By BRIAN JENNINGS
The Lady Knights finished last year’s regular season with 6-10 record (0-6 in division) placing seventh in the CCC North and missing the Class L state tournament by a game. Although the Knights just came up short on the postseason, Southington head coach Jill Pomposi still considers the regular season a success.
“We had a very good year, and we had some really tight games,” said Pomposi. “The biggest thing was that we put a lot pressure on ourselves. We didn’t play 50 full minutes every game. At the very end when it was crunch time and we had to get the wins, we psyched ourselves out.”
Southington graduated 10 players from last year’s team, but the Knights welcome back 12 girls with varsity experience. Senior captain Victoria Gentile and junior captains Hallie Altwies and Morgan Raymond will lead the group of experienced veterans.
Raymond was one of the team’s leading goal scorers and defenders last year, scoring 35 of Southington’s 144 goals. Altwies was also right around the top of goal scoring and fielding ground balls, and the duo will work side-by-side to anchor the Southington midfield.
Gentile is currently out with an injury, but coaches predict she will be back on the turf soon. As the team’s only senior, her experience is needed as Southington sets its sights on a return to the postseason.
“They are all incredibly dedicated and committed,” said Pomposi. “They have a great sense of team. They are leaders vocally, and a lot of the girls find them approachable.”
Juniors Emily Gibney and Nickolina Doran, along with sophomore Brittney Sao, will help to spark Southington’s transition at midfield. Michaela Carrera (junior) and sophomores Jenna Garcia and Jessie Pesce will anchor the defense.
Sophomore Julia Wells will serve as the last line of defense, replacing Allie Abacherli (251 saves) as the starting goalie. Last year, Wells had 13 varsity saves in relief.
“She’s been working during the offseason and has been doing a great job,” said Pomposi. “We had a scrimmage yesterday, and she seemed very comfortable. I’m not really worried about her.”
Other key returners looking to make an impact in the starting varsity lineup include juniors Jess Karwowski, Sydney Brault, Gabrielle Mulholland, Hannah Jackman, and Grace Strillacci; and sophomores Lauren Graef, Nicole Martocchio, and Steph Zera. Newcomers to the team include freshmen Sarah Mafale, Adeline Kilgore, and Anna Laone.
Southington’s first goal is to get healthy. Besides Gentile, Zera is also sidelined by injury. Like Gentile, she is expected to return shortly. Her 11 goals will be needed, since all of the other returning players scored a combined total of 20 goals.
Pomposi said she has a very talented group, but having the talent isn’t everything. Last year’s group was talented, too.
“This year, we have talent and are a lot more cohesive with better chemistry,” she said. “I don’t know if it’s because we’re younger and enthusiastic, but this group seems to have a lot more heart and determination.”
It’s already paid off during the brief preseason, and Pomposi said that she is excited about her team’s potential. She also said that this year’s squad seems to be more resilient, so they won’t be flustered by early deficits. The keys to the season will be motivation and chemistry.
“We do have some players with a lot of varsity experience, but there’s a bunch that don’t have any,” said Pomposi. “But as long as we are confident in skills and teammates, we’ll be fine.”
Personality, comradery, and chemistry are three elements that Pomposi said really separates this year’s team from last year.
“They are not selfish,” the coach said. “They know that we’re in this together and are a team. We’re trying to make strides as a program, and they’ve brought that up. They don’t want just success this year. They want to make a mark on this program, and we know it’s going to start this year.”
Working hard in practice, running more, and lifting in the weight room has proved to move the Knights closer to their goals for the upcoming season. Besides team chemistry, Pomposi said the team’s transition has been good, which has been a strength for the past couple of years. In addition, this team has the potential to control groundballs, and that could be the difference in a close game.
“There’s going to be a lot of games that are extremely close that come down to those 50-50 balls,” said Pomposi. “Right now, I think we’re pretty balanced…Everyone has a role and a job down there, so that we can be a little bit more efficient when we possess it in the top third.”
Pomposi is entering her third year as head coach of the program.
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Brian Jennings, email him at BJennings@SouthingtonObserver.com.