The graduation of six team members who saw regular playing time last fall hasn’t prevented Tom Czaplinski, coach of the Newtown High School girls’ volleyball team, from maintaining his always-high expectations: To improve upon the previous year’s record and again be in the hunt to win South-West Conference and state titles, if not win one or both of those championships. Pressed into the need to rely on some new faces to step up and play key roles, Newtown has a path to success that certainly doesn’t look like an easy one from the outside. But Czaplinski has high hopes — and confidence in his team.
The loss of seven players to graduation and another two — senior forward Sarah Lynch and senior goalkeeper Alyssa Ruefenacht — to injury, doesn’t prevent Coach Marc Kenny from believing his Newtown High School girls’ soccer team will be back in the mix of teams contending for South-West Conference and state championships this year. Make that the team winning conference and state titles. “My expectations are always the same — SWC and state title,” Kenney said matter-of-factly during a preseason practice at the school’s grass practice fields last week.
The early outlook and scenario are, in many ways, somewhat of a carbon copy of last year’s. Brian Neumeyer, coach of Newtown High School’s boys’ soccer team, is hopeful that the finish is just a little better than it was last fall when the Nighthawks reached the South-West Conference championship game but lost to Brookfield. Newtown begins play this year with a different look — in terms of player personnel and play style — than it had last year. But, one thing that remains the same is the objective of the coach and his team members: To be one of the top four teams in the conference, thus qualifying for the SWC tournament, and contend for a championship.
Zach Gauvin, head coach of Newtown High School’s girls’ swimming and diving team, doesn’t shy away from pushing his teams to raise the bar higher than each previous season’s mark, with more practice laps in the pool, with the hope that the effort will lead to more success in the postseason. Gauvin says, given the good shape his swimmers were in when they came to the first preseason practices, he expects to squad to put in more yardage than ever before. “On paper, it looks like we have a really good team, but we won’t know until we put the work in and put in some miles in the pool,” Gauvin said. “I’m really excited to see what we can do.”
A strong returning group is back in place as the Newtown High School field hockey team strives to build off of last year’s results and perhaps make a run at a South-West Conference championship. The team lost four players to graduation, but retains plenty of talent — including ten seniors — whom Coach Stephanie Paproski hopes can bring the Nighthawks to a title this fall. “I think we’ll go far this year and I think with all the experience we have on the team, especially with the coaching staff, we have so much room to grow,” Paproski said.
It’s not too often that inexperience is the strength of a team. But, in the case of Newtown High School’s girls’ cross country squad, perhaps the most threatening part of the lineup lies in the group’s younger runners, including freshmen, according to Coach Doug Russell. “Our strength is going to be this year’s newcomers,” said Russell, noting that several of athletes in a time trial run last week, as preseason unfolded, were freshmen and sophomores. That’s not to say the upperclassmen won’t play a huge role in whatever success the Nighthawks experience this autumn.
Faced with finding replacements for four of his top seven runners from a year ago, David Foss, coach of the Newtown High School boys’ cross country team, isn’t sure exactly what to expect from his team this year, but views potential for the lineup to make some noise if enough runners emerge at the top of the team’s pack. Newtown went 10-4 last fall and placed fifth in the South-West Conference championship meet, but lost some key contributors to graduation.
Growing up around horses and receiving riding and jumping training from a teacher who couldn’t possibly care any more about her success than any other (the instructor happens to be her mom), Newtown’s Ellie Ferrigno has quickly become an advanced rider for her age. Now 12, Ferrigno is competing against horse lovers who are two, three, four, five — sometimes as many as six — years older than her. And she’s still winning.
Porsche race car drivers Dana Parker and Mike Peira, both of Newtown, put the pedal to the metal and hugged the turns at Lime Rock Park’s race track during the Historic Festival this past weekend. It was a tremendous weekend for both drivers, particularly Peira, who won all four of the 20-minute weekend races in his group of 26 competitors, including Parker, who finished with an also-impressive result, coming in fourth.