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There is a nice connection that team members can form under any circumstances, but it can be even stronger when winning is involved.
Naturally, there can also be a strong bond between siblings. Newtown High School’s girls’ lacrosse team, this past spring, had plenty of reasons for a high level of unity given the success and makeup of the squad.
For starters, the Nighthawks went unbeaten in South-West Conference play en route to capturing the South-West Conference championship. What’s more, several of the team members are siblings. A lineup creates a sisterhood of sorts, but there are four sets of actual sisters who were on the varsity roster by the end of the campaign, making for a unique experience on and off the field, including around the dinner table, for many of the Nighthawks.
Most of the sisters played together at the varsity level throughout the campaign, and some older and younger siblings were united late in the season with callups from the junior varsity ranks.
The siblings on the Nighthawk roster are Lauren and Jillian Carrino, Keeley and Cassidy Kortze, Alison and Megan Kelleher, and Kiera and Julia Sughrue.
Keeley, a sophomore, said it is fun having her older sister, Cassidy, a junior, around, but acknowledged that her older sibling can be a little hard on her at times.
“We both push each other,” Cassidy said. “We hold each other to really high standards probably because we’re so competitive.”
Alison, a sophomore, and Megan, a senior, also play together in field hockey, and get more on-field game time together during the fall field hockey season.
“I really like playing with her because she knows the way I think,” Megan said.
“It’s really comforting to know she’s there. It helps to know she’ll always be there for me,” Alison added.
Kiera, a sophomore, and Jillian, a freshman, came up to the varsity squad to join their older siblings late in the season.
“It’s really exciting to have her on the team now,” said Lauren, a junior.
“I like watching her. It’s fun,” Jillian added.
Julia, a captain on the squad, noted that is was a nice opportunity to play with her sister since, with the age separation, they had been on different teams throughout their childhoods.
“It’s really fun to be around to support the wins and cheer her on when she scores,” said Kiera, who had a lot of celebrating to do when Julia netted seven goals in the SWC title game to earn MVP honors.
It’s safe to say older sisters can help out their younger siblings with some tips and strategies but, as Julia says of Kiera, “she’s pretty good on her own.”
The Nighthawk sisters say their parents enjoy getting to see them together in practice and in games.
“I grew up with four sisters, so I definitely understand the bond that sisters have,” Newtown Coach Maura Fletcher said. “A sister is special.”
Fletcher added that, during the team’s SWC title game, a 16-12 win over Weston, the Hawks had 12 girls on the field at once and, at any given time, six were related. “That’s kind of crazy,” the coach said.
Fletcher credits the natural characteristics of each of her players, combined with the nurturing they received from parents, for combining to lead them to be valuable contributors, each in their own way.
“Nature vs nurture — I always wondered about that but I am a true believer in nature. You are born who you are and the job of the parent is to just nurture that and support and love our children for the unique qualities they possess. These pairs of sisters are very different but have a special bond that works on the field. Thank you to the nurturers. They have their own distinct personalities,” Fletcher said.
Fletcher has been around some of the siblings since before their high school careers.
“Living in town, I personally know the Kortze girls and I have seen them grow up in front of my eyes. I can remember they were premier soccer kids and at the time soccer was very sport specific and we really had to convince parents that they could do both. Thankfully, I was persuasive. I coached Alison Kelleher, Kiera Sughrue, and Jill Carrino at the youth level while their older sisters were already at the high school and I wasn’t involved with them. I knew Julia. She played for me as a freshman but I didn’t know Megan or Lauren on the field. Fast forward to now and we all know each other very well. They are all great kids,” Fletcher said.
The cohesiveness between the siblings spills over into the rest of the roster, Assistant Coach Stephanie Suhoza believes.
“It helps build a nice support system in general,” said Suhoza, who helped the Nighthawks during the middle stages of a string of ten straight conference titles, which culminated with the 2014 title winning lineup.
“As a team they’re all great kids. They all support each other,” added Assistant Coach Jim Kenning.