Tuesday, May 21, 2013


     BURLINGTON – The end of the Berlin High boys lacrosse season came like that final day of vacation.
The Redcoats know a long winter awaits with the constant reminder that they were unable to qualify for the Class M tournament, but the sweet smell of a late May victory will serve as a refreshing finish as well as a building block for campaigns ahead.
The program continues to surge forward under the guidance of coach Scott Rossi, who has worked hard for a decade to gain Berlin a foothold among the growing number of lacrosse towns in central Connecticut.
He envisions a positive future after the Redcoats concluded their campaign with a scintillating 13-12 victory over tournament-bound Lewis Mills at Malerbo Field that ended with a hard swallow and a wipe of the brow.
“We’re taking steps in the right direction,” Rossi said. “I think now what we really need to do is improve these kids’ lacrosse IQ and that it’s not an individual game with just a lot of dodging and good stickwork. To win at the varsity level it has to be a complete team effort.”
The seniors went out on a high note, led by jitterbugging attackman Nick Mangiafico, who tallied five goals and assisted on another.
Greg Buck, headed for a college career at Albertus Magnus, notched a goal and an assist. Long-stick midfielder Tyler Bouchard made some key defensive plays. Wojtek Zak, Jordan Kinney, Mason Paul and Jey Soucy also finished out their scholastic careers.
Replacing the scoring punch that the lightning-and-thunder combination of Mangiafico and Buck provided will be the primary concern as the program advances. Juniors Jordan Kradas (3 goals, 3 assists), goalie Matt Cote (8 saves), attackman Ben Tomascak (3 goals, assist), midfielder Luc Bolduc and defenders Anthony Duong and Sean Pollack will form the core for 2014.
“We’re definitely looking for some guys who can step up and finish for us,” Rossi said. “We have some guys on this team who have the potential. They just lack the confidence and experience right now.”
Bolduc is expected to be among the leaders.
“We’ve taken a good step forward,” Bolduc said, after the win over Mills. “This is only our second year. We had four wins last year. Now we have six (6-10). We have a lot of juniors coming back and I think we’re going to do good.”
WHEW! The Redcoats rode a dominating third quarter to gain the necessary edge against Lewis Mills, which cruised through the Western Connecticut Lacrosse League unscathed in 10 games but went 1-5 against outside challenges.
Trailing by two at the half, Berlin used three goals by Mangiafico and two by Kradas to take a 10-8 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
“[Kradas has] really developed,” Rossi said. “He came on late to the varsity program last year. He’s been a starter all season. He’s still developing as an aggressive attacker and goal-scorer, but there’s no one better as a set-up man for us.”
Buck’s goal with 8:30 remaining gave the Redcoats an 11-8 lead but the Spartans, in need of a win to gain a home-field advantage in the first round of the Class S tournament, knotted the game at 12 with 2:16 to go.
Bouchard nimbly picked up a ball at midfield to ignite the game-winning attack. A centering pass from Kradas to Tomascak restored the one-goal lead with 1:23 left.
With 10 seconds left, Mills was in a desperate way. Possessing behind their own goal, the Spartans elected to go over the top with long-stick midfielder Patrick Keegan supplying the shot. The ball one-hopped Cote and he deflected it safely away like a catcher blocking a pitch in the dirt. The ball kicked to the corner as time ran out.
“The saves Matt comes up with are absolutely huge,” Rossi said. “Matt’ll make those save right on the crease, one-on-one. He never falls asleep on you and never gets caught out of position. This is a very steady goaltender.”
David Borovsky was the primary source of offense for the Spartans with three goals and four assists. Griffin Hayes had three goals.
“This game wraps up our season pretty good,” Bolduc said. “It’s a team we beat last year but they definitely improved. We improved, too, though. I think it’s a good win to end the season on and we should be proud of that.”

      Berlin 13, Lewis Mills 12
(May 20, At Malerbo Field, Burlington)
Berlin                  3   1   6   3 – 13
Lewis Mills         4   2   2   4 – 12
Goals – Berlin: Nick Mangiafico 5; Jordan Kradas 3; Ben Tomascak 3; Greg Buck; Cam Criniti. Lewis Mills: Dave Borovsky 3; Griffin Hayes 3; Connor Hall 2; Matthew Borovy; Cameron Fletcher, Trevor Watts.
Assists – Berlin: Kradas 3; Buck; Criniti; Mangiafico, Tomascak, Sean Pollock.
Saves – Berlin, Matt Cote 8; Lewis Mills, Jack Reitz 10.
Shots – Berlin, 38-27.
Records – Berlin 6-10; Lewis Mills 11-5.

