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Newtown High Golf Team Finishes A Surprising Second At SWC Tournament



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Newtown High Golf Team Finishes A Surprising Second At SWC Tournament

By Kim J. Harmon

Don’t bother looking for a reason for why things happen the way they do; it may never be found.

It must simply be the fickle winds of fate which caused an inconsistent Newtown High School golf team to shoot lights out and grab second place at the South-West Conference tournament; the girls’ lacrosse team to suddenly falter in a dominating performance and lose its grip on a three-goal lead; the softball team to somehow survive a one-out, bases-loaded situation in the bottom of the seventh inning only to win in the eighth; and Tara Ryan to lose only two tennis matches all year to the same player and then come up against that same player in the semifinals of the South-West Conference individual tournament.

Yes, the fickle winds of fate.

Golf –

For three years, the baseball diamond was where he did his work.

But this year it was the golf course and it couldn’t have worked out better for the Newtown High School golf team.

Senior Ron Shimko, in just his first competitive golf season, fired a 8-over par 79 on Wednesday morning and finished second overall in the South-West Conference tournament at Ridgewood Country Club in Danbury.

That 79, coupled with the 83 turned in by Ben Moore, the 87 turned in by dave McLaughlin, and the 93 turned in by Andrew Fiscella enabled to Nighthawks to capture a surprising second-place team finish ... just six strokes shy of Weston.

“My goal was at least to beat all the teams that beat us this year,” said head coach Jen Huettner. “I was hoping to do just as well as we did last year – fourth. But this is awesome.”

The ‘Hawks finished seven strokes ahead of Joel Barlow and 10 strokes ahead of a Pomperaug team which lost just one match all season.

And that was to Newtown.

On Wednesday, Shimko was a trifle sluggish on the front nine, but parred the seventh, birdied the eighth and parred the ninth to make the turn at 6-over.

On the back side, the senior co-captain sharpened his blades and carded five pars and a birdie to finish one shot off medallist Chris Kim of Joel Barlow.

“I was happy to make that birdie on my last hole to break 80,” said Shimko. “But I’m still thinking about a couple of putts that I left out there.”

He had a pretty good regular season for the ‘Hawks, but he had his ups and downs like the rest of the guys.

“(Today) I was hoping to shoot better than I had all year,” said Shimko. “I had some good, but I had some tough rounds, too, and playing well today helped make up for that.”

Shimko had never played at Ridgewood and took in a round on Tuesday to get a look at the course.

“We got a sense of how fast the greens were and found out we had to be below the hole,” he said. “It helped out a lot.”

The ‘Hawks – who notched a forfeit win over Stratford on Tuesday – finished 9-4 overall, second to Pomperaug in the Colonial Division.

The 12-over par 83 carded by Moore earned the senior co-captain – who also took a spot on the All-Colonial Division Team – a sixth-place ribbon. Moore had seven pars and a birdie at Ridgewood.

Girls’ Lacrosse –

It was what a South-West Conference championship game should have been like. It just didn’t end the way the Newtown High School girls’ lacrosse team would have preferred.

The Lady Nighthawks – who surprised themselves more than a little by improving from 7-9 in 2003 to 13-3 in 2004 – allowed a three-goal lead to slip through their fingers in the final 15 minutes, allowing Joel Barlow to capture the SWC title with a 13-12 win last week in Monroe.

A goal by Rachel Maley with 15:32 remaining in the second half gave the Lady Nighthawks an 11-8 lead, but a few bad passes and some shaky midfield defense gave the Lady Falcons the opportunity to rally on goals at the 12:01, 11:43, 8:40 and 7:48 marks. Maley’s second goal at 7:11 tied the game at 12-12, but the Lady Falcons went ahead for good at 6:04 when Elizabeth Wayne slipped her fourth goal past Newtown goaltender Kerrie Canavan.

The loss dropped the ‘Hawks to 12-4 on the year and denied head coach Sara Strait the opportunity to earn her second SWC championship. Back in 2001, the ‘Hawks captured the first SWC championship ever with a thrilling win over New Milford.

Last week, Joel Barlow took a 1-0 lead just 19 seconds into the game on a goal by Emily Ripley, but the ‘Hawks answered back just 21 seconds later on a goal by Moira Collier. A few minutes later, Meg Regnery ricocheted a shot off Barlow goaltender Sheela Dandapani’s shoulder to give the ‘Hawks a 2-1 lead. Just 16 seconds later, Regnery – who spun off her defender and then took advantage when that defender fell – scored her second goal of the game to put the ‘Hawks ahead, 3-1.

Ashley Scavo, the SWC tournament MVP, notched the first of her four goals to inch the Lady Falcons to within one, but Regnery scored two more goals and assisted on one by Heidi Ekstrom to stake the ‘Hawks to a 6-2 lead. On the last, Casey Frobey alertly scooped a dropped ball by Barlow’s Dandapani and passed off to Regnery, who took a shot, scooped the rebound, and fired back for the goal.

