Greenwich High

Greenwich High girls lacrosse team aiming to build upon last season’s success

Photo by David Fierro: Noey Johnson, left, wearing No. 3, is one of the captains of the Greenwich High School girls lacrosse team, which plays Norwalk in its season-opening game on Tuesday.

After winning the FCIAC West Division title and advancing to the quarterfinal-round of the CIAC Class L Tournament with a young squad, Greenwich High School’s girls lacrosse team is intent on improving upon last season’s successful 2021 campaign.

“I am looking to defend the FCIAC West title and compete in both the FCIAC tournament and state tournament,” said Greenwich coach Tara Clough, who is entering her third season at the helm. “Last year was my first opportunity to connect with the GHS players and build a foundation for the program based on attitude, commitment and work ethic. We always have a great group of athletes at GHS and experienced a lot of growth and development in the spring last season.”

The Cardinals finished their 2021 season with a record of 10-7 and lost to Wilton in the FCIAC Tournament quarterfinals. Following the FCIAC Tournament, Greenwich topped Hamden, 19-4, in the qualifying Round of the Class L state tournament, then defeated Newtown in the opening round, 12-7. The Cards’ run in the Class L tourney ended with a 10-5 loss to Fairfield Ludlowe in the quarterfinals – Ludlowe went on to advance to the championship game, where it lost to Darien.

Last season served as a key learning lesson for the Cardinals, who return 17 players from the winning team.

“It’s nice to have a bunch of players come back, I’m super excited about the season,” said Greenwich senior midfielder Noey Johnson, who is one of the squad’s captains. “We already have chemistry on the team, so it’s going to be really fun. I think we learned a lot and we only lost a few players. I think everyone is looking forward to a second chance after playing together last year.”

Photo by David Fierro: Emma Abbazia (No. 27) will be looked upon to help lead Greenwich’s offense this spring.

Greenwich opens its season Tuesday with a game against Norwalk at Cardinal Stadium at 4:30 p.m. Johnson, who will further her education at Wake Forest, will patrol the midfield, along with junior captain Sophie Neitzell and sophomore Emma Abbazia. The trio will be relied upon to spark the Cardinals’ offense, after producing plenty of goals for the team last spring.

“Noey Johnson is a high-level athlete who makes an impact everywhere on the field,” Clough said. “Emma Abbazia is agile and has a quick first few steps. She was a top threat as a freshman last year. Her competitive edge is hard to match, she has grit. Sophia Neitzell is a worker for us who strives for excellence yet plays with humility.”

Neitzell has committed to the United States Naval Academy, where she will play on the lacrosse team.

“Last year, our team was very new we had a big sophomore class and this year we have a big sophomore class,” Neitzell said. “So, I think it’s a young talent that we’re looking to improve over the years. We’re working well together, we’re doing big plays as a team and we’re also doing small 2 vs. 2 plays.”

Photo by David Fierro: Keira Young is one of Greenwich’s returning defensive players.

MK Savio, a junior captain, will be looked upon to help anchor Greenwich’s defense. Junior Kaitlin Kelly, junior Sophie Roth and junior Keira Young are among some of the Cardinals’ returning defensive players.

“MK Savio is our leader on defense,” Clough said. “She is a great team player who helps drive our transition game.”

Savio likes the togetherness the defensive unit has displayed in the preseason.

“We have a good bond, we’ve been playing with each other for a while, so that should be good,” said Savio, who has committed to play lacrosse at Franklin & Marshall. “We are really excited, this year we’re really together, we’re communicating and bonding and I think we should be strong.”

Senior captain Annabel Koven is a midfield and defender.

“I think the team has lots of potential this year,” said Koven, who is headed to Brown University. “Our defense has really made lots of improvements and is looking really strong.”

Koven is embracing her leadership role.

“I have really enjoyed being a captain and helping lead the team,” Koven said. “I always looked up to the captains when I was an underclassman, so it is really exciting to now be one and fill in their footsteps.”

Junior Cece Tauber, who helped ignite the Cardinals’ offense in 2021 is one of the team’s returning athletes at attack, while sophomore Liv Caminiti is among some of the squad’s midfielders. Junior Daryl Furno returns as a goalie and sophomore Kate Janis is also a goalie.

Greenwich hosts Norwalk on Tuesday, April 5, in its season-opener at Cardinal Stadium at 4:30 p.m.

“The chemistry we had last year is carrying over,” Neitzell said. “I think we definitely have potential.”

Clough is pleased with what she has seen from the team at each position during the preseason.

“Our team defensive unit is talented and deep,” she said. “They play at a high level of intensity and are gamers. We are identifying chemistries on the field and looking to create a balanced offense. We are also looking to improve our transition game.”

Greenwich’s home games include matchups against Simsbury (April 12), Westhill (April 19), Stamford (April 26), Wilton (April 28), Fairfield Warde (April 20), Fairfield Ludlowe (May 7).

“I love lacrosse season, I get to hang out with my friends every day,” Johnson said. “It’s fun to have a huge group to support you while you work every day.”

Indeed, the Cards are out to make their mark in the FCIAC and state.

“I think everyone putting in 100 percent and working really hard and seeing everyone grow and bonding as a team is going to be key for us,” Savio said. “I think we can win some games, a lot of them. This season, we could be one of the top teams. We have a lot of young talent that came in with the sophomore class. And we have a lot of returners from the junior class, so I think they can make a big impact.”

Said Clough: “Our players have grit and courage. They seek to be challenged and I believe in them.”

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