Sacred Heart lacrosse team refocusing on FAA lax title

Convent of the Sacred Heart’s Taylor Ryan gets the ball around her Greenwich Academy opponent during last year’s FAA championship game. — Paul Silverfarb photo

Convent of the Sacred Heart’s Taylor Ryan gets the ball around her Greenwich Academy opponent during last year’s FAA championship game. — Paul Silverfarb photo

With the disappointment of not being able to successfully defend its Fairchester Athletic Association championship still fresh in their mind, the Convent of the Sacred Heart lacrosse team is focused and ready to add another banner to the school’s gymnasium wall.”

“After how we ended the season last year, I think we are coming into this season with another attitude that we want to go for it and be a little more consistent than we were last year,” CSH head coach Courtney DePeter said. “Hopefully we will end up back there again, but this time with different results.”

Last season, Convent of the Sacred Heart was a game away from reaching one of their goals, but were unable to defend their Fairchester Athletic Association championship, falling to rivals Greenwich Academy in last year’s FAA title game.

“The thing last year was being able to handle the pressure, which I think we did a pretty good job of,” DePeter said. “We still were playing really close games, but I think having a lot of those girls from last year’s team back that experienced winning and then not have a strong season last year, they want to end their careers here the way it did two years ago. This year’s team has the mentality where we want to come out strong, we want to be consistent, play a full 50 minutes every game and just to improve as the season goes along.”

The Tigers will be led this year by seniors Taylor Ryan and Maddie Pillari.

Ryan will be positioned in the midfield, while Pillari will pace Sacred Heart’s defense as the team’s goalie.

“I expect them to bring this group together and to raise us to the next level,” DePeter said. “We didn’t go to Florida this year because I couldn’t travel, but we finished a week of preseason in South Norwalk and I was really impressed that the girls sacrificed a week of vacation. They really got together and had that bonding experience and that was because of the two captains. Taylor brings a lot of leadership to the midfield and makes our offense more settled, while Maddie is our leader on defense and has improved every year. The two of them make a great combo.”

Senior Allie Kenny will be back for her senior campaign to lead the team’s attack.

“I see her running the team’s offense,” DePeter said. “She’s a really good feeder and does a good job calling out the plays. She has stepped up her game as a senior leader.”

Joining Kenny at the attack will be sophomore Catherine Hayden and Kate Larkin.

Juniors Colleen O’Neil and Mo Leitner will be returning for another year in the Sacred Heart midfield.

“They are starter and having their experience will be huge for us,” DePeter said. “Their game-sense and speed are great and they are really aggressive.”

Also playing midfield will be sophomores Alice Millerchip and Kate Burkett. Newcomer to Sacred Heart, Emma Novick, will also give the midfield an added punch.

“I think we are going to do really well on the fast break, but we need to work on settling and taking our time,” DePeter said. “We have a lot of girls that can score, so it can really come from anywhere. Right now we want to settle the attack.”

Returning between the pipes for the Tigers will be Pillari, who had a standout season last year. Backing her up will be Amanda Weber.

“Maddie is great with her communication skills, her leadership and her quickness,” DePeter said. “She makes saves that I can’t believe are made. She’s really the core on the defense. She’s improving a lot on her clearing and with coming out of the net. She’s becoming more mobile of a goalie instead of just standing there and that’s huge. Amanda is a junior and has been on the JV for the past two years. We brought her up so she could learn for next year.”

In addition to Pillari, seniors Tessa Davis, Meggie Purcell and Emma Molloy will pace the team’s defense.

“Our strength will be at defense,” DePeter said. “I think we have some good, quick players. Our defense is also doing a really good job working together and communicating. They are sliding and crashing.”

In order for the Tigers to get back to the FAA championship game, DePeter knows that her squad needs to get off to a fast start.

“The girls know that we take each practice and games seriously,” DePeter said. “We are the shortest season and there’s not a lot of time to get a lot of practice in. We start out with really strong competition like Loomis and Hotchkiss. Last year we lost to Loomis but beat Hotchkiss and the year before it was the opposite. We can play with these teams and give them a good game.”

With the Tigers determined to make some noise this postseason, DePeter is confident that Convent of the Sacred Heart will be ready to step up its game.

“Two years ago it all kind of happened and last year we had a lot of pressure on us,” DePeter said. “Last year I also had pressure on myself because I knew I was having a baby. The season was out of whack and not where I wanted it to be. I think we are more focused than last year and more determined. This team has what it takes to bring the trophy back home.”

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