Wethersfield Dylan Aberle looks to pass as he is defended by Newington’s Tyler Mangene. Aberle was one of eight WHS players to score during the Eagles 19-6 victory.
In a physical, scrappy season opener, Wethersfield boys lacrosse outdueled Newington 19-6 at Cottone Field on April 3.
All-state senior Wil Bankowski picked up where he left off a season ago, scoring a game-high seven goals as the Eagles jumped out to an early lead and never looked back.
Head coach Bruce Cutkomp was pleased with how his team attacked from the opening whistle, crediting the team for putting the pressure on Newington’s defense.
“Starting off with a rivalry game really gets your blood going,” added Cutkomp. “My guys came in ready to play. We started to really press in transition and we have a really fast and athletic team, so we like to attack. That is our bread and butter.”
In what turned out to be a game of scoring runs, Newington’s second-year head coach Chris Siewertsen said the team lost focus of the details in the loss.
“There were a lot of breakdowns on those little things and when those little things break down it adds up into the big things,” added Siewertsen.
Less than a minute into the game, Matt Ruck found the back of the net for the opening points of the season, before Bankowski scored his first at the 10:03 mark of the first quarter.
Luke Whitaker then scored off an assist from Anthony Ruck and Owen Hart made it 4-0 after weaving through defenders and scoring with 7:42 remaining in the first quarter.
Cutkomp liked how his team shared the ball and said the hot start was a “reflection of how much work these guys have done over the summer when I’m not here.”
Newington responded by scoring four of the next five goals.
Paddy Brown scored on a laser shot from straight away and then assisted Everett Hillman on a goal.
A minute later, Hillman—who sustained an injury and missed the entire second half¬¬¬––added a second goal before Kyle
Bross scored to cut the deficit to 5-4 with eight minutes to play in the first half.
Brown, Hillman, and Bross each scored twice in the loss. Siewertsen credited his senior trio with temporarily changing the momentum.
“Our seniors helped steady the tide,” added Siewertsen. “We have great senior leadership, on and off the field.”
The Nor’easter also got a boost from freshman Heath Weeden, who came off the bench to provide a spark by winning a handful of face-offs.
Newington’s momentum was short-lived as the Eagles reeled off the next 11 points to put the game out of reach.
Bankowski scored five of his seven during the surge. He was one of three Eagles players to net a hat trick, joining Matt Ruck and Julian Raposo, who each scored three goals.
All told, eight Wethersfield players scored with Whitaker scoring twice and Hart, Michael Hughes, A.J. Karanian, and Dylan Aberle each finding the back of the net.
Manning the backend for the Eagles is first-year goalie Matt Pacheco, who is replacing all-conference goalie and 2022-graduate Cooper Moreau.
In his first start, Pacheco made a handful of saves and showcased poise in net.
Cutkomp called Pacheco “an absolute stud” and said he has “chomping at the bit” for his chance this spring.
“The way he sees the ball and organizes our defense is really amazing,” added Cutkomp.
Cutkomp, now in his third season leading the team, believes the program has morphed into the tough, gritty program he envisioned it could be when he took over.
In the previous two seasons, the Eagles won 26 of 29 games in the regular season and captured the Central Connecticut Conference (CCC) South championship last spring.
The goal this year is for that success to bleed over into the state tournament where Wethersfield has lost home games (opening round in 2021 and quarterfinals in 2022) in each of the last two seasons.
This spring marks only the third season that WHS has been competing at a varsity level and Cutkomp credited the town’s
feeder system as being one of the reasons that they have had success so quickly.
“I can’t talk enough about our youth program. They have given us a ton of feeder players and it is elevating the style of play we want here,” added Cutkomp. “It is making everything easier for me and my coaching staff. The caliber and level of players has increased every year.”
Newington is coming off a five-win season and it’s those details that the Siewertsen is looking to fine tune as spring rolls on.
“We’ve started to take those steps,” added Siewertsen. “The guys are really buying into the program from everything from academic to offseason preparation, and service off the field.”
Siewertsen, who coaches the team Tom Gallagher and Tyler Violano, added, “It starts from the top down and we try to set an example for the guys and they have bought into what we want to do here. We want to change the face of the program, and we’re on our way.”
Kyle Bross of Newington attempts to get by Wethersfield’s Kyle Smith at Cottone Field on April 3.
Sports Editor for the Rare Reminder, Glastonbury Citizen, and Rivereast News Bulletin