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There’s no denying Newtown High School’s girls’ lacrosse team had a terrific campaign. After all, the Nighthawks went unbeaten in South-West Conference play, and won the program’s first SWC title since 2014, as Coach Maura Fletcher returned and picked up right where she left off, dominating the conference just as she did for ten straight championship seasons before stepping down after that ‘14 season.
But the Nighthawks were denied a run deep into the Class L state tournament. Their season came to an end, despite being the top seed, in an 18-5 loss to visiting and eighth-seeded New Canaan, in the bracket’s quarterfinals, at Blue & Gold Stadium on June 1.
The visiting Rams, last year’s Class M champions bumped up a class size this spring, were a deceptive seed given they play in the tough FCIAC, including defending Class L champion Darien, as well as No. 2 Greenwich and No. 11 Wilton, all of which advanced to the Class L semifinals.
Newtown fell behind 6-0 but got momentum on its side by reeling off four unanswered goals, in a span of a little more than ten minutes in the middle to late stages of the first half.
Dylan Zahansky broke the seal with 13:27 to play, Julia Sughrue scored a bit more than a minute later and, moments after Alison Kelleher was stopped in close, Alex Futterman circled around from behind the goal line to cut the deficit in half, with 7:57 to play before the break. Rylee Harrell scored on a free position shot with 3:16 left, but New Canaan got the final two tallies of the half, including one with nine seconds remaining. Sughrue and Charli Condon had assists in the opening half.
The Rams struck five times in the first five minutes of the second half to pull away. Futterman’s second net-finder was the only Nighthawk scoring in the second half.
“The outcome wasn’t a surprise to me,” said Fletcher, who schedules games with FCIAC schools to help prepare her team for the postseason. “Their defense is really, really tenacious and scrappy.”
Fletcher was pleased that her team stuck with the Rams for the opening 25 minutes, but noted that New Canaan’s depth and roster size proved to be too much for the Nighthawks.
“They have a pretty deep bench and that hurt us in the second half,” Fletcher said.
Sughrue noted that the Newtown program is striving to get to the level of New Canaan — “They just play so fast, so smart,” she said — and added that the Hawks took a step in the right direction this spring. “The first half we hung with them. I think that just proves we have the potential.”
Overall, this was a thrilling season for the Hawks, who came from behind to defeat Weston 16-12 in the SWC title game.
“I’m so incredibly proud of how hard everyone worked in the offseason and in the regular season,” Sughrue said. “Winning is so much fun, obviously, but the players on the team itself made it a really great season.”
Fletcher will miss her seniors, led by Sughrue, but has high hopes for next year and beyond.
“I’m looking forward to the future with a lot of talented players coming back,” Fletcher said.