Thursday, May 16, 2013


WEST HARTFORD – With the Farmington High girls lacrosse team a recent graduate from the CCC South to the CCC North, Hall coach Steve Boyle witnessed a marked improvement in his next-door neighbor’s program.
Both team came into their clash with identical records, both overall and within the conference’s premier division.
The Indians’ slick scoring combination of sidewinding playmaker Maureen Gallo and aggressive finisher Abby Arena fell a notch behind early. They kept the heat on but never recovered against Hall’s offensive onslaught.
Alannah Boyle scored five first-half goals and the defense never allowed Farmington to slip within three as Hall posted a 14-11 victory Tuesday afternoon at Robert Chalmers Stadium.
“We did some really beautiful things in the first half in transition, which I think showed that we had a lot of different weapons,” Hall coach Steve Boyle said. “That was a lot of fun, but was it a little closer than I would have liked? Yes, but it was a result I pretty much expected.”
Alannah Boyle scored the game’s first goal two minutes into the game and Farmington (10-3, 3-2 CCC North) promptly tied it on a pass from Maureen Gallo (goal, 5 assists) to Lauren Batton. But the Warriors (11-2, 4-1) scored five of the next six goals over a span of 10 minutes to gain firm control of the match. The only Farmington goal during the stretch was a free-position shot by Arena (5 goals).
The key to Hall’s surge was that Megan Tracy dominated the draws and kept the ball out of Farmington’s offensive zone.
“We call Megan ‘Sparky’ because she’s our little sparkplug,” Coach Boyle said. “She likes to do the draw. You don’t normally have one of your shorter players doing the draw, but she’s so feisty and competitive that when she wins it, she’s in transition right away and it takes some of the pressure off the other kids.”
Farmington coach Jeff Manaresi felt his girls had to control the draws in order to be successful.
“We had to have the ball,” he said. “I told them at halftime, good things would happen and if they had the ball, bad things would happen. It was going to be a matter of who had the majority of the possession [time].”
The Indians twice closed the gap to two in the first half, but never truly threatened to take command. They improved their defensive play in the second half, totally neutralizing Boyle, but Hall’s offensive diversity proved too much for the visitors to overcome.
Farmington, playing its first season against the CCC heavyweights and holding its own, trailed 10-5 at the half but quickly sliced the deficit to three as Batton assisted on goals for Arena and Audrey Gallo.
But by the time the midway point of the half rolled around, Hall restored its lead to 12-7. Rachel Aronow curled in on goalie Jadin James from behind the net, then Emily Kenny secured the rebound of a shot by Boyle and scored.
The Indians again closed the margin to three when Maureen Gallo found Megan Brockleman with 4:04 left, but Hall responded emphatically when Hayley Mullins (3 goals, 3 assists) set up Tracy with under three minutes remaining.
The Warriors put the ball on ice for much of the time left, thanks in large part to a steal by defender Mackenzie Molodetz as Arena bore down on goal with a minute to go.
“We did pretty much what we wanted to do on offensively but they’re a tough team and they have some really good offensive players,” Manaresi said. “When they had it, they could beat us.”
Manaresi exuded confidence at halftime despite the five-goal shortfall.
“We’ve played hard all year,” he said. “I know the group I’ve got this year will never quit. We’re always in it. We’ve come back from goals down other games so as long as they keep at it, which I know they’re going to do, we’re in every game.”
Hall’s amplified defensive pressure forced turnovers that contributed to the early lead. The turnovers stopped in the second half and control of the draw evened out. Hall’s All-CCC goalie Maddy Hooper (8 saves) had her usual impact on the outcome.
Farmington previously played in the CCC South with most of the programs newer to lacrosse, but was bumped up this season to make room for the first-year Bristol co-op team.
Glastonbury holds a slight edge over the Warriors for first place as the North’s only unbeaten team. The Tomahawks turned back Hall, 9-7, on April 25 in Glastonbury.

