By John Goralski
What a difference a year makes. That’s the thought that’s been swirling around Jill Pomposi’s mind as she watches her team run through their paces at a preseason practice.
Last spring, she stepped up as an interim coach to navigate the beleaguered Knights during a failed run at the postseason. Until the final week, the coach juggled responsibilities between junior varsity and varsity as the Knights tried to regroup for the final push.
The sense of desperation has slowly turned to expectation. The program’s uncertainty was quelled when Pomposi accepted the coaching position this fall. Now, the team seems ready to start a new chapter as the Lady Knight lacrosse team ushers in a new age.
At her first meeting last fall, Pomposi could already feel the excitement.
“It was November, and everyone was already talking about what they would do in the off-season and preseason,” said the coach. “It was really exciting. It was very positive, and everybody was ready to go.”
It spilled into the fall as waves of hopefuls poured into the off-season conditioning practices. It carried into the spring as they flowed over the practice field during tryouts. Now, Pomposi hopes that it continues into the regular season as Southington tries to raise the bar for future teams.
“We definitely want to make that tournament, and we want to improve our record in our division,” she said. “The conference split last year. We were put in the top division, but we ended up at the bottom of the standings. We want to move up to the middle of that conference. I’m excited.”
It’s not like the Knights have very far to go. In fact, they were competitive in most games last season. The girls rallied for three win in their first five starts before struggling through a winless conference schedule. The Knights came within one point of Conard. They lost by two points to South Windsor and just five goals to Farmington. Small changes are all that’s needed if the Knights are going to turn things around this spring.
“If we can just focus on the entire game for the entire game that will be key,” said the coach. “We can get sidetracked when we make a mistake. We will bobble it or continue to make mistakes. We have to learn to move on and get past it to play the entire game.”
To help the team stay focused, Pomposi will rely on a trio of veteran senior captains. Carolynn Keal was last season’s top scorer. Laurel Dean and Alexa Mitchell have anchored the Knights for multiple years. As a group, they will lead the transition at midfield and pace the attack at the net.
“Not only do they work together well, but they are great leaders on and off the field,” said Pomposi. “They are not afraid to take the reigns and get everybody going, and they are all great, solid, all-around players.”
Already, the team has shown an improvement with midfield transition, and that should help the Knights to score in tight contests. All three captains can shift from midfield to attack. Faith Ritchie, Helen Dinnan, and Jess Lee can play at any position.
“They are goal hungry, and all of them want to score,” said the coach. “We just have to keep moving the ball to keep them hot. They all work well together, and they’ve been playing together throughout the offseason. It’s a good group.”
There are a few more questions on defense, but Pomposi will rely upon Meagan Asklar and Megan Palumbo to anchor a group of hopefuls. It helps to have junior goaltender Allie Abacherli as the last line of defense.
“Allie really came into her own last year, but I want her to be a little more of a leader back there,” said Pomposi. “She’s already said that she wants to come out of the cage more. She’s mentally ready for that.”
The Knights will be tested throughout their schedule with three competitive home games out of the box followed by a seven game road trip that ends in early May.
“We’re just going to take it one game at a time, but with each game we’re going to be focusing on something specific. It’s going to take unselfishness. We have to keep the ball moving and get past our mistakes,” said Pomposi. “I think we’re going to use our transition to get into those higher scoring game. It’s going to depend who we’re up against. If our transition’s working, we’ll just run and gun it. If it isn’t, we’ll have to run more plays.”
One thing is certain: The Lady Knights are not going to quit.
To comment on this story or to contact sports writer John Goralski, email him at jgoralski@ southingtonobserver.com.