ST. ALBANS — Maddie Hungerford, Meghan Connor, and May Gratton, seniors at BFA St. Albans, have played integral roles on Comet athletic teams over the last three and half years.
The girls all cross paths on the Comet soccer team each fall. Hungerford and Connor both play hockey in the winter, and Connor and Gratton play softball together in the spring.
In just a few weeks, Hungerford and Connor will take the ice for the first game of their final season as Comet hockey players.
Hungerford has been tending goal for BFA since she was a freshman. She has gone on to set two team records. The first, for best save percentage in a season (.974) and the second for best G.A.A in a season (.514), both earned in the 2018-19 season.
Tending goal came to Hungerford in the U10 season. There was no one eager to take the position, so Hungerford volunteered.
“After that season I was hooked,” said Hungerford. “I enjoy being a deciding factor in the games; it’s a challenge, and I like that.”
Looking back over her years at BFA, Hungerford recalled a game against Rutland in her sophomore year when she made 43 saves and the Comets won 1-0.
“I was on edge, and the adrenaline was going! I love those games,” said Hungerford. “It gives me the chance to work hard.”
“We had a lot of older girls on the team that year, and I felt that performance sealed my place on the team,” said Hungerford.
Connor and Hungerford both remembered the Rutland game, but they also recalled a semifinal game against Essex in their freshman year as another highlight.
“We knocked Essex out of the tournament in that game,” said Connor, “and then we beat them in the state championship our sophomore year.”
“The state title games are always fun because the crowd is so loud!” said Connor. “It really feeds our adrenaline!”
Although the Comets fell to Essex last season, the energy of the crowd caused it to be a favorite for both Connor and Hungerford.
“I think the crowd at last year’s state championship game was one of the best we’ve ever had,” said Connor.
Connor’s most memorable game was the Pink Game against Essex last year when she scored the overtime goal for the win.
“The crowd fueled us and the game was so good. After I scored the goal, the bench cleared,” said Connor, smiling.
After that game, Connor enjoyed visiting with her Essex friends.
“They congratulated me and told me they didn’t know how I’d made that shot from the goal line; I told them I didn’t know either,” said Connor, laughing.
Connor and Hungerford play with Essex players on the Vermont Shamrocks and Connor and Gratton play with many rival athletes on the Vermont Rockets softball team.
The addition of travel teams in the offseason has provided many athletes with the opportunity to make friends with people they would never cross paths with otherwise.
“We’re rivals on the field or the ice, but when the game’s done we’re friends again and it’s like nothing ever happened,” said Connor.
“I’ve struck out a lot of my really close friends from other teams, but I’ve also congratulated them when they’ve gotten a nice hit off me,” said Gratton.
Tradition is a big part of playing sports at BFA, but as Connor pointed out, it’s not just about winning.
“Coach Cioffi and Coach Rouleau tell us they are here to watch us become better people, not just better athletes,” said Connor.
The girls have all had opportunities to give back to the community, especially to younger athletes. The hockey teams and the softball teams both help with the youth programs that feed BFA athletics.
“You build relationships with people around here, and that really helps build the programs,” said Hungerford.
Connor recalled being a young player in the SASA system and the impact older players had on her life.
“Practicing with the Comets was something we always looked forward to because we looked up to them,” said Connor, “and we hoped to be Comets ourselves one day.”
Gratton and Connor both helped with the Comet Softball Camp during the spring.
Gratton and Connor celebrated a softball state championship last spring, defeating MVU in a nail biter at Castleton University.
“I felt like I performed the best I had ever in that game,” said Gratton, who pitched the game. “I know my teammates and my coaches were a big part of that. They believed in me.”
The Comet softball team enjoyed a stellar offensive season in 2019, with both team and individual records being broken throughout the season.
“We had so much energy and confidence as a team, on and off the field,” said Gratton. “The baseball team could hear us from the softball field, we were cheering so loudly.”
Gratton and Connor, starters on the softball team, thanked all the players, especially those who didn’t get regular innings, for their positive attitudes.
“They feed us so much energy, and they deserve to be recognized,” said Connor.
The girls each had role models of their own to follow in their families. Connor had three brothers, Hungerford had one brother, and Gratton had one older sister who all graduated from BFA St. Albans.
“I thank my brothers for most of my success,” said Connor. “Growing up I always wanted to be like them because they were very successful. That pushed me to want to be better.”
“Now that I’m the only one playing at BFA, they come to my games after work, and Mark will send me a text on game day when he’s in college,” said Connor. “It’s cool to see how things have changed now that I’m the one playing and they’re watching.”
The girls all agreed that having their families present at sporting events means a lot.
“I give my dad signals from the ice,” said Hungerford, smiling.
“Each face off I look up and find my brothers and my parents,” said Connor. “They give me a little smile and a boost.”
“Mark surprised me at the softball state championship game and at Powder Puff,” said Connor. “I could hear him yelling from the stands!”
After winning the state championship, Hungerford and her brother Owen shared their winning stories.
Gratton is the only one of the three to play a varsity sport with a sibling. Her older sister, Autumn, graduated in 2019.
“I’ve played with Autumn my whole life,” said May. “She was a good leader and had great energy. She was a big part of our team.”
Regardless of the team they are on, all three girls had one thing in common from their time at BFA: a deep respect for the athletic director, Dan Marlow.
“He’s constantly giving recognition to anyone in the school, not just athletes,” said Hungerford.
“He’s always there to congratulate us after a good game or to encourage us if we lose,” said Connor, “and he’ll drop anything if you need to talk to him.”
Hungerford and Connor also appreciated Linda Marlow, Dan’s wife.
“She was with us at the Town School and she’s always at our high school games,” said Connor, “so we’ve had someone from the Marlow family in our lives since we were five.”
Gratton, who came to BFA in her sophomore year, felt Dan Marlow’s welcoming presence immediately.
“He gave me a tour of the school and helped me get comfortable,” said Gratton. “I didn’t know anyone, and he was my go-to person.”
The girls also wanted to remember Bob Ashton, a devoted BFA fan, teacher, former athletic director, and coach, who passed away in the spring of 2019.
“Bob Ashton was always at our hockey games,” said Connor. “That shows the tradition that people feel here and the support our teachers and our community give to us.”