As tough as it was for the Newtown High School field hockey team to come up a goal short in the state playoff opener on November 4, the season — on the whole — can be looked at as a success for its coach and players. The Nighthawks saw their overall rewarding campaign come to an end in a 1-0 defeat to Westhill of Stamford in the Class L qualifying round at Blue & Gold Stadium.
Newtown posted a 6-6-3-1 (wins, losses, ties, and overtime losses) record to earn the 16 seed among 21 state qualifiers in Class L. They fought hard to the finish against No. 17 Westhill, which dominated in possession time but struggled to score against Newtown’s bend-but-don’t-break defense and goaltending of Casey Demers.
The visiting Vikings broke a scoreless tie early in the second half by putting home a shot off a penalty corner — one of the team’s ten corners in the game.
Newtown was outshot 15-6 as Demers made 14 saves, including a tough one-on-one stop to keep it 1-0 a little more than five minutes after Westhill’s go-ahead goal. That gave the Nighthawks a chance to draw even but the Hawks had a hard time getting the ball deep in Westhill’s end of the field. The few times Newtown knocked on the door the ball was cleared away. A last-second rush and scoring chance was deflected wide, and time ran out on the Hawks, but not without some late suspense.
“It’s a shame it got away from us,” Newtown Coach Stephanie Paproski said.
The Newtown first-year coach noted that the team was almost an entirely new group after graduation claimed most of last year’s roster. She was proud of how the team gelled and managed to not only qualify for states, but also the eight-team South-West Conference Tournament. In the SWC tourney, No. 8 Newtown nearly pulled off a first-round upset of top-seeded and unbeaten Lauralton Hall of Milford but fell 2-1.
“We grew together as a team and as a program,” said Paproski, whose lineup stands to be almost fully intact next fall. Only Erica Thill, Julia Diluofo, Emily Davis, and Catherine Neave will graduate. The good news is that only a small handful of players will have to be replaced, but they will leave big holes to fill.
“It’s going to be sad losing those four very valuable seniors next season,” Paproski said.