By Dan Nowak
@NHRDanNowak on Twitter
Three weeks ago, Lauralton Hall first-year coach Kati Cavanagh talked about how the players’ love for one another and the mindset of just plain having fun has combined to be the strength of the Crusaders this season.
The camaraderie and pure joy of playing the game worked well in the regular season. The Crusaders went 15-0-1, and are now 40-0-6-1 over the past three regular seasons.
The combination has also worked well this postseason. The Crusaders, moving from Class S to Class M, have advanced to the championship game and will play two-time defending champion Wilton today at Wethersfield High at 2 p.m.
If the Crusaders were enjoying themselves in the regular season, they’re certainly having fun in the playoffs. They ended up co-champions with Pomperaug in the South-West Conference tournament after a scoreless tie. In another nail-biter, Lauralton Hall defeated Avon 1-0 in overtime in the Class M semifinals.
“‘Fun’ is an understatement; more like having the time of our lives,” Cavanagh said. “We’ve been fortunate enough to have won two semifinal games in overtime. It is an exhilarating feeling that words can’t express. The only way you’d understand is experiencing it yourself.”
Defense has been the team’s strength in the state tournament, allowing just two goals in three games.
Maureen Connolly, Beth Lamonte, Micaela Murphy, Jackie Brewster, Tori Stapelton and Kara Duggan are among the top players for the Crusadars. Connolly and Brewster are among the top scorers.
“We worked exceedingly hard to get to this position and it’s an awesome feeling,” Connolly said. “Our success comes from our ability to work well with each other. Regardless of the large amount of time we spend together, we’re all friends off the field and the bond we have with one another translates when we play.
“Our strength as a team is in our ability to collaborate and adapt. We understand each other’s strengths and weaknesses and are able to work through different formations in order to see what will work best for the team. Because we are like a family, there is constant support and competitive spirit on the field that pushes us not only to play our best, but to win games. We have been extremely successful in doing this thus far and we hope to continue it in the state championship.”
Cavanagh isn’t surprised by her team’s success.
“We set lofty but realistic goals at the beginning of the season,” Cavanagh said. “I am very well aware of Wilton’s tradition and respect what a great team they are. But we are focusing on ourselves, not the opposition.
“As far as the transition from Class S to M, I haven’t really given it much thought, nor have my players.”