Success isn’t anything new for the Hand boys lacrosse team.
The Tigers had impressive deep runs in the last two CIAC Class M tournaments, advancing to the finals in 2015 and 2016 with runner-up finishes both times.
The Tigers are off and running again with a typical strong start at 5-0, indicating the potential for another Class M final appearance. But Hand coach Paul Deon is a realist and believes it is too early in the season to think about the postseason.
“It’s hard to compare one season to the next, but in each season we do take it one game at a time, trying to look no further,” Deon said. “We also only look back at what we can use to help us going forward. I have never been surprised at what a motivated group of young men can achieve. This group plays well together and they don’t get down when someone makes a mistake. All around team work has been a strong point for us.”
Through their first five games the Tigers have outscored opponents 46-18.
Senior captains Christian Jibilian and Tanner Garitta are among the top defensemen. Sophomore Griffin Fitzmourice is the goaltender and senior Liam Gotlick and junior Nate Palumbo are among the top attackmen. Deon said midfielder Mark Hartmann has jumped in taking face offs after losing Tristan Dowd (graduated Register All-Area selection) and “has done a tremendous job.” Several sophomores have made an impact for the Tigers as well.
In the third game of the season (4-3 win over Amity), Deon reached a coaching milestone with his 100th career victory. Currently he is 102-44.
“I did not know about the 100th win until someone texted me about it,” Deon said. “It’s a nice achievement but these are all wins the wonderful kids I have coached over the years have achieved. I was just along for the ride. We have so many great coaches in Connecticut and 100 wins is a JV number compared to them.”
Law girls rolling
First-year Law girls lacrosse coach Lynette Martinez had high expectations for her Eagles team.
Starting the season 5-0 (not including Tuesday’s night game at West Haven) has been a pleasant surprise.
“Coming into the season I had high expectations for the team because we returned almost our entire starting lineup,” Martinez said. “But 5-0 was a little unexpected. It is the best start in program history and something that the girls are proud of right now.
“The biggest reason for our success has been our ability to play as a team. All 19 girls on the varsity roster contribute something to the team. Our strength has been our ability to move the ball around and have multiple scorers. It’s tough to shut down a team when they have multiple options.”
Among the many top players for the team are attack players Olivia Keator (20 goals, 11 assists),
Laura Dennigan (10 goals), Emily Tournas (13 assists) and Andria Torres (eight goals, nine assists). Colleen Goodwin is among the top midfielders and another top scorer with 11 goals and seven assists.
“This 5-0 start has definitely given the team confidence,” Martinez said. “They feel they are capable of playing with anyone and they can see things starting to click. But the girls also know that the season is young and there is still progress to be made with a lot of tough teams coming up.”
Solid start for North Haven
Eric Bailey-coached North Haven boys lacrosse teams have always entered the season with confidence they could compete with anyone and this season is no exception.
The Indians are off to one of their best starts at 4-1 and Bailey couldn’t be happier.
“We beat Shelton, Lyman Hall, Cheshire, Farmington and lost a close one to Xavier (10-9) on Monday,” Bailey said. “We’re happy where we are right now, we just need to stay healthy. Our midfield has been our strength. We a few kids who are two-sport athletes and play lacrosse year round. They are in tremendous physical shape and have a greater lacrosse IQ than most players.”
Among the top players for the Indians are midfielders Bowen Brennan, Zach Orth and Korben Pecora. Pete Saracino is one of the top attackmen and the top defensemen are Max Sullivan, Kyle Melilo and Billy VanNiewenhuyze. Dustin Byrnes is the team’s goalie.
The top scorers for the Indians are Orth (17 goals, seven assists), Saracino (14 goals, eight assists), Pecora (eight goals, 13 assists) and Brennan (eight goals, 13 assists).
“We’re already a confident group. We just need to stay healthy, focused and hungry moving forward.”
21 teams still unbeaten
Statewide among CIAC schools, there were still 11 unbeaten girls teams and 10 unbeaten boys teams entering Tuesday’s action.
Unbeaten girls teams were Canton (5-0), Housatonic Regional (5-0), Law (5-0), North Branford (5-0), Conard (4-0), Newtown (4-0), Southington (4-0), Hand (3-0), Stonington (3-0), Waterford (3-0) and East Lyme (2-0).
Unbeaten boys teams were Notre Dame-West Haven (6-0), Bacon Academy (5-0), Darien (5-0), Hand (5-0), New Fairfield (5-0) Somers (5-0), South Windsor (5-0), Valley Regional (3-0), Northwest Catholic (3-0) and Waterford (2-0).