Category Archives: Lacrosse

Ali Hooker is Making a Comeback

by Lauren Lustgarten

There are about 250,000 to 300,000 ACL injuries per year, and the majority of those injuries are happening to athletes. “You always hear about athletes tearing their ACLs, but you never think it is going to be you,“ said member of the Central Connecticut State University Women’s Lacrosse team, senior Ali Hooker.

On March 12, 2016, on Arute Field against Iona College, Hooker became one of those statistics. She landed the wrong way while going to cage, resulting in a completely-torn left ACL and a half-torn left meniscus.

“I have never went down in a game before, so I knew it was a serious injury as soon as I hit the ground. To validate it, I even heard the famous ‘pop,'” said Hooker.

The thoughts racing through an athletes’ mind when they go down in a game are all over the place. For Hooker, she had no doubt that her life was about to change.

“I heard the pop and I just knew. At that moment, all I kept thinking was that my season was over when it had just begun,” said Hooker. “As soon as the trainer told me he thought it was my ACL, I immediately asked ‘well, can I still play on it?’”

That question quickly got shot down the next day when Hooker saw her doctor, who confirmed that she did tear her ACL and had a partially torn meniscus, which refrains athletes from playing without surgery.

For some athletes, they only care about how their injury is going to affect them and how they are going to handle it. While that was a thought in Hooker’s mind, she also thought much about her team.

“I was nervous for them. I knew I was needed out there and for some reason I didn’t feel bad for myself, I felt bad for my team that I couldn’t be out on that field with them anymore,” said Hooker.

She explains her experience of watching her eventually 3-13 team struggle out on the field as frustrating and miserable. “Not being able to do anything other than try to coach my teammates and talk to them off the field was really hard. Every aspect of this injury is horrible and I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy,” said Hooker.

Post-surgery is the hardest time for athletes. While that is the time to start rehabbing and get stronger to get back on the field, it is also a mind game. Hooker started physical therapy the day after her surgery to try to get her flexion and extension back in her knee. From then on, she attended physical therapy four times a week for three hours each session. The normal recovery time for an ACL tear is six to 12 months. It is expected that athletes start to lose motivation.

“Right after surgery, I was hopeful. My mindset was that I needed to do everything I could to get stronger and get back better than ever for myself and my team,” said Hooker. “Around five months out of surgery, I lost steam and motivation. I couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. I still went to all of my physical therapy sessions and I still worked hard, but I still felt at five months along, I was not going anywhere. I knew I still had months to go, so it became increasingly harder to go through those motions everyday.”

Hooker fought through and nine months after surgery, after almost one year of telling herself “It will be worth it in the end,” she was back. “I just had to keep saying that I didn’t go through 10 months of not being able to play the sport I love for nothing.”

Hooker’s first game back was on Feb. 18, against Quinnipiac University. For someone who usually never got nervous for games, she was terrified. “I felt good and I felt excited, but boy, was I anxious,” said Hooker. “I ended up playing better than I thought I would as I was convinced my nerves were going to consume me. I also always hear stories about athletes coming back and tearing their ACLs again, so I thought that I was going to be cautious and timid with my playing. But, once that whistle blew, I knew I had to make my mark again.”

So she did. By the second game, Hooker took back her spot as a starter and three games into the season, she has one goal and three assists. She feels that trusting the process and trusting that she did everything for a reason really is going to set the tone for the rest of the season.

“My advice to any athlete that may go through an injury like this, is to simply never give up and push yourself. It’s not supposed to be easy.” Hooker’s surgeon always told her something that has gotten her through: “It’s 10 percent what your surgeon does and 90 percent the work you put in after.”

Hooker wants athletes who may find themselves in her position to realize it is just another roadblock and you can and will overcome it.

“This injury will not only make you a stronger athlete, but also a stronger person. It has taught me to make the most of a bad situation and as backwards as it sounds, if this has to happen to you, this injury does have the ability to change you for the better if you let it.”

The Blue Devils Go Cold Against Lafayette

 

by Kimberly Pena

The Central Connecticut State University Women’s Lacrosse team was winded out by Lafayette University, with a 17-6 loss on a cold Saturday afternoon, dropping their record to 0-4.

Six different Blue Devils scored for the team, including senior Jessica Giangarra, who had a goal and two assists to lead the CCSU offense. Sophomore goalkeeper Jackie Branthover posted eight saves for the Blue Devils.

In the first half, the Leopards came storming out to build a 5-1 lead with just about seven minutes into the game. Amanda Case, Emma Novick, Jane Kirby, Kirsten Wilhelmsen and Emily Wingate had a goal a piece for LU.

Junior Kylie Sullivan got the Blue Devils back on the board with an assist by Giangarra to cut the score 5-2.

But, the Leopards did not slow down and were on fire after CCSU’s goal. The Leopards went on a 6-0 goal run, capped off by LU Hannah Davey’s 12th goal of the season giving Lafayette a 10-2 lead, with about 14 minutes left in the half.

