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Newtown High School’s field hockey team’s game day success can be chalked up to its efforts in practice, as well as development of chemistry between players.
The Nighthawks won their fourth game in succession with a 5-0 blanking of visiting South-West Conference foe Brookfield, at Treadwell Park, on October 5, and followed that up with a 2-2 tie against FCIAC opponent Trumbull, at Blue & Gold Stadium two nights later.
Newtown carried a 6-3-1 record into a visit to SWC rival New Fairfield on Tuesday. The unbeaten ways came to an end in a 2-0 loss to the Rebels, but the Nighthawks are hoping to build off of their overall recent success.
“Playing at game speed and keeping each other really motivated and ready to play” have been keys to practice preparation said defender Olivia Butler, who was among the back area players to limit Brookfield’s chances in that triumph.
Goaltender Gigi Marino made five saves and did a good job playing aggressively, charging out to break up the play before Brookfield could generate in-close chances.
Katie Goyda scored twice, and Katherine Trammel, Aniko Walsh, and Hana Rosenthal all scored; Rylee Harrell and Ali Kelleher assisted goals.
The Nighthawks buried five scoring chances for the third game in a row, and they accumulated 19 goals in that four-game stretch, while limiting opponents to four goals, three of which came off the sticks of Joel Barlow of Redding players in a 4-3 overtime win that jump-started the winning streak.
All of this success followed a tough-to-swallow 3-2 loss at Masuk of Monroe, a game in which the Hawks fell behind 3-0 before rallying late, only to come up short. In the next contest, the Nighthawks managed to erase a 3-1 deficit at Barlow.
“We’re working on coming out stronger,” said Newtown Coach Stephanie Kearns, whose team did just that in jumping out to early leads on the way to a 5-0 win over Nonnewaug, a 5-1 victory over Bethel, and the shutout of Brookfield.
“We’re just implementing what we do in practice. We’re incorporating skills and strategy better I think,” Kearns said.
“We’ve been challenging each other at practice and that has been showing in games. Everybody’s fighting harder because of practice,” Kelleher said.
The approach to practice time somewhat simulates the stresses of game play, the players say.
“Playing with the same high level of intensity will help us play through anything,” Butler said.
That includes going up against tough nonconference opponents, such as Trumbull, and Newtown’s next opponent, another FCIAC squad — Fairfield Warde — which visits Blue & Gold on Monday, October 16, beginning at 4:15 pm.
Kelleher, set up by Walsh, and Trammel had cage-finders in the tie with Trumbull.
Win, lose, or draw, these out-of-conference challenges are something the Hawks can build off of come playoff time, especially when the state tournament rolls around and the Hawks face unfamiliar, strong opponents.
“They give us a look into what state play is going to look like,” Kearns said.
Harrell said the Nighthawks prepare even better when heading into games against tougher opponents, and that also can pay off.
“Our speed is just quicker because it’s a challenge,” Harrell said.
Newtown is somewhat tested by tough playoff opponents given last year’s run as the No. 8 seed all the way to winning the conference championship in upset fashion in 2016.
But graduation claimed some key components of that championship squad, and the calendar turn to 2017 left this year’s version of the Hawks looking to prove themselves.
After alternating wins and losses in the first six contests of the season, Newtown’s hard work in practice is paying off. And the winning ways are a product both of that effort and the cohesiveness the players have.
“It shows how much we have come together since the beginning of the season,” Kelleher said.