Newington's Hannah Drew defends Middletown goalie Lee Ann Roy during the Indians 17-3 victory at Clem Lemire last Tuesday
A new era in Middletown sports started last Tuesday night as the girls’ lacrosse program made their varsity debut.
The Blue Dragons played valiantly but were ultimately overwhelmed by a high-powered Newington squad, 17-3, at Clem Lemire in Newington.
“We talked about playing like we practice and that it was just another game, just another day,” Middletown head coach Shannon Murdock said following the debut, “It’s varsity, but if we play like we practice we’ll be okay.”
After three years at a JV level, the team made the jump to varsity this spring.
Junior Isabella Maffucci scored the program’s first varsity goal with 4:32 left in the first half and sophomore Rachel Getek added a pair of goals in the second half.
“We’re very proud of them,” added Murdock, who was also complimentary of her sophomore goaltender Lee Ann Roy, who had a nice initial outing in net, “She’s actually our backup goalie, but she did an awesome job for having to step in there the first time ever playing goalie.”
The newly-minted team showed positive signs, especially in the second half, but Newington was relentless early on, scoring five goals in the first ten minutes of action before cruising to their second victory in as many nights.
“We had a really great win yesterday that was pretty well deserved,” said head coach Allison Hoffman, referring to a 16-11 victory over Windsor last Monday, “I wanted them to keep that momentum going into this game. We knew they were a newer program, so we wanted to focus on playing to the level of intensity that we had yesterday.”
Senior Maya Gajowiak scored a game-high six goals and assisted on four others, helping the Indians reach 2-0 for the first time since 2013.
“Having games back to back was helpful because we had a lot of things from yesterday that we had to work on, and they were fresh in our minds today,” said Gajowiak, who scored seven goals in the season-opener against Windsor, “Last year we lost to Windsor, so we were focused on getting that revenge. We’ve been working on whatever we needed to work from last year and pushing ourselves in practice.”
Gajowiak is again captaining the team, along with fellow senior Hannah Drew and juniors Reagan Pelton and Chloe Mamaclay.
Pelton got things started, scoring a pair of goals at the 24:20 and 21:13 mark of the first half. The senior finished with three goals, following up her six-goal outing against Windsor.
Drew polished off the game in the second half, scoring all five of her goals over the final 25 minutes. She also dished out three assists.
“We’re very close. We’ve been playing with each other since middle school, mostly,” Gajowiak said of the captain’s relationships, “We’re close outside the sport, which helps us with our chemistry on the field and we trust each other more of the field, which I think is really important.”
Hoffman wasn’t sure what to expect coming into this season after losing several seniors from her 2018 team that finished 6-10.
“I’m not going to lie, I’m kind of surprised because we lost eight seniors, six were pretty much consistent starters. We have a lot of young talent this year and a lot of surprising young talent that I wasn’t necessarily expecting to come out as strong as they have. I thought we may have bigger gaps but I like what I saw yesterday against a team that stopped us from going onto states last year and to see they were able to come together like they did today,” said Hoffman, who is in her second year as a head coach following her stint as a player and an assistant coach with the program.
Since 2016, Gajowiak has been the one constant and is now expanding her role to benefit the team.
“Being a four-year starter, I’ve been working on new things that I’ve learned from people older than me and I’ve been going to clinic outside,” said the 3x all-conference honoree, “This year I’m looking to play more middie. The last couple of years I’ve been playing attack but since we lost a lot of people on the defensive side that’s a big thing I’ve been trying to work on. I think I can be a big help on the other side of the field.”
“She’s that safety net for the team,” Hoffman said of Gajowiak, “I think the other girls see how calm she is when she gets the ball, it almost looks effortless sometimes when she catches the ball. She really is someone that the girls look up to and she’s stepped up more as a leader, not only on the field but off the field too.”
Defensively the team is still working out the kinks and have a couple of different options at goalie.
Last year’s starter Kali Lessard got the nod in the opener, saving seven shots.
Senior Erin Stenvall started against Middletown, saving four of the seven shots she faced.
“This was her first full varsity game. I told her yesterday that she would start, I wanted to give her and opportunity to show what she could do in a game setting,” said Hoffman, “Kali played in yesterday’s game and did well but I did that with a lot of people today, trying to mix things up and see who is working where and the amount of effort they are putting in to prove they belong in that spot. That’s what I’ve been trying to drill into them since day one, that every single spot and every single minute is earned. We just have to keep working on the little things.”
Following the game, the victorious team celebrated the win by singing ‘Happy Birthday’ to Mamaclay, who helped the defensive cause with three takeaways on her birthday.
Sophomore Kayleigh Sanchez added three more steals.
Hoffman likes the direction the team is headed after trying a different approach in her second year at the helm.
“I tried to have less expectations as far as who was going to go where. I feel like last year I already had it in my mind how everything was going to work, and I wanted to do it a little different this year because we have so many new people. We’re still figuring out who the consistent starters are going to be and trying to find that chemistry, but after the two straight wins it’s looking like we’re off to a good start.”
Last Thursday Newington suffered their first loss, falling to Southington 20-8 despite another six goals from Gajowiak.
Next up is a road test at Tolland, Monday April 15 at 4 pm, before they return home the following day against Conard at 3:45 pm.
As for Middletown, they’ll next play a home game against Simsbury this Friday, April 12 at 5 pm. It’ll be the next step in the process for Murdock and her young team.
“The plan is to keep kids interested and keep them wanting to play. Every year we want to work and get better.”
The Starting Five: Athletes of the Week
Jack Kelley- Newington (Baseball): Kelley pitched a complete game three-hitter, striking out seven, as the Indians defeated Rocky Hill 7-2. The senior also went 3-3 from the plate in the season-opening victory over the Terriers.
Kaitlyn Snyder- Cromwell (Softball): Snyder tossed a complete game, one-hit shutout as Cromwell blanked Old Saybrook 12-0, improving the Panthers to 2-0. Sophomore Monica Dewey blasted a grand slam in the team’s season opening, 18-2, victory over Westbrook last Monday.
Rachel Thureson- Newington (Softball): Thureson went 3-3 from the plate, scored four runs and drove in another as Newington dealt Rocky Hill a 25-8 defeat. The senior also scored a pair of runs and drove in two more in the Indians season-opener, a 14-13 victory over Windsor Locks last Monday.
Joe Chiappetta- Middletown (Lacrosse): Chiappetta scored four goals and assisted on two others as the Middletown boys’ lacrosse won their first ever varsity contest, defeating Jonathan Law 11-5. The Blue Dragons won two more contests last week; an 11-4 triumph over Enfield on Tuesday behind four goals and two assists from senior Kyle Dale and a 13-6 victory over Cromwell on Saturday thanks to four more goals from Dale and three goals and two assists from Chiappetta.
Molly Bowers- Wethersfield (Softball): Bowers earned her first varsity win in Wethersfield’s 17-10 victory over Rocky Hill last Friday night at Cottone Field. The freshman took the mound with the Eagles trailing 6-1 and battled tough weather conditions, helping steady the ship as the home team rallied to score 16 of the next 20 runs to defeat their rivals.
Leave a Reply.
Sports Editor for the Rare Reminder, Glastonbury Citizen, and Rivereast News Bulletin