Category Archives: Lacrosse

Lacrosse Splits First Two of Four Straight Home Games

by Sean Begin

Winning in sports by one is a unique situation. For the losing team, it can be particularly devastating to come up just short of a win. For the winning team, elation at pulling out the win can be a boost of confidence.

In the first two of four straight home conference games, the Central Connecticut women’s lacrosse team experienced both sides of the one-goal game.

The team held off St. Francis (Pa.) to win 11-10 on Friday before falling to Robert Morris 9-8 in sudden victory double overtime Sunday afternoon.

“I think what we found in [the St. Francis] game was we played an excellent first half,” said head coach Laura Campbell. “And then we kind of put our foot on the brakes a little bit, so to speak, in the second half.”

“So our big goal going into this game was to put a complete game together and to keep responding and keep being resilient. And so I’m really proud of them that they rose to that today.”

And respond they did. The Blue Devils faced a fierce Colonial attack in the first half and were outshot 15-to-6, but thanks to a couple wide shots and stellar goalkeeping from junior Morgan Tullar, they entered the half with a 4-3 lead.

The Colonials (9-4, 3-1 NEC) scored first 6:33 into the first half on a free position shot, but Central (5-8, 2-2 NEC) responded at the 21 minute mark with a free position goal from senior Claire Healy to tie the game.

Robert Morris took the lead back with 11:17 to play. Four minutes later, Healy’s fellow captain, Amanda Toke scored the first of her three goals, assisted by sophomore Falynn McCartney. The Colonials once more took the lead with 1:23 to go, but the McCartney-Toke combo struck again 32 seconds later to tie the score.

Then with one second on the clock, McCartney fed Healy for the go-ahead goal and her third assist of the game. Tullar had 10 saves in the half.

“She rose to the occasion and she stepped up for us big,” said Campbell of Tullar’s day. “I hope she takes it and feels good about it, and she should.”

Campbell added: “I also think our defense as a unit, they really did a very good job. [Robert Morris] controlled a lot of the possessions with draws, and it was down our end a lot and defense did a really good job forcing some low percentage shots. So it was a team effort on that.”

Robert Morris opened the second half with three straight goals until McCartney scored unassisted to make the score 6-5, before the Colonials answered with two more goals to pull away 8-5.

“It was starting to go down a road where we’re getting frustrated and that’s been something that we’ve been working on this whole year,” said Campbell. “So I just told them we can’t go down that road. We’ve got to know that we have each other’s backs.”

Like they had been doing all match, Central responded, scoring the final three goals of the half to force overtime. Toke scored her third goal of the game with 11:42 remaining to make it 8-6.

Central didn’t score again unitl a free position goal from McCartney with just 2:15 remaining. McCartney assisted on senior Meaghan McCurry’s goal just 49 seconds later to send the game to overtime.

After a scoreless first overtime period, the teams entered sudden victory double overtime that saw the Colonials pull out the win with 1:38 to go in the first half of the double OT period.

“It came back to clears,” said Campbell when asked where she thought the team struggled on Sunday, “which is funny because against St. Francis we did really well with the clear.

“Our goal was to play a full 60 minutes so it’s kind of ironic that we went into overtime.”

McCartney continued her standout sophomore season on Sunday, tallying two goals, four assists and a team-high four draw controls, which Campbell called Robert Morris one of the best in the nation at. McCartney managed to draw control the ball that led to the Blue Devils’ tying goal.

“I think with that, Falynn was just changing things up a little bit on her just trying to keep her out of any sort of rhythm,” Campbell said of the play.

Captains Toke and Healy finished with three and two goals, respectively, while Tullar finished with 14 total saves.

In Friday’s game against St. Francis (Pa.), Central outscored the Red Flag 9-3 in the first half, putting up seven unanswered goals to take an 8-1 lead early. But St. Francis scored the final six goals of the second half to climb within one before the Blue Devils could close the game out.

McCartney scored four goals on Friday giving her six for the weekend. Toke finished with six as well scoring three against the Red Flash. Freshman Marissa Soto had a good game as well, scoring two goals and adding six draw controls and three ground balls, both team highs.

The Blue Devils will next host conference leader Bryant on Friday, April 18 before facing Sacred Heart a week later, in their last home game of the season.

Malecki:Hooker vs Howard (3-29-14) (Colleen Lennehan)

Lacrosse Cruises Over Howard

by Navindra Persaud

The Central Connecticut women’s lacrosse team dominated the Howard Bison, 22-7, on a cold and wet Saturday afternoon, in only the fifth meeting all-time between the two schools.