“I think we just let them put some balls in the back of the net right away,” said Lacrosse team Head Coach Princess Livingston. “It kind of just deflated our confidence, and so it was hard for us to climb back in it. I think that’s what happened right away.”

The cold did not help the CCSU girls either, according to the players. It disoriented the team for much of the game offensively and defensively.

“I think the weather got to us,” said senior Marissa Soto. “It got to our hands and then let it get to our heads. I think everyone started sinking down and started showing it.”

Soto also posted a goal with 12:19 remaining in the half, cutting the lead 10-3; it was her ninth goal of the season.

The Leopards then went on another 6-0 run to extend their lead 16-3, including three from LU’s Jane Kirby, who posted five goals in the game to lead the Leopards.

“Going into it, Lafayette we knew was a very good team,” said Soto. “I don’t want to say I knew we were going to lose because, I will never say that. But, they are a very good program. I didn’t expect to come out here and shove goals in the back of their net, then stop them right away with defense.”

The second half was pretty quiet for both teams as CCSU scored three goals by Giangarra, freshmen Megan Szawlowski and freshmen Cameron Ruberti. Meanwhile, LU only scored once after a monstrous display in the first half.

“We still have a lot of games left, so we’re going to have to have a good week of practice and get a win on Friday,” said Senior captain Kelsey Murphy. “One game at a time.”

The Blue Devils will play their third straight home game on March 10, hosting St. Mary’s at 1 p.m. on Arute Field.

 

Finishing Strong

N.A.S.

by Sean Begin

With Tanya Kotowicz taking over the women’s lacrosse program before the 2015 season, it wasn’t surprising to see the team start slow.

The team started 1-5 and didn’t record their first home win until March 25 against Quinnipiac, their fourth home game and ninth overall.

But after settling into Kotowicz’s style of play, the team finished strong, winning three of its last four games and concluding with a 9-7 victory of second-place Wagner on Sunday.

“Getting used to a new culture, a new coach, a new system, we finally started to peak at the right time. And we fell short in three games by one goal,” said Kotowicz after Sunday’s win. “In one goal games you’re either on one end or the other, and unfortunately we were on the wrong end. So I think more than anything, they just keep believing and it started to pay off.”

Central defeated Mount St. Mary’s 9-8 on Friday night, after scoring the last three goals of the game to come from behind and win 9-8. Senior goalkeeper Morgan Tullar recorded a save with less than five seconds on the clock to ensure the Central victory.

On Sunday, a similar story played out.

With 19:08 left to play, Wagner took a two-goal lead on Jessica Mills’ third goal of the game, putting Central down 7-5. But Central would score twice in the next two-and-a-half minutes to tie the game at seven, on goals from junior Madison Hughes and sophomore Marissa Soto.

A little over two minutes after Soto’s game tying goal, her classmate Erin Dougherty put home what proved to be the game-winning goal on an assist from junior Falynn McCartney. Sophomore Jessica Giangarra added an insurance goal with 6:33 left to go.

Wagner failed to score in the last 19 minutes of the game thanks in part to great goalkeeping by Tullar, who had two big saves in the last three minutes of play to help preserve Central’s two-goal lead. Kotowicz also made a defensive change that seemed to stymie Wagner’s offense.

“They got used to one of our zone [defenses] we play, so we switched it to more of a man defense and just kind of gave them a different look, and they just weren’t able to adjust,” said Kotowicz.

Tullar and fellow seniors Brigit Hogan and Jessica Sudock were honored in a small ceremony with their families before the win, finishing both the season and the match on high notes.

“It couldn’t have ended better if we had to end this way,” said Kotowicz. “We would have loved to be in the tournament, and we will expect to be in the tournament from here on out, but today they controlled [what they had to]. We had two more games left and we had to make sure they were wins, for our seniors especially.”

Central finished the season with a 6-10 overall record and a 3-4 record in conference play, which actually put them in a four-way tie for fourth place with LIU-Brooklyn, Robert Morris and Sacred Heart. All three teams owned the tiebreaker over Central, meaning the team will miss the NEC tournament in Kotowicz’s first season, something she doesn’t intend to let happen again.

“I don’t ever want this program to be comfortable outside the tournament,” she said. “We’re bringing back a lot of players, but we’re going to expect a lot more out of them next year.”

Central’s top six goal scorers are all returning next season, including Hughes (24), McCartney (20), Soto (17) and Dougherty (11). Sophomore Alexandra Hooker (22) and freshman Kylie Sullivan (14) round out a strong returning attack and midfield.

With none of the defense graduating, the only question mark for Central heading into the offseason is goalie. Tullar graduates as the program’s leader in wins with 22, and will leave a gaping hole between the pipes that Kotowicz will need to fill.

With no backup currently on the roster, that means either a transfer, a freshman or a current player making a position change will fulfill that duty for Central next year, something to watch closely when the 2016 season rolls around.

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.

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.