It isn’t too hard to pinpoint standout performers on the playing fields. Recognizing athletes who go above and beyond making plays and achieving success in their competitions is another story.
Newtown High School has plenty of these team members who are leaders on and off the fields. Among them are Cassie Ekstrom and Matt Mossbarger, who recently completed their senior years. Because of their athletic abilities and dedication to school sports throughout all three seasons, as well as their leadership prowess, Ekstrom and Mossbarger are The Bee’s Newtown High School Athletes of the Year.
Ekstrom Excels In Three Sports
Whether it was volleyball, basketball, or lacrosse, Ekstrom was a key component of each team’s success throughout her high school career. Ekstrom may not have been the highest scorer on the court or the field, but she made a lot of difference-making plays each fall, winter, and spring.
“I have had the pleasure of coaching Cassie literally since the third grade. She is a quiet leader who is adored by her peers,” said Maura Fletcher, who guided Ekstrom from the youth lacrosse level on up through her final playoff game this spring.
“Her humbleness is what makes her so likeable and coachable. Her natural athleticism paired with her smarts makes for a coach’s dream,” said Fletcher, who won South-West Conference titles with Ekstrom in each of the four years.
Ekstrom’s favorite part about playing sports at Newtown High was “just getting to meet all of my teammates and getting to know them,” she said.
She served as captain of the basketball and lacrosse teams. Outside of sports, she’s served as a member of the school’s National Honor Society. Ekstrom has also volunteered at camps and helped out during other team community service efforts.
Ekstrom, in addition to winning SWC titles all four years in lacrosse, won two conference volleyball championships and state titles in both volleyball and basketball.
A libero/outside hitter on the volleyball court, Ekstrom was a shooting guard/forward on the basketball floor, and a defender in lacrosse. Fletcher said she was the best defender on the field, regularly leading the team in takeaways. She also took draws and was crucial in getting her team possession of the ball.
Of all of the success she’s had, the highlight was the basketball state title game since so many fans went to Mohegan Sun Arena to cheer on the Hawks.
She’s been on teams since elementary school, but it didn’t start with one of her three high school sports — nor did it even begin on a girls’ squad for that matter. Ekstrom has two older brothers — Tyler and Austin — and the result was her pulling on a baseball uniform as a second grader.
Ekstrom will continue to play lacrosse at the University of Connecticut next year. “I’m really looking forward to it — a lot of my friends are going there,” she said.
She’ll certainly miss her days as a Nighthawk, too, though.
“It’s been such a huge part of my life,” she said. “It’s not going to be the same. A high school is so much smaller,” said Ekstrom, comparing high school to collegiate athletics.
Mossbarger A Captain For All Seasons
Mossbarger scored a captain’s hat-trick of sorts, earning the role of captain in all three of his athletic activities — soccer, and indoor and outdoor track — this past school year.
“He’s probably one of the true leaders that the school’s ever had,” said Tom Brant, his head track coach and also an assistant coach with the soccer team, adding that Mossbarger understands the importance of leadership on and off the field.
A walk-on with the track team as a senior, he had to prove his ability and leadership, Brant notes. Brant is an advisor for the National Honor Society — for which Mossbarger served as president — so he’s been around Mossbarger on and off the field.
Mossbarger also played basketball and tennis during his Newtown High tenure. Off the courts, fields, and track, he’s kept busy with Student Council and involvement with the Best Buddies program.
Always a strong contender in the conference playoffs, Mossbarger’s Nighthawks reached the SWC championship game this past fall. In track, he qualified for conference and state championship meets, and also was part of a school record-setting indoor season relay team. Mossbarger was also on the tennis team when it reached the SWC championship match in his junior year.
Among the many highlights in Mossbarger’s high school career was the soccer team’s win over New Milford during the Soccer Fest at Blue & Gold Stadium because so many fans were on hand.
Mossbarger, like Ekstrom, followed in sibling’s footsteps when he first got involved in sports. His older brother, Michael, played soccer and was a 2012 NHS graduate.
The three-sport captain will continue his athletic career on the soccer field at the University of Delaware, where he plans to major in business finance and earn a minor in economics. “I’m looking forward to it a lot,” he said.
Along with preparing to take on new challenges comes reflecting on his high school experience.
“I just really enjoyed my teammates and the friends from playing I felt the energy from the school. It was a great school to play for,” Mossbarger said. “I can’t thank my teammates, and coaches, and supporters enough.”