Log In

Reset Password

Girls’ Lacrosse Team Finding Its Way Early This Season



Text Size

Newtown High School’s girls’ lacrosse team opened the season with a pair of contests against strong nonconference squads and prevailed in both, following up a come-from-behind 11-10 victory over host Conard of West Hartford on April 2 with a 7-4 win over visiting Glastonbury in an afternoon clash at Blue & Gold Stadium on April 6.

The Nighthawks, defending South-West Conference Champions, may be off to a winning start but they certainly have had to overcome a lot in the early going and the coaches say they have a long way to go.

Against Conard on a rainy and cold day the Hawks had a tough time getting possession on draws and when they did were unable to capitalize in the first half. Conard took advantage of an early yellow card against Newtown and scored three quick goals. Before the Hawks knew it they were in a 9-0 hole at halftime.

“One of our strongest defenders recently had a season-ending injury and we are trying to fill her spot which is a big spot to fill,” said Maura Fletcher, co-head coach along with Steph Suhoza, referring to defensive standout Jenna Lagan. “We are getting girls up to speed but it will be a process and the defense needs some time to trust the unit. We will get there.”

“The whole team has really stepped up” Suhoza said of filling a significant void left by Lagan. “We have attackers coming in, Natalie McLean moved from attack to mid and Jen Socci moved from mid to defense. It has been a whole team effort and they are all working hard everyday to get better.”

The Hawks are also adjusting to a change in rules that coaches certainly can take advantage of from game to game.

“This is the first year we are playing quarters and I really like it. It allows us to get a two-minute rest/time-out between quarters that we have never had before. It also allows us more access to both offense and defense,” said Fletcher, whose teams in the past were limited to only the halftime break in addition to a pair of time-outs to give players a breather and/or work on strategy.

In the opening-day comeback, Brooke Bulkley scored the first goal in the third quarter to make it 9-1 before standout Summer Harrell took over. “A huge relief when that goal was scored. I just knew it was the start of a run. Summer Harrell took control of the game and scored eight straight. That’s why she is a USA Lacrosse All American player,” Fletcher said.

Natalie McLean scored to put the Nighthawks in front 10-9 and the Hawks held the lead with possession with four minutes to go before Conard pressure forced a turnover.

“It was disappointing because we know how to handle pressure — first-game jitters. Conard tied it up and got possession on the next draw. Defense, and (goaltender) Alexa Manfredonia specifically, bailed us out on the defensive end,” said Fletcher, noting that Manfredonia made four huge stops and the defense came up with the loose balls.

“We were able to clear the ball and Natalie McLean was fouled with seconds to go. Calm, cool and collected, she put the ball in the back of the net with no time left on the clock,” Fletcher said of her execution on a free position shot with the game on the line.

As dramatic and exciting of a win as this was, Fletcher would like to see the team improve to a point such a substantial comeback and thrilling finish are not necessary.

“It was an eye-opening opener,” Fletcher said. “Luckily we came out on top, but we have a way to go to beat teams on our schedule. Despite this weather, we have been working hard every day. We will get there. We have high hopes and we have the personnel.”

Newtown made things a bit easier on itself against Glastonbury.

“Our defense performance really held it together and secured the win for us,” Suhoza said.

Yellow cards called against NHS put the Hawks a player down for most of the first half, putting pressure on the defense, but Suhoza noted that the D “responded well in the face of adversity.”

Suhoza pointed out that the attack players also played a key role in Newtown’s defensive success.

“The attack really supported the defense in helping slow the ball down in transition and even resulted in several turnovers. The draw circle had a great day winning more possessions, anchored by Brooke Bulkley. We still look to focus on valuing possession and hitting the back of the net as well as building further upon our defense end,” Suhoza added.

It took a while for Newtown to get the scoring going thanks to a combination of solid Glastonbury defense/goaltending and some near-misses, including a shot attempt that went off the cross bar. Finally, Bulkley gave NHS a 1-0 lead with 2:53 to play in the opening quarter. Harrell added a goal with just 30 seconds left in the opening stanza.

When all was said and done, Manfredonia made five saves. Bulkley netted two goals and a pair of assists, Jules Battaglia scored two goals, Rachael Albrecht had a goal and an assist, Harrell scored and had an assist, McLean also found the back of the net.

The Hawks had their first taste of defeat in their first game against a South-West Conference foe, falling 5-4 to visiting Weston on April 9. Manfredonia came up with nine saves in this defensive battle. Abby Ihlefeld, Mo Murphy, Kayla Locke, and Ella Macey stood out in the back. Newtown struggled with possession, Suhoza said.

Harrell had two goals and an assist, Ava Mitchell scored and had an assist, and Battaglia netted a goal.

“Offensively, we had a tough time against their zone tonight,” Fletcher said after the game. “Something we will work on moving forward. If we don’t win, we learn. On a positive note we really reduced our fouls, we turned over the ball a lot in transition, but unfortunately just couldn’t capitalize.”

The Hawks will be home Friday, April 12, to take on Cheshire at 6 pm. It is also the 15 For Life Foundation game.

Sports Editor Andy Hutchison can be reached at andyh@thebee.com.

Jen Socci, left, and Natalie McLean defend during Newtown’s 7-4 win over Glastonbury on April 6. —Bee Photos, Hutchison
Brooke Bulkley gains control of the ball as Rachael Albrecht (No. 9) looks on.
Summer Harrell takes on a defender.
Goaltender Alexa Manfredonia looks to make a pass as Mo Murphy gets into position.
Natalie McLean races upfield with the ball.
Comments are open. Be civil.

Leave a Reply