Log In

Reset Password

Defending Champ Girls’ Lacrosse Team Goes For SWC And State Playoff Runs



Text Size

Newtown High School’s girls’ lacrosse team is looking to keep some things the same while adapting to some change during the upcoming spring campaign. To an extent the changes are actually a continuation of sorts.

The Nighthawks, coming off the South-West Conference title in 2023, are striving to get back to the SWC pinnacle. That is always one of the things the Nighthawks, always among the best if not the team to beat in the conference, look to repeat year after year.

At the state level, with a fourth class size added Newtown will move from the Class L to Class LL. That may be different but there stands to be some of the same FCIAC juggernauts in the way of a Connecticut championship.

Then there is the coaching front. Maura Fletcher returns but will be co-head coach along with Steph Suhoza, already very familiar to the team in her role as an assistant coach throughout the years. Suhoza has been Fletcher’s assistant since 2017 when Fletcher returned to the program she built into an SWC powerhouse before stepping down for a couple of years.

“It was time to give her more leeway to learn more than just the x’s and o’s of coaching. There is so much that happens in the offseason and behind the scenes and Steph was just taking a lot more of that responsibility on and it was only right to share the wealth with her,” Fletcher said.

So the Fletcher-Suhoza tandem will continue with equal leadership as they strive to keep up the program’s winning ways. The Hawks are looking to win another SWC title and make some noise in states. “As always, our SWC foes will be New Fairfield, Weston, and Joel Barlow,” Fletcher said.

Class LL features nationally-ranked teams New Canaan (No. 4), Darien (No. 5) and Wilton (No. 14), Fletcher noted; Wilton eliminated NHS in the second round of the Class L bracket a year ago. “We hope to be competitive with these teams and hope to be a sleeper upset in LL, which we can definitely do. On any given day we can beat the best. We just need to bring our best,” Fletcher said.

“We need to stay healthy and develop some of the younger emerging players to achieve these goals. We have work to take all of the puzzle pieces and put them together but we feel confident that we can achieve these goals,” Fletcher added.

Among those pieces are captains: Jules Battaglia, an attack player who earned All Conference accolades last year; Summer Harrell, a midfielder who earned All American recognition and is a Penn State commit; Alexa Manfredonia, the starting goaltender; and Ava Mitchell, attack player who was All Conference.

Newtown has a solid returning defense including Abby Ihlefeld, Moira Murphy, Jenna Lagan (LeMoyne College of DeWitt, N.Y. commit, back from ACL tear), and Kayla Locke.

The midfield is led by UConn commit Brooke Bulkley, a strong defensive midfielder with the potential to be a high scoring asset. Jen Socci, a Central Connecticut commit, is a great utility player — “speedy and crafty,” Fletcher said. Up front, attack player Natalie McLean was a starter as a freshman and has grown into a stronger, faster offensive threat, Fletcher said. Rachael Albrecht is an attack/midfielder with speed the Hawks hope to capitalize on this year. Reese Lischuk and Casey Schnitzler also have potential to be impact players on the field, the coaches believe.

“Attitude and cohesiveness are our strengths right now. The girls seem to really be relying on each other and we don’t have a lot of egos. They need to share that ball and communicate on defense. We have a very strong defensive unit based on strong friendship off the field,” Fletcher said.

One area of question for this strong and experienced lineup is in an ultra-important facet of the game that is crucial for controlling the ball.

“We have work to do on the draw circle. We will be missing our draw specialist, Allie Bradley, who is playing at Kent State (Kent, Ohio). Lacrosse is a game of possession, especially at the high school level where we don’t have a shot clock. Additionally, we have work to develop second-string players to step in and help out when we need it,” Fletcher points out.

“So excited to just get started. Our season is short — fast and furious, so we have to get down to business right away. Good start so far,” Fletcher said during preseason, adding that scrimmages against Wilton and a traditionally strong team Longmeadow, Mass., will help the Hawks to get ready for season opener.

The regular slate got underway with a visit to nonconference foe Conard on April 2; NHS came back for an 11-10 win. The home opener is set for Saturday, April 6, when the Hawks face another out-of-SWC foe, Glastonbury, at Blue & Gold Stadium beginning at noon. Cheshire, Ridgefield, and Fairfield Ludlowe are other nonconference tilts on the slate.

NHS will play in the 15 For Life fundraiser game assisting an organization that supports mental health struggles, when the Hawks entertain Cheshire Friday, April 12 at 6 pm. It is also Newtown Youth Lacrosse Night and the future Hawk hopefuls will scrimmage at halftime.

On Thursday, April 25, when Ridgefield visits at 6 o’clock, the Hawks will host a One Love Foundation game to support this lacrosse-based organization that is raising awareness of domestic violence/unhealthy relationships.

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

Summer Harrell, in action last season, returns to help the Hawks begin their conference title defense. —Bee file photos
Goaltender Alexa Manfredonia made nine saves in the win over Masuk.
Brooke Bulkley makes a pass.
Utility player Jen Socci will look to help the Hawks continue their winning ways.
Comments are open. Be civil.

Leave a Reply