The South-West Conference race has plenty of contenders involved and likely will go down to the final week of the regular season to determine the champion.
Count Masuk is as one of those contenders. After a season-opening loss to Shelton, the Panthers won five straight before Thursday night’s tie with Newtown.
“It was rough that first loss, but we knew we had to pick it up and we did,” Masuk senior Kacey Lawrence said following the Newtown game. “We communicate more and connect passes more (often).”
Lawrence, a University of Michigan commit, scored Masuk’s lone goal in the first half. Karsen Pirone, another Division I commit, heading to Sacred Heart next fall, scored for Newtown. This was the fourth time in the last five years the two teams tied during the regular season.
Lawrence (11 goals, four assists) has company among future Division I players in the Panthers’ starting lineup: teammate Susan Mathews, a center-back, will play at Iona.
“Coaching these two Division I ladies makes the games enjoyable to watch,” Masuk coach Jason Golesky said. “They’re two players you always want on your team and two players you hate to play against because of how much of an impact they bring to the team.”
Masuk has three games on the back end of its regular-season schedule that will likely help determine the SWC against fellow contenders: Pomperaug at home (Oct. 15), at Weston (Oct. 24) and at Notre Dame-Fairfield (Oct. 28). Throw in the non-conference home game against Amity on Oct. 19, which has a star of its own in Audrey Marin.
The SWC tournament is slated to begin on Nov. 1.
“A lot of times, teams like Newtown, Pomperaug and Weston are always going to come at us. It’s always going to be a good battle” Golesky said following the Newtown game. “I think since we have so many girls who are already known, like a Kacey Lawrence, a Susan Mathews, I think they are man-marking them, so it’s a credit to everybody else around them. The girls are really stepping up their game and pushing forward and creating goals.”
Unbeaten streak ends
The text messages came to Granby coach Ed Dzielak’s cell phone soon after Granby knocked off Suffield on Wednesday. When you end a rival’s 117-game unbeaten streak, those messages are destined to come from former players.
Granby defeated Suffield 2-0 in a matchup of North Central Connecticut Conference rivals. Suffield hadn’t lost a regular-season game to anyone since Oct. 28, 2011 to Granby.
“It’s been close the last couple of years. Some of them we probably should have won,” Dzielak said. “You should have seen them (the current players) they were so excited. … That (the streak) is something that will never be touched.”
Annamarie Groskritz and Samantha St. Pierre scored the goals for the Bears (7-0 with five shutouts), who beat Ellington 5-0 on Friday.
The two teams played to a scoreless tie last season and split the NCCC crown. There is no league tournament.
It’s an experienced group of Bears with 10 seniors on the roster. A number of them were in uniform when Granby won the Class M state championship in 2017 against Berlin.
“The kids have been there,” Dzielak said. ”There were two (contributing) freshmen that year on the state title team. All of (the seniors) were sophomores. We have a really experienced group that is playing well together.”
Dzielak noted preseason scrimmages with Simsbury, Southington and Middletown strengthened the Bears’ chances to pull off a game like this.
“We held our own playing LL and L schools,” Dzielak said. “This is a fun group that has really matured. They have better attitudes, a better work ethic and are fun to be around.”
Granby currently stands alone atop the CIAC Class M state tournament rankings.