Lewis Mills falls short against Northwest Catholic
HARWINTON - The Lewis Mills girls lacrosse program is headed in the right direction but still has some room to grow before it will be able to contend with the best.
The sixth-seeded Spartans got off to a fast start and acquitted themselves well before falling to No. 11 Northwest Catholic, 20-12, in a Class S state tournament first-round matchup on Tuesday afternoon at the Harwinton Sports Complex.
With the win the Indians advance to face No. 3 Old Lyme (13-4) on Thursday in the Class S quarterfinals. The loss ends Lewis Mills' season at 11-6.
The Spartans jumped out to a quick 2-1 lead against the defending state champions, who answered with four straight goals and never trailed again. A goal by Emma Murray brought Mills within 7-5 but a quick 4-1 spurt by Northwest Catholic pushed the lead to 11-6 at the break.
"We got off to a fast start but when they answered back we let up a bit," Lewis Mills coach Killeen Leonard said. "Every time we made a mistake, they made us pay for it."
The mistakes came by way of turnovers or on face-offs and the Indians used them all to their advantage. Quick goals to start the second half by Jessica Jordano and Catherine Higgins pushed the Indians' lead to 13-6 and the Spartans just didn't have enough firepower to answer them goal for goal.
"They jumped on us and we were on our heels a little bit to start but we got settled down after that early timeout," Northwest Catholic coach William Mullady said. "We got our offense moving better and did a better job on defense."
Tessa McNaboe scored four goals and Allison Dionne added three to lead Lewis Mills. Murray and Hope Woods each added a pair of goals and Kelly Winterbottom also scored for the Spartans.
It was a disappointing loss because it ended the season, but coach Leonard wasn't disappointed in her team. The Spartans won the Western Connecticut Lacrosse Conference title for the second straight season and have now been to the state tournament two straight years.
Considering the program is just in its fourth varsity season and just beginning to see some of the benefits of a local youth program, Leonard likes where the program is headed.
"We've won the WCLC two years in a row and those were all teams that used to beat us," Leonard said. "We've come a long way in the three years I've been here. When I started we had about 60 girls and about 40 had never played lacrosse before. Now we are more skilled and kids are coming to the program with some experience, which makes a huge difference."