by Sean Begin
The temperature was far colder the second time the Central Connecticut women’s lacrosse team took to Arute Field this season. But the team and head coach Laura Campbell were feeling pretty warm after the Blue Devils notched their first win of the season and the first of Campbell’s Central career.
“It feels really good; really great,” said Campbell in the warmth of the Arute Field press box after the team finished off the Iona College Gaels by a 15-10 score, adding that it was nice to get the first win out of the way and to move forward with the season.
Campbell, who is in her first year as head coach of the Blue Devils (1-2) following the departure of Kelly Nangle, had amassed 38 wins as a Division I women’s lacrosse coach at Post and American Universities and Marist College before coming to New Britain.
Campbell and her squad were looking to rebound from a shaky offensive first game of the season, a loss to the La Salle Explorers on Feb. 22 who outhustled them on ground balls all game.
“We went into this game just really wanting to dominate all the hustle plays and the girls did that,” said Campbell. “They made the necessary adjustments that we worked on [in practice] and I’m just super proud of them for that.”
Central opened the game up with three straight goals to take an early 3-0 lead over the Gaels (0-3), who responded with three goals of their own. The two teams exchanged a fourth goal apiece before Central took the lead for the last time.
The Blue Devils scored four straight on goals from senior captains Claire Healy and Amanda Toke and sophomores Elyse Malecki and Falynn McCartney. Iona added a fifth goal to give Central an 8-5 lead headed into the half.
Central opened the second half with their ninth goal, an unassisted score from Toke just 1:37 into the half. But Iona scored three straight to pull within a goal of the Blue Devils.
Goals from Toke, McCartney and sophomore Madison Hughes, though, pulled the Blue Devils away again. The Gaels continued to fight, adding two more goals, including one on a free position shot to pull to within two.
But Central put the game out of reach with three final goals over the last four minutes, two from Malecki and a final one from Hughes with just three seconds remaining on the clock.
“[Our] defense played solid. Our midfield played solid. Our attack was converting and finding the back of the net today. I think across the board our team played well,” said Campbell of her team after the win.
Campbell said the captains continue to fill their role as team leaders but was happy with the performance of the younger sophomores on her squad.
“Our younger players they just get after it every minute. That’s really translating as you see with those hustle plays with Madison Hughes, the ground balls and draw controls,” said Campbell. “They just work really, really hard and it’s working out for them, so I’m excited.”
Hughes finished the game with two goals, a team high six ground balls, four caused turnovers and a draw control. McCartney led the team with six draw controls while adding three goals of her own, an assist and three ground balls.
Malecki finished with four goals, tied for a team high with Toke, who added two assists, three draw controls and two caused turnovers of her own. Toke’s fellow captain, Claire Healy, finished with two goals and two ground balls.
Central outplayed Iona defensively on ground balls (19-16) and draw controls (14-13) while successfully clearing the ball 12 of 13 times. Iona turned the ball over 19 times – 12 forced by the Blue Devils – compared to 12 turnovers for Central.
“The girls have proven they are able to execute a game plan and put the focus in and follow through,” said Campbell.
The team started a four game road trip following the victory over Iona with a 17-5 loss at Hofstra to move to 1-2 on the season. They play at Siena at 3 p.m. today before games at Stony Brook and Brown next week.
The Blue Devils will return to Arute Field for three straight games after the road trip, starting with a March 22 contest against Vermont.