With their last four goals coming in the space of just six minutes, the ‘Hawks were on the verge of blowing the game wide open. But the ‘Hawks had inexplicable problems maintaining possession of the ball and allowed the Lady Falcons to scored four unanswered goals in less than four minutes to tie the game 6-6.

Ekstrom scored her second goal, however, to give the ‘Hawks a 7-6 lead at the half.

Although Joel Barlow tied the game just 12 seconds into the second half, a couple of goals by Kate Fenton and one each by Ekstrom and Maley gave the ‘Hawks an 11-8 lead. On that 11th goal, Maley scooped a ground ball in the middle and raced all the way down the field for the goal.

Once again, though, the momentum shifted. Shannon Eaker got the Lady Falcons going with back-to-back goals at 12:01 and 11:43. Wayne’s third goal at 8:40 tied the score at 11-11 and Brittany Butler’s first goal gave the Lady Falcons their first lead since very early in the game.

Less than 40 seconds later, Maley took a ball across the crease, offered a little fake, and then fired a high shot under the cross bar to tie the score at 12-12. But about a minute later, the Lady Falcons made the final lead change of the game with Wayne’s fourth goal.

The CIAC Division I state tournament opens on Friday with playdowns, with the first round to commence on Saturday. Pairings had not been announced at press time.

Newtown                        12

Joel Barlow                    13

GOALS: Newtown – Meg Regnery 4, Heidi Ekstrom 3, Rachel Maley 2, Kate Fenton 2, Moira Collier; Joel Barlow – Elizabeth Wayne 4, Ashley Scavo 4, Shannon Eaker 2, Emily Ripley 2, Brittany Butler. ASSISTS: Newtown – Regnery; Joel Barlow – Scavo 2. SAVES: Newtown – Kerrie Canavan 14; Joel Barlow – Sheela Dandapani 16.

Softball –

Oh no, here we go again.

That was the sentiment sifting through the collective consciousness of the Newtown High School softball team in its CIAC Class L first round state tournament game with Naugatuck on Tuesday afternoon. The Lady Nighthawks are not unfamiliar with losing winnable games in unusual or disappointing fashion and it looked like it was happening all over again when Veronica Areias of Naugatuck ripped a one-out triple in the bottom of the seventh of a 0-0 tie.

It was the only ball hit with any authority off Newtown pitcher Lisa Morgan all day.

“I said to Stacey Gordon (as the team quickly huddled on the mound to review strategy), ‘this always happens to us’,” said Newtown leftfielder Meg LaFlamme. “But I thought there was no way we were going to let this happen again.”

And in an amazing display of fortitude, the ‘Hawks escaped the bottom of the seventh without allowing the run to score – which allowed LaFlamme a chance to drill a run-scoring single in the top of the eighth and Christina Wolf to add a run-scoring double to lift Newtown to the improbable 2-0 win.

“I really haven’t been hitting the ball the way I would have liked,” said LaFlamme, “and it was nice to get a hit like that. I thought we should have hit (Christine Wieter) better than we did, but we were looking at a lot of third strikes.”

Neither team did much damage at the plate. In the bottom of the second, the Lady Greyhounds put runners on second and third before Morgan closed out the frame with a strikeout. In the top of the fourth, two consecutive errors put Wolf on third and Erin Murdoch on second with just one out but back-to-back strikeouts prevented the ‘Hawks from sending a run home. And in the bottom of the fifth, a leadoff walk, sacrifice and infield groundout put a Naugatuck runner at third but catcher Annie Grills made a strong play on bunt to close out the frame.

Things really got going in the seventh, though.

With two outs in the top of the seventh, Emily Blewett beat out an infield single and then stole second to get herself in scoring position. Grills then bounced a single between second and first, but Blewett was gunned down at the plate to end the threat.

In the bottom of the seventh, Morgan fanned the first batter before allowing the triple to Areias. A walk and a fielder’s choice bunt (on which Morgan elected to look the runner back to third) loaded the bases. But Morgan, who put together another masterful performance, struck out the next two batters to end that threat.

The ‘Hawks were not about to waste the opportunity. In the top of the eighth, Gordon singled, advanced to second on a sacrifice by Trina Ramsdell, and scored on a sharp single by LaFlamme. After LaFlamme advanced to second on the throw home, Wolf followed with a double to score LaFlamme with an insurance run.

Not that it was necessary. Morgan walked the first batter she faced in the bottom of the eighth, but she struck out the next batter, nailed the runner at second on a fielder’s choice grounder, and induced the last batter to bounce back to the box for the final out of the game.

That kind of game never seemed to go the way of the Nighthawks.

Finally, one did.

And what was the reward (if it can be called that) for the Nighthawks’ first-round victory? How about a trip to Southington on Wednesday (after press time) to face a team that hasn’t lost a game or allowed a run all season? Ouch.

                                       R    H    E

Newtown                    2     6    0

Naugatuck                 0     3    2

Batteries: Newtown – Lisa Morgan and Annie Grills; Naugatuck – Christine Wieter and Lauren Verab. WP: Morgan (12-7). LP: Wieter (15-7). SO: Newtown – Morgan 13; Naugatuck – Wieter 10. BB: Newtown – Morgan 4; Naugatuck – Wieter 1. Extra bases: Newtown – Christina Wolf (2B); Naugatuck – Veronica Areias (3B).


