Newington's Mindy Tran battles Rocky Hill's Mia Valente / Terriers Katherine Stockman looks for an opening on the offensive end
The Newington and Rocky Hill girls’ lacrosse programs changed direction this past offseason.
And for both, the direction is pointing upwards.
Following identical 3-13 finishes in 2017, the teams entered the 2018 season with fresh starts and new head coaches. The new-look squads were on display last Monday night as the Indians rallied to defeat the Terriers 9-8 in overtime at RHHS.
Reagan Pelton scored the game-winner with 1:16 left in overtime, earning Newington their third victory of the season.
“It was so important,” Newington head coach Allison Hoffman said of the victory, “I said to them before the game that not only is this a conference game, but it was a game in general that we needed especially because we’ve had a few tough losses in a row against some really tough teams. We needed it, not only to get the win, but to also keep the morale up. We needed a good, intense, strong game like this to keep us going.”
Hoffman is very familiar with the program, taking over the head coaching responsibilities after four seasons serving as an assistant coach and also having starred on the local fields as a player at Newington High.
“It’s special to know a program, to love a program. I saw where the program was and where it could. I’ve been here through the years and I really don’t think anyone could care more than me to get this program back to be where it was and where it should be,” added Hoffman, who graduated from NHS in 2013, “This was the best part of my experience in high school, so that’s what I’m trying to give to them too. To give them the best possible experience and let them have a sport where they can enjoy it and work hard every day.”
It’s a different story across the field for Megan Borman, who is starting with a clean slate in Rocky Hill.
“I really knew nothing about the team. I just knew what other people had told me and I knew that we a good group of seniors with good leadership and good potential,” said Borman, who was a three-time collegiate All-American player at Gettysburg College and has extensive high school coaching experience, “I knew I had a good group of athletes and a good size freshman class. I just needed to get to know the girls and I think we’re still learning. I know that the program has gotten better and developed over the years and I’m just trying to keep it on an uptick as much as possible.”
Borman’s team came out firing in the first half, taking a 6-3 advantage into halftime.
“In the first half I thought our attack was moving really well. We put in some new motions, which they did awesome with,” stated Borman, who also praised her team’s defense and goalie Kasia Drozdzal for the strong start, “Our goalie is awesome. Kasia is always solid and she did a great job tonight.”
Drozdzal stopped seven of ten shots in the first half but faced a fierce Newington attack early in the second half.
The Indians scored three goals in the first three minutes following the break. Two of those goals came courtesy of Kaylee Allen, whose second goal tied the game at six.
“They knew we needed to come out strong in the second half. We stressed to them not come out sloppy and to just stay in control and play their game,” Hoffman said of the team’s mindset following halftime, “We needed to be the first person to every single ball and to play good body defense and not get fouls.”
The teams traded the next two goals before Newington’s freshman goalie Kali Lessard put her stamp on the game with three consecutive saves on three separate Rocky Hill attacks.
Lessard is exceling in net after being thrust into the position this season due to an injury.
“At first she felt a little intimidated stepping into varsity. It was a lot of handle, but once she had that shining game her confidence went up and that helped her,” Hoffman said of her young goaltender, who posted back-to-back wins against Hamden and RHAM earlier in April, “It wasn’t the plan to have her start but she keeps growing every single game and she’s been a huge part of the reason why we are able to have games like this.”
At the 7:15 mark, senior Grace Bielesz provided the visitors an 8-7 lead.
It look as if Bielesz’ goal would be the game-winner but Dani Castanho knotted things up with a dramatic goal in the waning seconds regulation, sending the game into the extra session.
Castanho fired the shot to the bottom right corner, sneaking the ball past Lessard with only 11 seconds to play. The goal was Castanho’s third of the game.
“It was a good shot. She has a good, tenacious drive to the goal and she’s very hungry for it. She was a great person to have the ball in that circumstance because I knew that she was going to have the intensity behind what she was trying to do physically,” Borman said of Castanho’s equalizer.
The home Terriers had the first scoring opportunity in overtime, but they were unable to capitalize.
Newington took possession and Pelton’s second goal of the night ended a very entertaining back and forth battle at McVicar Field.
“We said if we don’t get the draw that we’re going to pressure the ball and not foul. We’re just wanted to play good defense and not take risks and hopefully catch them in a mistake and capitalize on that mistake,” said Hoffman.
Hoffman added that she was proud of her team’s ability to shake off the last-second goal in regulation and refocus before the overtime period.
“That’s what we’ve been trying to instill in them because we have had a tendency when things are going wrong to let it get in our heads. I said before the game that we have to stay positive and we can’t let any mistake get us down. We have to keep playing our game. If you make a mistake just fix it for the next time and don’t worry about what just happened.”
Maya Gajowiak, who scored a team-high four goals in the victory, again led Newington on the offensive end.
“It’s amazing to have someone like Maya, not only because she has all of the skills that she does but she put everyone else at ease. She’s that person that when people are panicking we get the ball to her and we trust that she is going to settle it and know when to make a move,” Hoffman said of all-conference captain, who tallied seven goals in a 12-5 win over Hamden on April 6, “She’s usually crucial for us goal wise but today she had just as many assists than she had goals and that’s so important that she can see where the ball needs to go.”
Returning all-conference player Emily Zarrilli scored three goals, while Mia Valente and Katherine Stockman each tallied a goal in the loss, which dropped the Terriers to 1-4.
“We won in overtime against Griswold a couple of weeks ago so we’ve been on the other end of sudden death,” said Borman, referring to an 8-7 win over Griswold when Valente scored the game-winner in overtime, “I feel like in this game we actually played the best we have the entire season, but I also think it was combined with not great play in certain spurts. It just happened to coincide with them playing well. It was just that we got scored on and then we have a couple of turnovers and they scored again, so I think that just sort of snowballed into not the greatest start to the second half.”
Next up for the Terriers is a home date with East Catholic, May 4 a 7 p.m.
“We have the potential to beat teams when everything is clicking. I think it comes down to keeping it up for the whole game,” added Borman, “We have so many winnable games ahead and obviously this one is disappointing because I think we could have won this game, but there is so much potential going forward. It’s about playing together and doing the basics of the game. We need to work on the little things and it’s always hard to get a new coach no matter what. It always takes a little time to adjust but I think they are doing a good job with that and now we can progress to other things.”
Following the win Hoffman said that her team needs to keep working on their offensive transitions and getting the ball up the field quicker but she’s happy where the team is headed.
Newington now turns their attention to Bristol, who they host Friday, May 4 at 4 p.m.
Sports Editor for the Rare Reminder, Glastonbury Citizen, and Rivereast News Bulletin