NEW BRITAIN - It was a struggle for the three area girls lacrosse teams a season ago.
Berlin, Newington and Southington all failed to qualify for their respective state tournaments and all three are coming off losing seasons. The Redcoats and the Indians each just managed six wins, while the Blue Knights won a mere three games.
But all three teams were rather young last season and this year, after accruing some valuable playing time, should be more competitive. How much each has grown and gotten better though, that much remains to be seen and will not really be known until the season really begins to play out.
Here is a closer look at the teams:
Head coach: Bridget Sheehan (4th season)
Last year: 6-10, missed Class M playoffs
Key losses: McKenna Quigley (Attack), Allison Souza (Midfield), Athena Lawrence (Defense)
Expected key returnees: Taylor Smolicz (Sr, Goalkeeper), Olivia Curtin (Sr), Amanda Lee (Sr), Danielle Skates (Sr), Morgan Luciani (Jr)
Outlook: Berlin took a step back last season after reaching the playoffs in 2015 as the team’s win total dropped from 12 to six, most likely the results of having lost a good chunk of its roster. In the end, the Redcoats missed the Class M playoffs by one game, finishing in the first non-qualifying spot.
But Berlin should be optimistic heading into this season and with good reason - the team is bringing back plenty of talent. After losing only a few players from 2016, the Redcoats have a roster with a good number of upperclassmen, including Danielle Skates and Olivia Curtin, that have seen substantial playing time and should only be beneficial.
While it’s still a little too early to tell what kind of team Berlin will ultimately be, all signs point back to the upwards trend the program started on just a few years ago.
Head coach: Gary Harrigan (1st season)
Last year: 6-10, missed Class L playoffs
Key losses: Caroline Bielaszka, Hayley Gilchrest (Defense), Hadeel Majdoub (Midfield), Karley Welles (Attack), Rebecca Bernardo (Attack)
Key returnees: Neve Mannion (Sr, Midfield), Megan Andrews (Sr, Defense), McKenna Gernander (Sr, Attack), Bella Pilkey (Sr, Goal), Vicky Skonieczny (Sr, Mid Attack), Symantha Fazzio (Sr), Grace Bielesz (Jr, Mid Defense), Ali Houldcroft (Jr, Mid Attack), Madelyn Mangiafico (Jr, Defense), Kiley Davis (Jr, Defense), Maya Gajowiak (So, Attack)
Outlook: The Indians fell short of making the Class L state tournament in 2016 and this season will be about working their way back into the playoff picture. Newington will also be under a new head coach in Gary Harrigan, which could bring a new perspective to how the team plays.
The Indians did lose several quality players that were important pieces last year, including Karley Welles, but this should not be a problem. Harrigan has a veteran-laden roster with key pieces returning at almost every position from attack to midfield to defense.
“Maya Gajowiak is a returning all-conference attacker who does a great job reading defenses and either shooting or passing as needed,” Harrigan said. “Coupled with McKenna Gernander, the team should have a significant attack threat while the defense is very solid.”
Overall, the head coach expects his team to be highly competitive in each game.
“The team has goals to not only make the state tournament, but also challenge the top teams in the conference,” Harrigan said. “It should be a very good year. We will work hard with an emphasis on significant improvement.”
Head coach: Jillian Pomposi (4th season)
Last year: 3-13, missed Class L playoffs
Key losses: Faith Ritchie
Expected key returnees: Morgan Raymond (Sr, Midfield), Stephanie Zera (Jr)
Outlook: To say it was a rough 2016 season for the Blue Knights would be an understatement. The team won just three games compared to 13 losses, but perhaps the only place it can go is up.
Some of the struggles last season were the result of a tough schedule while dealing with a roster filled with young players. But that could be beneficial to Southington this year. With many of the underclassmen getting playing time, it should only have added valuable experience to bring into this season. Plus, the Blue Knights did not lose too many players, having only graduated one from a year ago.
Morgan Raymond, an all-conference player, and Stephanie Zera could be two players that could make an impact for the team. As of right now though, the season has the potential to go either way for Southington.
David Glovach can be reached at (860) 801-5085 or firstname.lastname@example.org
On Twitter: @DavidGlovach