Girls Tennis –

Lauren Nemeth and Tara Ryan are expected to be the top two players on the Newtown High School girls’ tennis team in 2005, but with their performances at the South-West Conference tournament last week people are already starting to talk about them.

Nemeth (second singles) was seeded 19th and Ryan (third singles) was seeded 28th at the SWC individual tournament, but both girls managed to advance to the semifinals and secured for themselves a couple of spots on the All-SWC team.

Nemeth began her journey with a win over No. 14 seed Angelina Violante of Stratford and followed with an unexpected 6-4, 6-4 win over No. 3 seed Briana Quandazzi of Bethel, who lost just one match all season.

“This was a tremendous upset for Lauren after long hard fought points and many games getting to frequent deuces,” said head coach Jean Kunkel. “She then had to face the No. 3 player from Barlow, who would be a No. 1 or No. 2 on almost any other team. Lauren was exhausted and feeling sick but she never gave in and persevered to win in three close sets. These girls were well matched with long, difficult points and exciting saves and put aways on both sides of the court.”

The win put Nemeth in the semifinals against No. 2 seed Lauren MacKay of Immaculate and although she gave it a good fight, Nemeth fell.

“I have huge expectations for Lauren Nemeth next year and she is an SWC coaches’ favorite now,” said coach Kunkel. “I had so many coaches come up to me and complement her game and predict that she will be a top contender next year.”

Ryan had an equally tough draw, beginning her journey with a win over No. 5 seed Christine Strait of Brookfield. Strait lost only four matches all season, all of those to the top four seeds in the individual tournament, but Ryan grabbed the win.

“Tara was masterful as she patiently awaited her opportunities to outlast her opponent or place a devastating backhand approach shot to win the point,” said coach Kunkel.

With the winds of controversy swirling on another court, Ryan managed to catch a break in the next round. She should have faced No. 3 seed Perris Richter of Weston, but Richter lost to Katie Fuller of Immaculate (and of Newtown) in a match that had long points and controversy regarding Richter’s serving motion. Ryan then easily defeated Fuller to advance to the semifinals.

But that is where the run came to an end. Ryan lost just two matches all year, both of those to No. 1 seed Lauren Holzberg of Weston and that’s whom her semifinal opponent turned out to be.

“It was a learning experience for Tara,” said coach Kunkel, “but she took her lesson with grace and good humor.”

Newtown’s No. 1 doubles duo of Jill Tanner and Kim Allen fell to Katilynn Cates and Caitlyn Walker of Pomperaug in the Round of 16 in an exciting three-set match. Although Tanner/Allen secured a regular season win over Cates/Walker, a bout with tendonitis hampered Tanner by taking some power off her groundstrokes.

In other tournament action, Newtown’s first singles player Brittany Meier opened the tournament with a win despite falling ill with a virus.

Brittany was such an important part of our team this year that I was disappointed for her bad luck,” said coach Kunkel. “She was a wonderful captain and leader with Kim Allen and set a very high standard of sportsmanship playing in the always challenging roster spot of No. 1 singles. I shall really miss my two captains.”

And the No. 2 doubles duo of Ashley Gabor and Emily Fields won their SWC qualifying match against the duo from Bunnell and actually gave the No. 1 tournament seed from Joel Barlow a bit of scare before falling 8-5 in an eight-game pro set. That duo registered the only win for Newtown in a 6-1 loss to Westhill in the qualifying round of the CIAC Class L state tournament.

“I’ve been very impressed with these girls,” said coach Kunkel. “They have taken their games to a new level.”

The CIAC state individual tournament opens this weekend at Yale University in New Haven.

Boys Tennis –

The South-West Conference individual tennis tournament was run under a new format this season and the new format worked just fine for Jason Garbarino.

The No. 2 singles player for the Newtown High School boys’ tennis team, Garbarino defeated Frank Poniatowski of Bunnell 6-2, 3-6, 6-2 to reach the quarterfinals and clinch a spot on the All-SWC team. Poniatowski is the Bulldogs’ No. 1 singles player.

“It was a plucky, convincing performance on Jason’s part,” said Newtown head coach Marty Margulies, “and he accomplished it by lobbing effectively, hitting approach shots to the corners and, above all, being more patient than his harder-hitting opponent.”

Garbarino fell 6-1, 6-1 in the quarterfinals, though, to Elie Bilmes, the No. 1 singles player for Pomperaug High School.

“Although Bilmes is an outstanding player, he did not have an easy match of it,” said Margulies. “Many of the games went to deuce, even multiple deuces, and Jason – hitting out this time – won some outstanding individual points that had even his opponent applauding him.”

The CIAC Class L state tournament will open on Saturday, June 5. Because of their record, the ‘Hawks will be sending a full complement – four singles players and three doubles teams – to the tournament.

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