GHS Lacrosse Senior Captains (l-r) Mary Norman, Leah Suydam, Bella Acosta, Joelle Solecki, and Sam Forrest
Joelle Solecki perfectly described the current group of seniors playing on the GHS girls lacrosse team.
“We’re lovable with each other and crazy at the same time,” said a smiling Solecki, who is one of five seniors on the roster, “There’s times when we can act like best friends and sisters and if one of us is down, we’ll pick each other up, but we can also be crazy. We love singing, we love dancing.”
It’s a unique class that, despite the cancellation of the 2020 lacrosse season, has plenty of varsity experience.
Mary Norman, Bella Acosta, and Sam Forrest each earned All-Conference as sophomores following a successful 2019 season.
The three, along with Solecki and Leah Suydam, were named captains prior to the start of the 2021 spring season.
“They went from being sophomores, where you have a voice but not the loudest voice, and you really start to develop that voice as a junior, and to miss that year was tragic. It’s unprecedented,” said head coach Kris Cofiell, who added that all five seniors were worthy of the captain’s title.
“I thought it was important to have that number because there are so many young players of the field. They are excited to be here, they’re happy to be playing the sport they love. There is a sisterhood there, they want to develop that team chemistry and it’s on their shoulders.”
Acosta said the seniors were surprised when the longtime coach labeled them all captains from day one, “We were told the day of tryouts. We’ve been really good with communicating to the other girls and making it work.”
Following a 14-6 loss to perennial powerhouse Guilford in the season opener, the team flipped the script by defeating Avon 22-3 last Tuesday.
Acosta scored four goals and dished out five assists in the win.
“The loss made us realize that we have a lot of work to do, and I think that we put out effort in this game,” said Acosta.
Forrest and junior attacker Christina Guanci each added four goals in the convincing victory.
“I think we played better as a team,” Forrest said following the win, “I think there are things we can improve on, but I think we’re starting to think more as one and not just individual players.”
Cofiell praised Guanci for meshing with the seniors, “She was a freshman on varsity and now she’s been a quarterback out there. She’s a great voice, a calming voice out there, and she’s been scoring in hard times.”
In her 20+ years on the sidelines, Cofiell has consistently stressed defense and this spring junior goalie Bridget Clarke is protecting the backend.
“Bridget is a kid that we took as a freshman, who had never picked up a lacrosse stick before, and she wanted to play goalie. She’s a naturally athletic kid and she played some as a freshman, but the strides she made coming back this year have been ridiculous,” stated Cofiell, “She’s vocal and she’s making some mature choices. I can’t say how proud I am of her. She was shy little Bridget and now she has that confidence.”
Suydam, who is captaining the defense, heads the unit in front of Clarke.
“We’re definitely learning from our mistakes. Guilford was a great wakeup call and we’re pushing through and learning every day,” said Suydam, who shined defensively and scored a goal against Avon.
Suydam added that the seniors helped one another during the turbulence of the past 12 months, “We complement each other, and I wouldn’t want anyone else to be my fellow captains. It’s just really good to lead the team with such a crew.”
Norman, who is currently recovering from offseason surgery, is hoping to get back of the field before season ends. For now, she is mentoring the younger players, and Cofiell called her a “great leader on the sidelines.”
“[Against] Guilford we were doing things individually but today we were working more as a team. Especially towards the end, the bench was getting in and getting touches and working together,” Norman stated after the 19-point win, “The beginning of season we were worried about defense, but Leah has trained them all well.”
The lopsided win allowed Cofiell to dip into her bench.
“That’s nice for two reasons. First when someone shines you can see what they can do on the field, but it’s also nice because it’s going to make them better in practice,” said Cofiell, who is a 1985 graduated at GHS.
Four freshmen (Stephanie Koppy, Avery Olschefskie, Sydney Shaw, and Gianna Calciano) started against Avon. Koppy had a standout game with three goals and two assists.
“It was a learning process because the freshmen are coming straight from our town rec teams that definitely play a different style than we play here,” said Forrest, “But it’s been a great learning experience for all of us because it teaches us how to play with each other although we all come from different playing styles.”
After COVID-19 concerns washed away the entire season a year ago, the seniors are just happy to have a full season, including a state tournament.
“We talk about it during captain’s practice and told [the younger girls] that you can’t take things for granted because clearly none of us knew we wouldn’t get a junior season,” recalled Solecki, “So now that we have a senior season with younger players that want it more than ever, it makes us that more grateful.”
Acosta added, “We are very grateful to step on the field every single day. We’re all very excited and have a little more pep in our step to be outside and playing.”
Because of the circumstances and uncertainty surrounding the season, the seniors believe it’s more important than ever to mentor the next generation of Guardians.
All the seniors said they are impressed with the raw talent and effort that the underclassmen are putting forth.
“We’re trying to be almost like sisters towards them because in the future we don’t want the program to be just like it’s been done in the past. It needs to evolve with the game. It’s a family,” stated Forrest, “We’re a funny group of people. I’ve never met seniors in the past that have brought the same level of energy into practices and game. They are fun people to be around.”
Norman summed up the group with another fantastic quote, “We get along so well and we’re all kind of unique in our own different ways. We all kind of mesh together to make one weird group.”
Sports Editor for the Rare Reminder, Glastonbury Citizen, and Rivereast News Bulletin