MILFORD — The goals are pretty simple for the Hand girls lacrosse team: Winning the Southern Connecticut Conference and state titles are the standard.
With a young team and a new head coach, the journey may be different, but the end result is still expected. The Tigers showed, despite plenty of fresh faces, just how good they can be with a 15-3 thumping of Lauralton Hall in a Southern Connecticut Conference Division I contest in Milford Tuesday afternoon.
“We are a pretty young team right now,” Hand first-year coach Will Mraz said. “We graduated a good amount of seniors. This group is learning how to play together.”
With the game even at two 11 minutes, 27 seconds into the contest following goals by Hand’s Sophia Dickman and Kacie Wines, and Lauralton’s Mia Pastorok and Morgan White, the Tigers took over. With three goals in 37 seconds, including two by freshman Karleigh Kokoruda, the Tigers built a 5-2 lead with 9:08 to go in the opening half and never looked back.
“I think in the beginning of the game, we were getting into it,” Kokoruda said. “We got together and got our energy going. We work together great. We are a strong team when we do that.”
The Tigers (5-1) controlled play from that point on, winning all the loose balls, controlling the pace, and using plenty of ball movement and cuts to get by the Lauralton defense
“We work on our movement off the ball,” Kokoruda said. “We want to look at other players. One of the things we work on in practice is staying close to a player and cutting at the right time.”
The Tigers, who got three goals apiece from Wines, Kokoruda, and Caroline White, used those cuts to perfection as junior Janet Howard cut to the center in front and scored high past Lauralton’s Sydney O’Neill. Junior Lauren Valluzzi circled past the defense for an 8-2 lead, which held at the half.
“Early on, I thought we hung with them,” Lauralton Hall coach Jack Connors said after his team fell to 1-2. “One tough thing about coaching spring sports is you lose players to different commitments. We had at least four seniors not here because of college visits, and Emma Koerner is out. We were short coming in and had a short bench. They are a tough team. We stress resilience. And we hung with them the first eight minutes or so.”
Hand displayed its quickness and awareness on the field in the second half, creating turnovers which led to goals, both coming in front of the Lauralton goal. Wines capitalized on the first turnover, and when she made a steal in front and fired high to the top corner, the Tigers led 11-2 just 7:09 into the second half.
“We have four freshman playing varsity and two or three of them are starting,” Mraz said. “It may take us a little while, but we are building trust in each other. We are working on knowing where we are going to be.”
Hand, which dominated play in the Lauralton zone for a majority of the second half, continued to execute, winning the bulk of the loose balls and controlling possession.
“We work really hard on hustling to ground balls,” Mraz said. “We want to be the first to the ball and have control. Possession is 99% of the game. We spend a lot of time in motion.”
White, a senior, sandwiched goals around one by junior Amy Woods for the final three goals of the game. Lauralton’s Caroline Fabrizio capped the scoring in the final minute.
“I’m having lots of fun,” Mraz said. “This is a great group of young women. I am learning a whole new group and they are learning me. It is lots of fun and we are getting better every game.”
Junior Chloe Silva had two assists for the Tigers.