The competition seems to get better and better each year among girls lacrosse teams in the South-West Conference as new, up-and-coming programs continue to improve. One thing that has remained constant, however, has been Newtown’s place at the top of the conference.
The Nighthawks will be chasing their eighth consecutive SWC title this spring, and as always, they boast a talented roster that will likely be tough to beat. Will there be a changing of the guard this year in the SWC? We’ll find out in about seven action-packed weeks.
The SWC will feature two divisions starting this spring. Division 1 will include Brookfield, Immaculate, Barlow, Newtown, New Fairfield, New Milford and Pomperaug.
Division 2 will feature Bethel, Bunnell, Lauralton Hall, Masuk, Notre Dame, Stratford and Weston. Separate conference tournaments will be played for each division, and separate conference champions will be crowned.
Teams to watch
NEWTOWN — The Nighthawks are gunning for their eighth consecutive conference crown – and, perhaps, a Class L state title to go along with it. Their last conference loss was to New Fairfield in 2006. They will be led this year by senior defender Kaitlin VosWinkel, who will head to Sacred Heart University next year, sophomore defender Cassie Ekstrom, who led the team with 48 ground balls last year as a freshman, junior midfielder Erin Kenning (33 goals, three assists), senior attacker Meredith Bridges (15 goals, 10 assists) and junior attacker Julia Trudell (19 goals, seven assists).
BARLOW — The Falcons lost two one-goal heartbreakers to conference champ Newtown last year, including a wild 17-16 loss in the SWC final. They have a good deal of firepower again this year and will look to again challenge for the conference crown. They will be led by senior attacker River Kynoch (58 goals, eight assists, 38 ground balls), junior midfielder Olivia Sennett (26 goals, 17 assists, 35 ground balls), senior midfielder Libby Barlow (eight goals, seven assists, 46 ground balls), junior attacker Brielle Kolf (12 goals, seven assists), senior midfielder Brittney Lofgren (10 goals, two assists, 39 ground balls), senior defender Jennie Bunce and senior goalie Allie O’Hara.
NEW FAIRFIELD — The Rebels graduated 14 seniors but still have an impressive group back from last year’s team that reached the SWC semifinals and the state quarterfinals. They will be led by senior captains Morgan LaBarbera, Carly Hopkins, Tara Donovan and Niki VanHouten. LaBarbera was an All-SWC attacker last year and Hopkins and Donovan were both All-Patriot Division selections. Another All-Patriot Division player last year was Dana Bouwman, a junior midfielder who will play at Villanova.
WESTON — The Trojans welcome back a solid group of players from last year’s team, which won the Class S state title. They will be led by senior All-State and All-Patriot Division midfielder Catie Ledwick (21 goals, five assists, 30 ground balls), junior All-State and All-Patriot Division midfielder Morgan Moubayed (13 goals, 14 assists, 36 ground balls) and sophomore attacker Lindsey Koch (18 goals, 11 assists, 22 ground balls), who earned All-State and All-Patriot Division honors as a freshman last year. Weston will be without the services of promising junior Taylor Swanson, who tore her ACL, coach Megan Murphy said.
IMMACULATE — The Mustangs went 11-7 last season and return a solid group of players hungry to challenge the SWC’s elite in Tom Murtha’s first season as head coach. They will be led this year by senior captains Alexa Sakorafos (attack/midfield), Katie Olyha (defense) and Emily Fredette (defense). Sophomores Jaclyn Daily, Jillian Mitchell and Meredith Keenan all saw significant action last year as freshmen. Many of Immaculate’s players have already won championships in other sports this school year, including the soccer and indoor track teams. That championship mentality tends to be contagious, so perhaps the lacrosse program is next.
Games to watch
NEW FAIRFIELD AT NEW MILFORD, April 10, 4 p.m. — Good early-season test for both teams.
NEWTOWN AT NEW CANAAN, April 16, 4 p.m., Dunning Stadium — The reigning SWC champs visit a perennial FCIAC powerhouse.
