Special moment of sportsmanship A thrill for field hockey player Avon

AVON, CT — A freshman field hockey player from Avon High School scored a special goal in a Sept. 27 game against East Catholic, made possible by the selfless sportsmanship of some opposing Eagle players.

Kaylie Murphy, who has autism and had never played field hockey before this season, entered the game in the third quarter with the Falcons holding a 5-0 lead.

“We’ve sent a lot of our players who haven’t had a lot of college playing time,” Avon coach Terri Ziemnicki said. “We thought this would be the time for Kaylie to come in and play with the team.”

Ziemnicki hadn’t told the Eastern Catholic team about Kaylie’s situation, but the visitors got it.

“They saw my players working with her,” Ziemnicki said. “Kaylie was hitting the ball and everyone was cheering her on and then the ball was brought into the circle just in front of the goal. The girls were saying, ‘Kaylie, hit the ball, hit the ball’ so Kaylie hit the ball. the goal, and at that point, the Eastern Catholic keeper moved wide enough for the ball to go in. Everyone on the pitch – both teams – started cheering for Kaylie.

East Catholic goalkeeper Bree Upton, a Vernon junior, said: “We realized it wasn’t about us, it wasn’t about winning or losing. It was was about making the night special for her. We did everything we could to give her the time she deserved. I think it’s an incredible reflection of what we learn in school and our morals as a team Even though it’s not our team, it’s a team person and you have to do what’s right for it.

“Nobody told the goalkeeper to do this, nobody told the players to cheer each other on,” Ziemnicki said. “They did it on their own. The gesture of kindness is unlike anything I’ve seen in my 38 years of training.”

At the end of the match, Ziemnicki praised Upton, telling him, “I saw what you did and you have so much class.”

“When I walked off the field, my mom hugged me and said how proud she was, and she told us how everyone on the sidelines was so excited,” Upton said. “[Kaylie’s] mom was crying and my mom was crying. It was so heartwarming because I got to do something that would have such a big impact on someone, their community and even our community as well.”

Ziemnicki said: “I know Kaylie’s parents were so proud and so excited, and at the end of the game we gave the ball to Kaylie. It was really great to be a part of it.

“These are high school sports, and the bottom line is that this is what high school athletics should be.”

Catherine J. Martinez