“I really think we just found our rhythm,” said sophomore attacker Elyse Malecki. “We really do have a great offense that just connects. We find each other and it was really about finding that moment where we click. Once the first couple of plays started happening, we started rolling with that momentum.”

The Blue Devils (3-6) were able to score eight unanswered goals, led by three from freshman Alexandra Hooker, until freshman mid-fielder Tianna Clark scored the first goal for the Bison (0-7) with 12:30 left to go in the first half.

“We had some great cuts, great feeds and we were just working well with each other on ball and off ball. I think we really needed that today,” said Malecki.

At the half the Blue Devils lead the Bison 15-5. Malecki, who finished with four goals and three assists, and Hooker led the scoring for Central in the first half with four goals each. Hooker finished the game with five goals, a team high, shooting 5-5 on the day.

In the second half, Central outscored the Bison 7-2 with a combination of the defense and offense clicking for the team. Morgan Tullar, the junior goalkeeper for Central, was able to tally up seven saves in the contest.

Senior Meaghan McCurry finished the game second in points, tallying three goals and three assists.

“We were just finding each other very well. We worked a lot this week on just being dynamic and effective off the ball, and we were doing that,” said head coach Laura Campbell.

Central played exceptionally well off the ball, denying passes and forcing 19 turnovers by Howard against Centrals 13.

Campbell said that the ball carriers were finding their way, and that the team had put a little more emphasis on their shooting, an area she though the team needed a little more work on, along with finding the net and being crafty with their shots.

“It was nice to see,” said Campbell when asked about the performance from the younger players on the team.

“I think our younger kids are good. We have lots of threats and it was really nice to see them step up today. I think that’s going to be really important going into conference play that we can tap into that depth.”

Malecki and Hooker proved that they were able to score, and could serve as a great help to captain and leading scorer Amanda Toke, who scored a goal and added three assists in the win over Howard.

“I think something that we have been emphasizing all year is just getting better every day, to raise the bar and not really ever being satisfied,” said Campbell. “We have a good, solid defense core, good offense core and good transitional stuff that we are executing. It’s just the little things right now that we have to fix.”

Malecki added that fast breaks were a huge factor in the teams’ success and creating opportunities for goals to be scored. She also praised her teammates for making really good cuts so that she was able to feed them the ball.

“I wanted to help my team as best as I could get into the offense and push those fast breaks,” she said.

The Blue Devils come out of what was their third straight home game with a 3-6 record. This game marks the last non-conference game of the season.

“I think we’re just going to ride this momentum,” said Campbell. “We’re going to keep doing what we’ve been doing. We really needed this win, especially going into conference, and I just hope we can keep playing off of that and fix the little mistakes that we had today and capitalize on the great things.”

The Blue Devils will begin Northeast Conference competition on the road Friday April 4 at Mount St. Mary’s.

 

Lacrosse Loses to Vermont, Drops Third Straight

by Sean Begin

After two tough games on the road against Stony Brook and Brown, the Central Connecticut lacrosse team returned to Arute Field on Saturday, looking for a win against a solid Vermont team.

The Catamounts (8-2), however, proved too strong on offense, handing the Blue Devils (2-5) a 22-7 defeat.

“Vermont is a good team. They’re athletic and aggressive,” said Coach Laura Campbell after the loss. “I think for us we knew they were a fast break team. So we had a game plan against it. It came down to executing some of the little things. And we just didn’t take care of that.”

Vermont got off to a fast start, scoring four straight goals to start the game, including two within 10 seconds of each other. The Catamounts outscored the Blue Devils 14-6 in the first half to take an eight-point lead into the locker room at halftime.

Central managed to score the first goal to open the second half, but Vermont scored the next eight to close out the victory. Vermont was led by Sydney Mas and Vanessa VanderZalm, who scored seven and six goals, respectively.

Mas proved particularly effective, scoring low several times against Blue Devil goalkeeper Morgan Tuller. Tuller allowed 20 goals and tallied seven saves on the day.

“We did scouting, we knew their tendencies. We knew [Mas] drops her arm low and then she shoots low so it pretty much telegraphs the shot,” said Campbell. “For some reason Morgan was just getting beat on it today.”

Campbell said the team struggled with slowing the ball by using effective body positioning and footwork, they lost positioning on inside cuts from the Vermont attack, both of which contributed to the team’s struggle to defend.

Five players scored for the Blue Devils, including two each by captain Amanda Toke and fellow senior Meaghan McCurry. Toke also added an assist, three ground balls and four draw controls, tied for a team high with sophomore Falynn McCartney.

The Blue Devils split the draw controls with Vermont at 15 each and gathered more ground balls than the Catamounts, 19-15, but were outshot 33-29. Vermont’s goalie, Mackenzie Maher saved 13 shots for the Catamounts.

