The season commenced in impressive fashion on Monday for the Greenwich High School girls lacrosse team, which displayed precise passes, standout shooting and a dominant defensive effort against visiting Norwalk.
All of that added up to a resounding 20-4 season-opening win for the Cardinals, who begin their 2023 campaign determined to build upon the success they experienced last spring.
“I’m excited for a great season at Greenwich High School,” said Tara Clough, who starts her fourth season as the Cardinals’ varsity girls coach. “I came to Greenwich High School to build a championship program. This year on varsity, we have a very strong group of senior leaders, who have played for me for three years and are indeed, determined to win a championship. My goal is to support and prepare them as much as possible.”
Among some of the Cardinals’ senior leaders are captains Sophia Neitzell, MK Savio, Cece Tauber and Keira Young.
Monday’s season-opener against Norwalk at sunny Cardinal Stadium saw Greenwich jump out to an 8-1 lead the first 18 minutes of action, before entering halftime with a commanding 14-3 advantage.
“I’m really happy we had a home game to start the season, it was a great start for our team,” said Neitzell, a two-season captain, who will play lacrosse at the United States Naval Academy. “We have so much potential, we got the ball around a lot and we shared the ball. We had many goals from many different people and everyone put something in for our great season-opening game.”
Junior midfielder Emma Abbazzia, who reached and elipsed the 100 career-goal plateau in 2022, picked up right where she left off from a season ago, recording four goals to go along with two assists to help pace the Cards against the Bears. Tauber registered four goals, while also showcasing her passing skills, notching four assists, in the winning effort. Indeed, the Cardinals’ attack/offense was in top form throughout the FCIAC matchup.
“I play low attack and I have three really great low attackers and high attackers with me,” said Tauber, who will play lacrosse at Williams College next year. “I have been able to cultivate a great relationship with those around me each season.”
Sophomore attack Aubrey Roth recorded a hat trick, while junior attack/midfielder Mary Frey, freshman midfielder Leighton Collier and junior midfielder Libby Zola tallied two goals apiece in Monday’s triumph against Norwalk.
Goals by Zola, Tauber and Abbazia put GHS ahead, 8-1, then with the home team on top, 10-3, late in the first half, Abbazia converted a pair of shots in transition, helping the Cardinals (1-0) seize a 14-3 halftime advantage on the Bears (0-1).
The 2022 season was one in which the Cardinals advanced to the quarterfinal-round of the CIAC Class L Tournament. Seeded ninth, GHS posted a 17-1 win over eighth-seeded Newington in the first round of the Class L Tournament, then dropped a 15-2 decision to top-seeded Darien in the quarterfinals.
In the 2022 FCIAC Tournament, Greenwich was edged by Ridgefield in the final seconds, 12-11, in the quarterfinals. The Cards earned a 10-5 record a season ago, posting a number of stellar victories along the way. This spring, the Cardinals are planning to compete deep into the postseason and contend for both the FCIAC and state championships.
“My overall message for this athletic Cardinal team is Play Smart – Read, React, and Execute,” Clough noted. “If we play smart with speed and limit turnovers, I do believe anything is possible.”
Greenwich returns a goalie and group of defenders with significant experience of competing at the varsity level. Senior Daryl Furno returns in goal, where she will start, after performing well at the position a year ago. Junior Katie Janis is also back as a goalie.
“She continues to step up for our team and program defensively,” Clough said of Furno.
Savio, who is headed to Franklin & Marshall College, where she will play lacrosse, Sophie Roth (will play the sport at Gettysburg), Kaitlin Kelly and Young are seniors, who have been mainstays on the defensive unit for several seasons.
“I think we all complement each other very well,” Savio said of the squad’s defensive unit. “Over the past years, we have developed a great bond.”
Rylan Sepot, who assisted on a goal in the victory versus Norwalk, is a senior defender, along with Lacey Warwick.
“Our defensive team unit is made up of a rotation of six strong senior defenders,” Clough noted. “They all offer a different role in the unit that is both challenging and appreciated by their teammates. There is a great deal of personality and determination in this group. I call them Team Alpha. As a team, they seem unstoppable and of course key to starting our offensive transition.”
Abbazia, Neitzell, key, what should be a highly productive group of midfielders. Committed to play at the University of Maryland, Abbazia was a 2022 All-FCIAC First Team Selection and earned All-State Team accolades. Neitzell also received All-State Team honors and was an All-FCIAC Second Team selection last season.
“We have so much potential, from our upperclassmen to our underclassmen,” Neitzell said. “We can be a dominant team and I think we’re going to have a great season, as long as we work together and challenge ourselves.”
Juniors Tess Furno and Zola, along with freshman athletes Leighton Collier and Giselle DiPietro, will also see plenty of action at the midfield position. Collier had two goals in the season-opener, while DiPietro assisted on a goal, as did junior Liv Caminiti, a returner, who will also solidify the midfield position. Junior Cate Adorney, who had an assist against the Bears, is also a returning midfielder, while freshman Sophia DiPietro joins the squad as a midfielder/attacker.
The Cardinals have the potential of having a high-scoring attack.
“On attack, senior captain, Cece Tauber brings her X factor back to the field,” Clough said. “Sophomores Aubrey Roth and Flynn Tauber along with juniors MK Frey and Grace O’Connor will look to make an impact offensively this spring. Freshman, Dillon McFerron, will also bring some speed to our offensive flow.”
Against Norwalk, Abbazia had seven draw controls, Giselle DiPietro, had five draw controls, while Kelly and Savio posted two apiece. Abbazia also gathered nine ground balls.
“In the game of lacrosse, possession is everything,” Clough said. “We will be focusing on our draw strategy throughout the season. “Our goal offensively is to implement a balanced offense with attackers playing with more creativity and deception.”
Greenwich visits Glastonbury today for a 5 p.m. non-conference game, then visits Stamford on April 11, before hosting Simsbury on April 13.
“I thought our first game went great, we are hoping to keep up our winning streak,” Young said. “Really strong points come from all parts of the field. The attack is really good, we have standout players and same with the midfield and defense.”
Said Savio: “I think this is the best team we’ve seen in several years, I think there’s big things to come for us. We’re super aggressive and we have developed as a team as a whole. We have some special individual players and I think we can go very far this year.”
Greenwich’s other home games at Cardinal Stadium include Wilton (April 18), Staples (April 29), Ridgefield (April 29), Ridgefield (May 4) and Daniel Hand (May 10). The Cards visit Darien on May 15.
“I think we’ll do great things in the FCIAC and states,” said Cece Tauber, who is excited about her role as one of the team’s captains. “It’s upsetting that this is my last year on the team, but I’m excited to have way more of an impactful role this year.”
“We want to win states, we want to win FCIACs and we think we can make it that far,” said Savio, a two-season captain. “We have very big goals.”
“If we all work together, it will go really well for us,” Young noted. “Hopefully, we make it as far as we can, we want to be playing together for as long as possible.”
Categories: Greenwich High, Spring sports
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