Maura Fletcher schedules tough out-of-conference games to challenge her Newtown High School girls’ lacrosse team, which, for the most part, has dominated the South-West Conference competition through the years.
The coach of the eight-time SWC champions hasn’t lost an in-conference battle — regular or postseason — since 2006. When it comes to nonconference clashes, however, Fletcher’s Nighthawks have had a combination of success and struggles in the regular campaign and state tournament.
Newtown started this season with a 4-2 record, the only setbacks coming against non-SWC foes Hall of Hartford and Ridgefield.
Against Ridgefield on April 19, the Nighthawks fell behind early and hung close, but couldn’t get over the hump in an 18-13 loss at windy Blue & Gold Stadium.
“They set the tempo for the game,” Fletcher said of the physical Tigers. “We were never in control of the game.”
Fletcher thought her team didn’t adjust to the style of competition or officiating well enough to come out on top. The officials did not call a tight game, the coach said, adding that her players aren’t used to minimal stoppages and need to learn to keep playing regardless of how the game is called.
“I think we just need to focus on working as a team and picking each other up when we’re down,” captain Julie Trudell said.
Sure, the Nighthawks go through some struggles against unfamiliar foes every spring. Last year back to back losses to out-of-conference teams New Canaan and Cheshire left the Hawks at 2-2 before they reeled off a dozen consecutive regular season wins and then rolled to anther conference tournament title. But Fletcher would like to see improvement in a variety of areas with this year’s squad.
“I think we still have a ways to go,” said Fletcher, adding that she would like to see more attack players than top-scorer Meaghan Brophy spark the offense, and for the midfielders to play a more defensive-minded game.
Brophy had five of Newtown’s goals in the Ridgefield game. Trudell added three net-finders, and Kristie Vos Winkel added two goals.
The team’s captains, Trudell, Caroline Kingsley, Erin Kenning, and Tressa Scott, all see hope for another season of success.
“We have great talent. Sometimes we don’t utilize it as much as we can,” Kingsley said.
“I definitely think we have great talent. It’s just a matter of how much we want it,” Kenning added.
Newtown toppled Lauralton Hall of Milford and Brookfield, and fought past New Milford before earning its fourth victory over SWC opponents in a 15-7 win at Immaculate of Danbury on April 23.
Brophy had five goals and an assist, Kenning had four goals and an assist, and scored three times and added a helper.
Fletcher was pleased that her offense did a much better job of taking care of the ball and valuing possession in the Immaculate game. “We took care of the ball in the midfield and had some fast break opportunities,” Fletcher said.
The coach added that she also saw areas that need work.
“We still shot poorly and really need to clean that up,” Fletcher said. “We just need some more communication on both ends of the field.”
The coach considers her team a work in progress, noting that it is looking better as the season unfolds.
Newtown, after a scheduled clash with SWC rival Joel Barlow of Redding on April 25, faces another nonconference test when Glastonbury visits Blue & Gold Stadium for a 7 pm game on Saturday, April 27. After that comes a date with one of the SWC’s better teams, New Fairfield, a road contest on April 30.
Newtown also has potentially tough tests against nonconference teams Wilton, New Canaan, Simsbury, and Cheshire. Last year, Newtown defeated Wilton and Glastonbury in a pair of two-goal nail-biters.
“We know what we have to do. It’s just the actual act of putting it together,” Scott said of the Hawks striving to put it all together, get into position to retain its conference crown, and make some noise in the state tourney.