DARIEN — For the second time in as many years, the Hearst Connecticut Media field hockey MVP comes out of the storied Darien program.

A year ago, Georgia Cassidy, now a freshman on the field hockey team at the University of North Carolina, took home the honor.

In 2016 the award goes to Katie Elders, another blue-and-white clad field hockey star.

“It feels great,” Elders said. “…it’s really special to be honored for the hard work. Every day in practice I’m challenged by my teammates and my coaches, so to be recognized is special for me and them.”

While Cassidy won the distinction after a career as a four-year starter, helping the Blue Wave program to three state and FCIAC titles during her time, Elders has done it in just her sophomore season.

To Elders, who led the team in scoring with 10 goals and nine assists during Darien’s run to a a share of the Class L title, age is but a number and easily overcame once on the field.

“Freshman year I was really nervous coming in and I think the seniors did a great job of welcoming me and making me feel like I was one of them,” Elders said. “Once you’re in practice, whatever grade you’re in melts away and the team chemistry is all that matters and that was prevalent in our whole season.”

More Information

Katie Elders File

Darien High School, Sophomore

Two year starter in field hockey and lacrosse

Won field hockey FCIAC title as freshman, lacrosse FCIAC and state titles

Won field hockey state title in 2016

Led team with 10 goals and 9 assists

Verbally commit to play lacrosse at Dartmouth

Elders goal in her remaining years at Darien is to be able to mirror the leadership that she was fortunate enough to play under.

“Being with these girls every day in a whole season has allowed me to develop my leadership skills,” Elders said. “Having the year under my belt on varsity allowed me to focus a little more on leading the team and having a bigger role.”

Darien coach Mo Minicus described Elders as a “speedy little fighter,” and her ability to stretch the field with her legs caused matchup nightmares all year for opponents.

“It’s her speed that sets her apart,” Minicus said. “That’s what makes her such a presence on the field, but it’s also her heart, she doesn’t give up. She’ll do anything for the team, no game she plays is about herself, it’s about the team and it’s what we promote with Darien field hockey.”

The ability of the stars to adapt that team mentality is what has made the Blue Wave program a staple in Connecticut field hockey, and Elders willingness to embody that work ethic has been key in her, and the team’s, development.

“It’s all about passing the ball, working with your teammates, giving your all and doing your best and leaving your all on the field,” Minicus said. “Katie does that every day in practice and certainly during the games.”

Typically, when a player is as developed as Elders it means her time as a high school athlete has come to an end.

Minicus however, has the luxury of an MVP caliber performer that’s just getting started.

“It’s great,” a clearly elated Minicus said. “It’s always nice when you have these underclassmen that blossom and you realize they’re not graduating, and with Katie you’re sitting there like, ‘oh yeah, two more years.’”

aparelli@bcnnew.com @reportedbytheAP