BROOKFIELD — They got it done yet again. Newtown High School’s girls’ lacrosse team won its ninth straight South-West Conference title, this time doing so in pull-away fashion despite a season unlike many in the recent past. The second-seeded Nighthawks topped No. 4 Brookfield 13-6 for the SWC Division I championship at chilly-for-May Brookfield High on May 24 to keep the program’s stranglehold on SWC bragging rights at least for another year.
“It feels awesome. Every year it feels just as good — so much pressure year to year, so it feels the same as if it were the first one,” Newtown Coach Maura Fletcher said.
For a while it remained to be seen whether or not the streak would stay intact. Newtown led just 7-5 early in the second half but Meaghan Brophy reeled off three goals in a span of just 44 seconds to help her team seize a 10-5 lead with 20:21 to play. Those were the first of five unanswered NHS goals as they broke the game open under a steady second-half rainfall.
The Bobcats, down just 6-4 at halftime, fell behind 7-4 when Caroline Kingsley extended the NHS lead. Only 12 seconds after the Bobcats got back to within two, Brophy began her solo scoring barrage en route to four goals and the game’s Most Valuable Player honors.
Brophy won several key draws and got some help from her teammates. After her answer goal made it 8-5, Newtown’s Cassie Ekstrom came up with a key ground ball scoop off the ensuing draw and set up Brophy for a 9-5 advantage. Brophy did it all herself off the next draw, getting possession and racing through the Brookfield defense to bury another shot and — for the most part — Brookfield’s chances.
“We started getting the ball more cleanly off the draw circle,” said Fletcher, adding that consistent ball control enabled the team to get into its offensive sets and create opportunities. “I think once they just start playing then they have a lot more fun out there and the ball moves more fluidly and we just start scoring more goals.”
Indeed, the goals kept coming.
With 15:42 left, Erin Kenning, assisted by Kristie VosWinkel (three helpers in the game) made it four unanswered Nighthawk tallies, prompting a Brookfield timeout. Kenning scored again only 38 seconds later and the Bobcats couldn’t recover.
Kenning matched Brophy for game-high honors with four goals in the contest. Kingsley and Julia Trudell both had two, and Tressa Scott added one. Kingsley also had an assist. Newtown goaltender Kyle Dandrea made nine saves.
Brookfield High was designated the host site for the championship and the Bobcats earned the opportunity to play the title game on its home turf by virtue of an upset of top-seeded New Fairfield in the semifinals. The title game was originally scheduled to take place the day before, but heavy rain, thunder, and lightning altered those plans.
Fletcher said her team members were looking forward to an opportunity to avenge a regular-season loss to New Fairfield, the first SWC foe to defeat Newtown since all the way back to ’06 campaign, but noted that Brookfield just got better and better, and better as the season went on. Newtown had defeated Brookfield 14-4 in just the second game of the spring, back in early April.
Newtown never trailed in the pinnacle matchup, although it remained close until Brophy took over. After Trudell opened the scoring less than four minutes into the game, Brookfield needed only 14 seconds to tie it. Goals by Scott and Kenning made it 3-1 Hawks and Brookfield quickly got to within 3-2 at the midpoint of the opening half. Kenning’s free position shot made it 4-2 a couple of minutes later and Kingsley made a nice cut in front to whip home a net-finder for a 5-2 lead with 9:50 to go in the opening half. The Bobcats and Hawks traded goals with Trudell, set up by Kingsley, making it 6-3 with just 55 seconds to play before the break. The Bobcats scored in the final half-minute to make things very interesting at halftime.
The 2013 campaign was not the same old story for Newtown. In addition to New Fairfield ending the run with a 17-16 victory on April 30, it was also a tough year for Newtown — relatively speaking — in terms of wins and losses. Newtown posted a 9-7 overall mark, in part because of the tough out-of-conference schedule, and also perhaps because a large contingent from last year’s squad graduated. But new players stepped up and, at the end of conference play, it the story remains the same.
“It feels really good for our team because we had a pretty different season,” Brophy said. “I love these girls to death. I don’t know what I’d do without them.”
Newtown will now go after a state title. The Nighthawks are the Class L state tourney’s No. 13 seed and will visit No. 4 Greenwich in the first round, on May 28.