While the loss is Central’s third in a row, it’s also the third team in a row the Blue Devils have faced that finished last season with a higher RPI ranking than Central.

“I told them in the locker room I’d rather schedule tough opponents and lose than play easy games and not really learn anything,” said Campbell of the team’s tough schedule. “I don’t think we grow from that.”

Growth is something Campbell sees happening in more than just her players, although they too have learned lessons from the tough losses.

“Personally, as a coach, I’m growing. I think as players they’re growing and they’re learning,” said Campbell. “They’re learning from playing against stronger opponents and learning how to make their personal games better. I hope that they take that away from [losing].”

As the team advances towards NEC play, the exposure to tougher teams, Campbell hopes, will make the Blue Devils more aware of the things they need to control, in order to have success against conference foes.

“One thing we’ve been talking about is the fight. We’re not giving a consistent fight,” said Campbell. “Regardless of what’s going on that’s out of our control, we have to control the controllables.”

Added Campbell: “We’ve got to fight for that whole 60 minutes. We’re not seeing that enough. These games have really shown that. So I’m hoping we can build on that.”

The lacrosse team takes the field again Saturday with a home game at Arute Field against Howard scheduled for 1 p.m.

DSC_0039

Lacrosse Notches First Win of Campbell Era

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.

Lacrosse Loses First Game of Season

by Sean Begin

Despite scoring the first goal of the game and playing well enough defensively, the Central Connecticut women’s lacrosse team dropped their home and season opener 14-8 to La Salle University on Saturday.

“We started off pretty strong. I think the first half was solid for us,” said head coach Laura Campbell. “Defensively things looked pretty solid. There were just some lapses here and there and La Salle did a good job capitalizing on it.”

The Blue Devils (0-1, 0-0 NEC) scored the first point of the game with 24:07 left in the first half on an unassisted goal from senior captain Claire Healy.

But the Explorers (3-0, 0-0 A-10) answered Healy’s goal with four straight over the next 12 minutes to take a 4-1 lead with 12:55 to go in the half.

The Blue Devils senior leaders responded to the La Salle run. Fellow captain Amanda Toke scored just 30 seconds after LA Salle’s fourth goal with an assist from Meaghan McCurry.

Forty seconds after that, McCurry pulled Central to within one, with a goal assisted by Healy. After a fifth La Salle goal, Healy scored again on a free position shot to make it a 5-4 game, the closest the Blue Devils would be the rest of the afternoon.

La Salle ended with half with two goals to take a 7-4 lead into the locker room at halftime.

“Transitionally I think we looked pretty good,” said Campbell of her team’s performance. “We were executing our clear very well and keeping the ball safe, getting it into our attacking end.”

Central opened the second half similar to the first, putting up the first goal to pull within two of the Explorers. But La Salle scored three straight and then four straight to put the game out of reach for the Blue Devils.

La Salle was led by Erin McCabe, who scored five goals for the Explorers and added an assist.

While the team played fairly well defensively – they beat our La Salle 16-8 on ground controls and went 8-9 on clears – the struggled with ground balls, 22-12 in favor of La Salle.

“What really was the problem today was ground balls. La Salle really dominated those today and that showed,” said Campbell. “We’re going to put a lot of focus into ground balls, making sure that we’re getting after them, fundamentally doing them correctly and coming up with them cleanly.”

While the team was only outshot by La Salle by two goals (25-23), Central failed to score when given the chance while La Salle made use of their opportunities.

“We’d get some looks inside and we’d be a little surprised and frantic and just shoot and not take a look at the net or throw a fake in,” said Campbell of the team’s shooting. “That’s probably what I’ll chalk it up to, first game jitters, and I think we’ll be in much better shape next game.”

Healy finished the game with three goals and an assist. Toke had a goal and an assist of her own while adding six draw controls, tied for a team high with sophomore Falynn McCartney, who also scored a goal. McCurry finished the game with two goals and an assist.

“There are little things on both ends that we do need to work on. And their little fixes, so that’s encouraging,” said Campbell. “Overall, I think it was a solid game and if we treat those little things we’ll be in better shape next game.”

The lacrosse team’s next game comes March 1 on the road against Hofstra University.

Amanda Toke

New Coach, New Season, Same Results?

by Sean Begin

Last season, the Central Connecticut women’s lacrosse team reached the high point of program history, recording a record nine wins overall but, more importantly, tallying seven (also a record) NEC victories, good for second place in the league, and their first appearance in the NEC tournament.

