-laws which state, “All ties for first will remain as a tie. Co-champions or tri-champions will be declared. There will be no playoffs.”

“League champions have always been based on the records,” confirmed BL Athletic Director Chairman Northwestern Regional’s Fred Williams. “I think the interpretation was that the CIAC used the point system but that was to decide seeding. Our bylaws say if two teams finish with the same record they are declared co-champs.”

Abby Hurlbert now works at ESPN. Morgan Sanson is a senior at Eastern Connecticut State University while Gabrielle Hurlbert is a senior at Western Connecticut. Julia Romaniello is a senior at  UConn and Nicole Schaffer will graduate the University of Hartford in December.

There high school days are long gone. Or so they thought.

“It seems like so long ago,” said Sanson who was a sophomore that season and went on to become the program’s all- time single season and career leader in goals. “It’s nice to receive recognition for our team that year and addr another year on the banner.”

Hurlbert went on to make a few famous foul shots in the spring of 2014 that have an infinite shelf life and had an outstanding basketball career at Southern Connecticut State University. And it never gets old.

“It’s very cool,” she said. “

“Those kids likely felt they deserved it but were denied,” added Bunel. “I don’t know if it makes any difference but it is nice to know they’re receiving the recognition they deserve. It will go up on the banner.”

These Bears told losing to take a hike during their day. But their day seems endless. Long after they walked off the fields and courts of high school and are finishing up college they keep on winning titles.

Six years later you still can’t kill the Bear.

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