For straight ten years, Maura Fletcher has not only coached the Newtown High School girls’ lacrosse team to success in the playoffs, but she’s gotten her Nighthawks into the South-West Conference finals every time. Fletcher, whose teams emerged victorious in each of the first nine SWC pinnacle games heading into the most recent title game (Thursday’s scheduled clash with top-seeded Brookfield) decided to make this one her last.
The coach is hanging it up after her team either wins or is eliminated from the Division I state tournament in early June.
“I’m going to miss it a lot, and I’m going to miss the girls,” Fletcher said. “But I’m not going to miss the pressure of it.”
As much as she’d rather do without the pressure, the coach has handled it well as evidenced by the run of success, and what Newtown captain and defender Cassie Ekstrom says.
“She’s very calm and collected,” said Ekstrom, adding that when the Nighthawks fall behind “she knows what to say to calm us down.”
Fletcher says he prefers being the underdog, since that means less of that pressure. The first SWC trophy came when her team wasn’t favored. Joel Barlow of Redding was expected to win, or at least expected to come out on top, and Fletcher recalls the satisfaction of not only winning but seeing her opponents put away championship T-shirts they had made up for an anticipated victory.
Of course, since that first Newtown conference triumph, the Nighthawks have been the perennial favorites pretty much year in and year out as they’ve kept a stranglehold on the SWC trophy.
Winning hasn’t gotten old for Fletcher, and neither has coaching in general. Fletcher has coached 18 years at the high school level.
“Every year is as exciting as the very first year,” she said of being in the postseason. “I still get butterflies in my stomach no matter who we’re playing, where we’re playing.”
Although she is soon to be retired, Fletcher — who decided it’s time to step down, in part, so she can watch her son play — will not completely remove herself from the game.
“I can’t imagine giving up everything,” said Fletcher, who intends to continue to be involved with youth lacrosse and is likely to see the game from a new vantage point — as an official — in the near future.