Nine years down, nine conference championships down. Newtown High School girls’ lacrosse Coach Maura Fletcher has guided her squads to South-West Conference titles in each of her seasons at the helm. She’s striving to make it a perfect ten for ten in her milestone season this spring.
The opposition, Fletcher expects, as other things in mind.
“Everyone in conference wants to beat us. My guess is at the beginning of the season, that is the goal for our conference opponents. To have to come against that nine-ten times in a season is challenging. Everyone brings ‘their game.’ We have to be on our game that much more,” Fletcher said.
In conference, expect New Fairfield (the only SWC team in recent memory to defeat Newtown), Bethel, New Milford, and Joel Barlow of Redding to be difficult teams.
“One of our goals is to defend our SWC Championship crown. With that comes a huge amount of pressure to ‘not be that team.’ It is so tough on the girls — the expectation. Every year is a new one and with that we focus on developing the best team we can be. We hope to win against some of those nonconference foes that we lost to last year by margins of one and two,” Fletcher said.
Newtown was beaten by FCIAC foes Wilton and New Canaan each by just one goal, and fell to Southern Connecticut Conference team Cheshire by two — although the latter was certainly closer than one might think since that was an overtime decision.
As is always the case, Fletcher notes that the overall regular season record is almost meaningless when it comes to the South-West Conference playoffs. After all, the team went just 9-7 a year ago before winning it all yet again, but that’s because of a tough nonconference schedule designed to test and push her players.
All of Newtown’s nonconference opponents this year are top-ten state teams: Glastonbury, Ridgefield, Wilton, Hall, Cheshire, and New Canaan.
The one downside to the tough slate of games is that it results in a tough state tourney draw. A year ago, Newtown was seeded 13th in the Class L tourney and faced No. 4 Greenwich in the first round. The Nighthawks fought to the finish of a 16-14 loss to the eventual tourney’s runner-up squad.
Newtown will have to replace a small handful of key players lost to graduation, but a bulk of last year’s talent and experience is back in the fold.
Captains are midfielder/ defender Anna Northrop, midfielder Meaghan Brophy, defender Cassie Ekstrom, and midfielder Lindsay Jagoe.
“We have a seasoned squad of ten seniors, but we have quite a few holes to fill from last year’s seniors. Defense is solid with three out of four starters back,” Fletcher said. “My team is loaded with athleticism. We are moving players around to new positions to balance the field and strengths but the fact that ten of these kids have been playing together for four-plus years provides for a great chemistry.”
Last year’s big question mark was in goal where Kyle Dandrea took over the job protecting the nets. “Kyle has come into her own and we see her to be a huge asset to the team this year,” Fletcher said.
This year’s challenge will be getting some new, young attackers up to speed, the coach anticipates.
The biggest strength of this team seems to be in the midfield each year. Having Ekstrom, an All-American last year) on defense helps make things tough on the opposition.
The Hawks, after opening the season at Stratford on April 9, will have their first home game — a big one — when New Fairfield comes to Blue & Gold Stadium for a 6 pm battle on Friday, April 11. The Nighthawks get their first out-of-conference test when they visit Glastonbury on April 16. A tough stretch of games features Ridgefield, Wilton, Brookfield, Hall, and Cheshire, in succession, to close out April and begin play in May.