Following the end of that highly successful 2013 season, head coach Kelly Nangle resigned in order to take the same position with Liberty University in Virginia. Enter Laura Campbell, hired in August to replace Nangle as the women’s lacrosse head coach.

Campbell coached prior Division I schools at American University and Marist College. She appeared in each school’s respective conference playoffs, winning a Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference championship with Marist in 2010, earning that team its first ever NCAA tournament appearance.

Campbell will enter her first season at Central without three All-Conference players (seniors Betsy Vendel, Ali Roche and Mackenzy Ryan all graduated last year), but returns two other All-Conference players, as well as Central’s second ever All-Rookie player.

“We’re just looking to continue that upward trend, really, and continue to be competitive in conference,” said Campbell. “I think we have everything in place to do so. The girls are very, very excited of what we can achieve this year.”

The transition between coaching staffs can be a difficult process, but the silver lining in Nangle’s quick yet abrupt departure was the time it allowed for Campbell to not only be hired, but spend time building chemistry with the team.

“It certainly has been a transition,” said Campbell. “I think in the fall we worked out all of those kinks and it was an adjustment for everybody. Now we’re certainly on the same page and we’re in a great place.”

The team last season was one the better defensive teams in the country. They ranked 10th in the nation in caused turnovers per game with 9.5. The team’s 17.94 ground balls per game was good for 16th in the nation and they were 27th in scoring defense with 9.06 goals against per game.

For Campbell, the return of senior midfielder Amanda Toke provides some much needed leadership both on the field and in the locker room. Toke was second on the team last season in both caused turnovers and draw controls as well as a leading scorer on the team.

“Toke is just a hustler through and through,” said Campbell. ‘She makes plays that can just change the momentum of the game. Those players are very, very exciting and they’re crucial to have on the team. She’s certainly a leader; she’s a captain for us this year.”

The Blue Devils will need Toke’s leadership and jack-of-all-trade’s lacrosse skills if they expect to duplicate last season. Youth, however, will play an important role.

Elyse Malecki was named to the All-Rookie team last season, just the second Blue Devil freshman to receive that distinction. Malecki finished just behind Toke on the team last year in points (25) and goals (22) while starting all 17 games.

“Elyse is young but she’s one of those players who can make changes pretty quickly,’ said Campbell. “That’s exciting to see because those are the types of players that the sky is the limit, really, when they can make adjustments on the fly.”

Despite her raw talent, with only one season under her belt, Malecki still has some growing and learning to go through.

“She’s one of those players that we really want to work on her consistency,” added Campbell of her young player. “She sometimes has the tendency to shoot right to the goalie or not make good decisions with that. So we’re really just working on her composure inside, and she’s doing a good job.”

Such composure will come with added game time experience which the young attacker will certainly see this season.

Campbell’s last returning All-Conference selection is goalkeeper Morgan Tullar, who stopped 139 shots last season in her first as the Blue Devil’s full time keeper. She posted a goals against average of 8.89 per game while recording a program record nine wins.

“Morgan is a very smart goalie,” said Campbell. “She knows what adjustments she needs to make. It’s just one of those things sometimes where we need to be on her so she doesn’t get complacent and get into some bad habits. I think she’s doing a really good job of being a leader back there.”

Tullar is backed up this season by freshman Kristin Stolen, one of seven freshmen on the team this season but Campbell like what she sees in her young players, particularly in their adjustment to her system.

“I think they adapted a little quicker because they weren’t necessarily adjusting from any other coach,” said Campbell. “The freshmen are a skilled group. They challenge our upper classmen daily in practice. And that competitive environment is really just making us better.”

The change from Nangle to Campbell allowed for a different perspective of who can play what positions, resulting in some changes for some players.

Junior Jess Sudock had played midfielder for the Blue Devils the last two seasons, but has recently (within the last two weeks) made the transition to defender. Already, though, she’s taking to her new role well.

“We bumped her back to defense because her footwork is solid and she’s adapted to that phenomenally,” Campbell explained. “Her 1v1 defense is one of the best on the team now. She’s just a force. It’s unbelievable [how quickly she’s adjusted].”

Campbell added some unfamiliar teams to the Blue Devil’s non-conference schedule this season in order to give the team playing time against strong teams, in order to better prepare them for conference play.

Monmouth, the two-time reigning NEC champion, left the conference following the end of last season, leaving the Blue Devils the highest ranked team from last season, and a conference wide open for the taking,

“Like I told the girls, it [the championship’s] ours to lose this year. The only people who are going to lose it are ourselves and if we allow that then that’s on us. But we can beat anyone in the conference, so it’s exciting.”

The lacrosse team kicks off  the season on Feb. 22 at home against La Salle.