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Nighthawk Laxwomen Earn Thrilling Victories



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MONROE — Newtown High School’s girls’ lacrosse team came from behind to hand the host Masuk Panthers their first loss of the spring with a 10-8 victory on May 1, and followed that up with a 10-9 overtime win at New Fairfield two nights later.

The Panthers were 8-0, scoring 19 or more goals six times, and held to a low of 11 in a win over Weston. Trailing 6-4 late in the opening half, the Nighthawks were knocking on the door but had a goal waved off on a violation; Masuk ended up extending its lead with just seven seconds left in the half and carried a 7-4 lead into the intermission.

The Nighthawks had started out strong and built a 3-0 lead before the Panthers seemingly seized control.

“I think they just let up a bit,” Newtown Coach Maura Fletcher said of her players. “We let them take the lead, which took the air out of the ball on our end of the field.

The break between halves gave the visitors a chance to regroup, and that’s exactly what they did.

“It’s always zero-zero at the half,” Fletcher said.

“In the second half we started eliminating our fast breaks because we were throwing the ball away,” the coach added.

Newtown’s deliberate approach on offense helped settle things down, and the defense was stellar for the Hawks.

Erin Phaneuf scored a hat trick, Julia Gerace logged two goals, and Bella Gerace, Izzy Butler, Elena Sughrue, Gia Corso, and Summer Harrell all scored.

Sughrue and Harrell both had a pair of assists. Bella Gerace had six ground balls to lead the Hawks in that category.

Corso got the second half scoring started. After Phaneuf trimmed the deficit to 7-6 with 17:39 left, the Panthers answered less than a half-minute later, but Newtown’s solid D and four-plus minutes of late-game stall ball left the Panthers without a goal in the final 17:10.

Harrell set up Butler to pull the Hawks to within 8-7 with 16:19 to play. Bella Gerace weaved through the defense to knot the score at 8 apiece with 13:56 remaining.

After strong defense by Emma Magazu stopped the Panthers from setting up for a try to regain the lead, Phaneuf found the net again, giving the Hawks their first lead since early on, 9-8 with 10:45 to go.

Sughrue set up Harrell from behind the net area, giving the Hawks some insurance with 9 minutes to play. The Nighthawk defense did the rest.

“Great defensive effort,” Fletcher said.

Defenders Magazu and Shannon Kelleher, as well as midfielders Julia and Bella Gerace were strong in front of goaltender Alexa Manfredi, who made some key saves. Shea Murphy was moved back as Fletcher utilized her speed to help stymie Masuk’s fast legs.

“We’re a really good team. We knew we could beat Masuk,” said Fletcher, adding that she wants to see her team put together the same kind of second half it did against Masuk in both halves of games.

Fletcher’s team knew it could beat a challenging New Fairfield team it lost to by just a goal, 9-8 on April 23. The Hawks had a chance to avenge that defeat in a May 3 visit to the Rebels and came through in extra time when Harrell scored, wrapping up a three-goal effort. Corso and Phaneuf both scored twice, and Julia Gerace, Butler, and Sughrue each added tallies. Harrell also had a trio of assists, Butler had two, and Corso one. Magazu led Newtown with four ground ball scoops.

“Tonight’s game was a battle — back and forth the whole game,” said Fletcher, adding that neither team had a lead greater than two goals.

The game was tied just before the half. Newtown thought it had seized the lead with 30 seconds to play before the intermission, but a goal was disallowed because of an illegal stick due to the rain loosening it, Fletcher said.

“They then got a free possession and went down and scored, which definitely took the wind out of our sails,” Fletcher said. “We did come out hard again in the second half and were very patient with the ball. The NF defense was tough and they rode the ball very well. We just ran through ground balls and had some key defensive stops. It was an effort by everyone on the field as well as support by the sidelines. I am proud of the effort and heart of this team. They really support one another, and we have no heroes.”

The Nighthawks, before those nail-biters, blasted New Milford 17-3 on April 29. Sughrue registered five goals to lead the way, Harrell had three, and Jules Battaglia logged two goals and three assists. Phaneuf and Butler each scored two goals.

Newtown carries a 9-1 mark into a Friday, May 7, home tilt with Pomperaug of Southbury, at 5:30 pm.

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

Elena Sughrue, left, turns the corner on a Masuk defender during Newtown’s come-from-behind 10-8 win on the road, on May 1. —Bee Photos, Hutchison
Emma Magazu, right, moves the ball up the field from her defensive position.
Bella Gerace makes a move toward the goal.
Gia Corso, left, circles around from behind the net and looks to move past a defender.
Erin Phaneuf, right, moves with the ball.
Summer Harrell, right runs with possession against Masuk. Harrell went on to score the overtime winner two days later against New Fairfield.
Izzy Butler makes a pass.
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