NEWTOWN AT BARLOW, April 19, noon — What a tough week for the Nighthawks. They will play at New Canaan on April 16, host Immaculate on April 17, then take a day to prepare for this rematch of the SWC championship game.
BROOKFIELD AT POMPERAUG, April 23, 7 p.m. — This will be the first of two meetings — just three days apart — between these two up-and-coming teams. It’s never too early to start thinking about playoff implications.
IMMACULATE AT NEW MILFORD, April 26, 5:15 p.m. — Should be an exciting battle between two emerging powers.
Top players by team
- BARLOW — Seniors: Allie O’Hara, goal; Libby Barlow, midfield; River Kynoch, attack; Jennie Bunce, defense; Brittney Lofgren, midfield. Juniors: Olivia Sennett, midfield; Brielle Kolf, attack; Kaitlyn O’Brien, attack; Paige Kirby, defense. Sophomores: Jessica Balinski, attack.
- BETHEL — Seniors: Stephanie Forese, goal; Kristina MacNicholl, midfield; Stephanie Hirst, attack; Serina Ghio, midfield.
- BROOKFIELD — Juniors: Jenna Bellano; Kelly Grady. Sophomores: Carolyn Marron; Brooke Sands.
- BUNNELL — Seniors: Shannen O’Leary; Carley Altemose. Juniors: Katherine Halchak.
- IMMACULATE — Seniors: Alexa Sakorafos, attack/midfield; Katie Olyha, defense; Emily Fredette, defense; Kelsey Karp, defense; Nora McGoldrick, defense. Sophomores: Jaclyn Daily, midfield; Jillian Mitchell, attack; Meredith Keenan, midfield. Freshmen: Anna Pucci, midfield; Rachel Raffinni, attack; Maeve Reilly, midfield; Bryanna Lopes, goal.
- LAURALTON HALL — Seniors: Christina Gould; Erin Montanez.
- MASUK — Seniors: Lexi Albino, defense; Katie Smalchrat, defense. Juniors: Kelsey Brown, attack; Emily Platt, goal; Sam Levinson, midfield.
- NEW FAIRFIELD — Seniors: Morgan LaBarbera, attack; Carly Hopkins, midfield; Tara Donovan, midfield; Niki VanHouten, attack. Juniors: Dana Bouwman, midfield; Gill Kerner, defense; Casey Jagemann, midfield; Jenna Andreozzi, defense. Sophomores: Leah Osborne, midfield.
- NEW MILFORD — Seniors: Morgan Gallagher, attack; Faith Eherts, defense; Katelyn Kirkwood, defense. Juniors: Jordan Brown, attack; Destinee Carey, defense; Alexa Carey, attack; Maria Goikas, attack; Kate Leier, goal; Olivia Monteiro, attack; Kristi Montemurro, attack; Cristina Munoz, midfield; Claudia Taylor, attack; Julia Waldman, defense; Alex McGowan, attack; Maddie Phillips, defense. Sophomores: Corinne Heymech, defense; Alexis Kersten, defense. Freshmen: Madison Romandi, goal.
- NEWTOWN — Seniors: Kaitlin VosWinkel, defense; Celeste Cheung, goal; Meredith Bridges, attack. Juniors: Erin Kenning, midfielder; Tressa Scott, midfield; Julia Trudell, attack. Sophomores: Cassie Eckstrom, defense.
- NOTRE DAME — Seniors: Mary Kate Vicenzi. Sophomores: Brianna Foster; Dymond Leroy. Freshmen: Tekarah Coward.
- POMPERAUG — Seniors: Lauren Baranowski, midfield; Megan Gaffney, attack; Katie Hall, goal; Abbie Healy, attack; Taylor Pelella, midfield; Coley Rosa, defense; Martina Sinopoli, defense; Allie Wallace, midfield. Juniors: Shayna Delaney, midfield.
- STRATFORD — Juniors: Abby Cerone. Sophomores: Maggie Bodington.
- WESTON — Seniors: Catie Ledwick, midfield; Carolyn Figliola, goal; Abbie Chepolis, attack. Juniors: Morgan Moubayed, midfield; Grace Mattison, defense. Sophomores: Lindsey Koch, attack.