By BRIAN JENNINGS
Southington coach Jill Pomposi said that making last year’s Class L Tournament for the first time since 2014 was awesome, but the Lady Knights want to do even better this year. It’s a different group of girls from the seniors of last year’s team, but it’s the same mentality that last year’s team possessed.
“They are all kind of in the same headspace,” said Pomposi. “They played against the best in the state, and that was nice to see that level, but we want to really be able to end our season and senior year playing the way we want to play.”
Many teams in the CCC have fielded new head coaches over the last couple of years, and Pomposi said that she hopes the sweeping change will help the Knights achieve more wins in the conference.
“We’ve had a steady program for the last few years, and hopefully we can use that as another advantage against some of these teams that we have historically been pretty tight with,” said Pomposi. “Give or take the year, it could go either way.”
Pomposi said that the way the team plays in the CCC will have a large influence on how well the team fairs this season.
“We play Simsbury twice this year, and we beat them by one goal last year,” said Pomposi. “Those games that were really close last year, whether it was in our favor or the other team’s favor, are going to be really important.”
The Knights finished the 2017 regular season at 9-7 overall, placing last in the CCC North Division with a 1-6 record (7-6 in CCC). The 13th-seeded Knights exited the state tournament early with a 20-2 loss to eventual Class L champion, No. 4 Darien, in the first round.
Pomposi said that the team set out to qualify for the state tournament last season, but they did so earlier on in the year than they had in recent seasons. Instead of having to win three of their final four games of the regular season to get into the state tournament, they qualified at the midpoint of the regular season.
“It was definitely an improvement and a nice, positive vibe that we got into the tournament earlier on in the season,” said Pomposi. “Playing at the end of the season is great because we’ve been playing together and are more in a flow usually.”
The Knights lost eight of 20 players to graduation after last season, including Southington’s only all-conference player who led the team in goals and ground balls. Total key losses resulted in a pair of midfielders, an attacker, and a defenseman.
Seniors returning to this year’s team include Molly Dobratz (D), Jenna Garcia (D), Lauren Graef (D), Jessica Pesce (D), Brittney Sao (D), Julia Wells (G), and Stephanie Zera (A). Dobratz and Pesce were named as team captains for the upcoming season. Dobratz and Wells were the only Knights to represent Southington in last year’s junior all-star game.
Wells came up big for the Knights last year with 226 saves and helped propel them to wins in many close games that might not have been wins without her in the cage. She suffered an injury midway through the season last year, and with a freshman stepping in to fill her place, Pomposi said that it definitely wasn’t the same without her in there.
Pomposi said that Wells has always been confident coming out of the cage, but in the scrimmages the team has had thus far, Wells has been a little bit more confident and restrained when clearing the ball. This season will be Wells’ third year starting in the cage, and Pomposi said that she expects big things from Wells.
“If we can get it up to midfield and transition quickly, that’s a huge and very beneficial factor for us,” said Pomposi. “In the past, I know she’s put a lot of pressure on herself to clear it up really fast, but she’s been conscious of making the smart play with her clears and not just the quickest clear out.”
Pesce is another anchor of the defense. As one of the best at anticipating opponent’s passes, Pesce was one of the team’s leaders in interceptions last year.
“She’s not afraid to carry the ball up higher, make a smart play, and ditch it to the attack,” said Pomposi. “She’ll even get up into the attack if she has to for a little bit if the opportunity arises.”
Juniors returning include Adeline Kilgore (A), Anna Laone (M), and Sarah Mafale (A). Junior newcomers include Taylor Borla (A), Isabelle Crowley (D), Georgia Falk (A), Gabby Fiora (A), Julia Jackman (A), and Megan Matthews (A).
Emma Doran (M) and Brooke Lynch (M) are the lone two sophomores returning to the team with varsity experience.
With many a lot of strength returning in the defense, Pomposi said that the team’s man-to-man is going to be pretty good. Clearing the ball and quick transition up the field will also be a strongpoint.
“When given the opportunity to run-and-gun it, we do very well,” said Pomposi. “We are incredibly fit, and that will help us again because there are a lot of teams that can’t keep up or are sitting back.”
Improvement will come most in the team’s attack. Pomposi said that the team needs to be less rigid and more assertive with its attack.
“Sometimes, we overanalyze and want to be too nice,” said Pomposi. “We can’t be so nice. Take the shot to the cage that you have. You don’t have to pass it to your teammates.”
Following a realignment of the CCC, Southington is now in the North Division along with Avon, Conard, Farmington, Glastonbury, Hall, Simsbury, and South Windsor. The South Division consists of Berlin, Bristol Co-op, East Catholic, Newington, NW Catholic, RHAM, Rocky Hill, Tolland, and Windsor.
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