The best of the best.
That’s what the Connecticut 2023 team proved they were at the Nike American Select Lacrosse Tournament recently in Delaware.
Connecticut, a team comprised of high school girls players from Fairfield County, won the national championship at the American Select Lacrosse Tournament, registering a record of 5-0 at the competitive event, featuring rising seniors.
Team Connecticut was coached by Tara Clough and Shannon Colligan, both of whom coach Greenwich High School’s girls lacrosse team. The championship 2023 Connecticut squad featured a group of players hailing from Greenwich.
Sophia Neitzell and Cece Tauber, represented Greenwich High as members of the title-winning team. Greenwich Academy students Ellie Burdick, Ellie Johnson and Rebecca Arpano competed on the undefeated Connecticut 2023 team as well.
“Coaching this team representing Connecticut in their last year of competition at the Nike American Select was a phenomenal experience for me,” said Clough, the head girls varsity lacrosse coach at Greenwich High School. “This Connecticut team was relentless and certainly left a legacy. It was a true team effort with lots of contributions.”
The majority of Connecticut’s championship team also competed for Clough and Colligan with the Connecticut Grizzlies club lacrosse program over the years. Many of the members of the Connecticut 2023 team that played at the recent Nike American Select Tournament also competed on the CONNY Command Lacrosse team that captured the Under Armour All-America Lacrosse National Championship in Virginia Beach, Va., in 2020. They also won the East Super Regional title at the Under Armour All-America Lacrosse Games in 2020.
At the recent All-American Select Tournament held in Delaware, team Connecticut 2023 posted an 11-7 win over Massachusetts in the championship game, held this past Saturday.
Burdick, who has committed to play lacrosse at Dartmouth College and Arpano, who will play at Harvard after she graduates from Greenwich Academy in 2023, were each chosen as members of the American Select 2023 All-Tournament Team.
Chloe Humphrey, a rising Darien High School senior, was selected as the tournament’s MVP. Also named to the American Select All-Tournament team were Kaleigh Sommers (Fairfield Ludlowe High School), Molly Snow (Wilton), Kate Demark (Darien) and Kaci Benoit (Darien).
In the championship game against Massachusetts this past Saturday, Humphrey, a University of North Carolina commit, gave Connecticut a 1-0 lead with a goal early in the first half. Darien’s Collette Quinn, who will continue her lacrosse career at Princeton, tallied, giving Connecticut a 2-0 lead on Massachusetts in the final. Massachusetts, which played at a deliberate, effective pace, responded by scoring four of the game’s next five goals to enter halftime with a 4-3 edge.
“Our team is loaded with speed and we love to push the fastbreak,” Clough said. “It was difficult on their possessions, they were slowing it down. We ran a few different defensive strategies. We had solid athletes on the defensive zone and they made so many stops.”
Arpano, who has committed to play the sport at Harvard, rose to the occasion in the opening half for Connecticut, making several key saves. She and Isabella Crowley combined to spark the victors in goal.
“Our goaltending (Rebecca Arpano and Bella Crowley) was remarkable and our defensive team unit, led by Kate Demark, Kaci Benoit, Ellie Johnson and Morgan Massey was unstoppable and instrumental to our success,” Clough noted. “Their level of communication and enthusiasm was unmatched in this tournament.”
Team Connecticut took control in their title game against Massachusetts in the second half. With Connecticut trailing, 5-3, Darien’s Ryan Hapgood (Dartmouth commit) scored, then Humphrey tallied off a free position attempt, evening the score with 18:27 left in the second half.
The Stanford University-bound Sommers gave Connecticut a 6-5 advantage, tallying off a dodge at the 15:40 mark. After Massachusetts regained the lead with a pair of goals, Humphrey and Sommers scored, putting Connecticut ahead, 8-7 with 7:30 remaining.
New Canaan’s Stella Nolan, a Michigan commit, extended Connecticut’s lead to 9-7, before Quinn and Burdick capped the squad’s scoring with goals. For the five-game, eight team American Select national tournament, Connecticut outscored the opposition, 56-27. Humphrey ignited Connecticut offensively throughout each game.
“Chloe Humphrey is an amazing leader and team player,” Clough said. “She is truly one of the greatest players in the high school game. She is brilliant and so tough to defend with her first few steps. Throughout the event, she demonstrated hard work, commitment and a positive attitude.”
The American Select semifinals saw Connecticut pull out a hard-fought 9-8 win over New Jersey in sudden death overtime, also on Saturday, just before the team played in the finals against Massachusetts.
“Kaleigh Sommers plays to her strengths and is impossible to defend with her finishes,” Clough said. “On the game-winning goal in the semifinals, she dodged about five players. She has basketball moves and she protects her stick really well.”
Prior to the semifinals and finals, Connecticut had three pool play games in the American Select tourney. Connecticut defeated Pennsylvania, 12-3, Washington D.C./Virginia, 16-4 and California, 8-5, in pool play to advance to the finals of the three-day national tournament.
“Both New Jersey and Massachusetts had high-level skills and top committed D1 offensive threats,” Clough noted. “The consistent message was ‘don’t let their hands free,’ and they (the team’s defenders) shut them down with multiple stops, forcing outside shots.”
Johnson has committed to play lacrosse at Stanford, Neitzell will play at the United States Naval Academy and Tauber is heading to Williams College.
“Sophia was solid, she is a great two-way midfielder,” Clough said of Neitzell. “She and Ellie Burdick stepped up their game in the midfield and were threats.”
The championship Connecticut 2023 team included: attack Kate Avitable (Darien), Humphrey (attack), Dylan Lyons (Amity Regional, attack), Nolan (attack), Molly Snow (Wilton, attack), Tauber (attack), Kate Bloomer (Darien, midfielder), Burdick (midfielder), Hapgood (midfielder), Neitzell (midfielder), Quinn (midfielder), MJ Santa Barbara (Guilford, midfielder), Sommers (midfielder), Jillian Vaught (Darien, midfielder), Benoit (defense), Johnson (defense), Demark (defense), Massey (defense), Ella Patterson (New Canaan, defense), Arpano (goalie) and Crowley (Ridgefield, goalie).
“They were all playing for something bigger than the tournament,” Clough said. “They were playing for the legacy they were going to leave behind.”