Hall 14, Farmington 11
(May 14, Chalmers Stadium)
Farmington           5   6 – 11
Hall                       10   4 – 14
First Half – 1. Hall, Alannah Boyle (Emily Kenny) 1:02; 2. Farmington, Lauren Batton (Maureen Gallo) 2:21; 3. Hall, Hayley Mullins (Rachel Aronow) 2:41; 4. Hall, Aronow (Mullins) 3:15; 5. Farmington, Abby Arena 5:22; 6. Hall, Boyle 5:45; 7. Hall, Hannah Cho (Shelby Saunders) 6:01; 8. Hall, Lauren Romano (Aronow) 7:25; 9. Farmington, Linna Jalinskas 12:34; 10. Farmington, Arena (M. Gallo) 19:08; 11. Hall, Boyle 19:50; 12. Farmington, Arena (M. Gallo) 20:29; 13. Hall, Mullins 22:01; 14. Hall, Boyle (Mullins) 22:33; 15. Hall, Boyle 23:28.
Second Half – 16. Farmington, Arena (Batton) 26:54; 17. Farmington, Audrey Gallo (Batton) 33:28; 18. Hall, Aronow 36:16; 19. Hall, Kenny 40:15; 20. Farmington, M. Gallo 41:06; 21. Hall, Mullins 44:37; 22. Farmington, Arena (M.Gallo) 45:28; 23. Megan Brockleman (M. Gallo) 45:56; 24. Hall, Megan Tracy (Mullins) 47:03; 25. Farmington, Jalinskas 48:44.
Saves – Farmington, Jadin James 6; Hall, Maddy Hooper 8. Shots – Hall, 24-21.
Records – Farmington 10-3 (3-2 CCC North); Hall 11-2 (4-1).

Saturday, May 4, 2013


By Ken Lipshez
WEST HARTFORD – The warm spring sun kissed the day like a blessing from above.

The grandstands at the University of Hartford’s Fiondella Field filled up quickly with parents, youngsters from the youth leagues and some of West Hartford’s leading citizens, all yearning for a positive experience and a firm commitment that winter is gone and spring is here.

Hall versus Conard has a special place in the hearts of every city sports fan, no matter what the sport. Through the hard work of the West Hartford Amateur Baseball Association – the brainchild of Rick Sanford and Steve Meucci – the schools’ baseball teams lined up on one field and the softball squads clashed adjacently.

Let the record show that the Warriors won the baseball game, 7-4, behind the stellar work of plucky senior pitcher and game Most Valuable Player Jacob Kochen. Softball remains the domain of the Chieftains, who put a 19-2 thumping on the improving Hall team.

But the event superseded winning and losing, as Hall coach Jeff Billing so eloquently stated after the game.
“It’s awesome. Coming over here, literally arriving and walking out on the field you can see a different bounce in their step,” said Billing, now in his third year guiding the Warriors.

“It’s such a great thing that the University of Hartford lets us come here. It’s such an amazing thing that Rick Sanford and Steve Meucci put all the effort in to make this happen. To get all the town baseball teams here out at second base for the National Anthem before the game. The atmosphere here feels like you’re playing professional baseball.”

Billing cited a comment made by his athletic sophomore shortstop Neil Kelley that will warm the hearts of Sanford, Meucci, Mayor R. Scott Slifka, State Senator Beth Bye, Athletic Director Betty Remigino-Knapp and anybody anywhere who values the role of sport in the lives of America’s youth.

“He said, ‘Coach, this is the most fun I’ve ever had on a baseball field.’ Win or lose, it’s an awesome experience. I’m really happy we started this and I hope this never ends. I hope there’s a 50th anniversary of the Mayor’s Cup,” Billing said.

Slifka called it, “a West Hartford holiday.” Remigino-Knapp expressed the win-win nature of the event considering that the price of admission and any subsequent donations would be placed in the coffers of the West Hartford Food Bank and the West Hartford Relay for Life.

But after the trimmings of the event were cherished, the reality was that the afternoon had to be painted either red or blue. Kochen made sure it was blue.

“I had to hit the strike zone but not leave anything over the plate for them to hit,” Kochen said. “Conard’s a really good hitting team. They can put any strike in the zone in fair territory and hit it hard. So, hit your spots, hit the outside, throw some offspeed to the good hitters and not let them get a really good piece of the ball.”
Given the choice of facing South Windsor Wednesday or mounting the steep hill at Fiondella, Kochen opted to wait, and it was there where he crossed paths with destiny.

“This is a memory he’ll now have for the rest of his life,” Billing said. “MVP of the Mayor’s Cup his senior year? He had never played varsity baseball before this year.”

While his performance didn’t match the one-hitter thrown by George Lund in the inaugural Mayor’s Cup in 2012, Kochen sternly threw strikes when he needed them most. He spread out eight hits in a route-going effort, walked four, struck out two and benefitted greatly from Hall’s flawless defensive work.
And the Hall bats were relentless against Conard’s two best pitchers – southpaw starter MaxVogel-Freedman and right-hander Charlie Fisher.

Reid Silverhart lashed Vogel-Freedman’s first pitch of the game into center for a solid single. Kelly drilled the second pitch inside the bag at third to put two in scoring position before the mustard had settled on the hot dogs. The tone of the game was firmly set.

“We won the game after two pitches,” Billing said. “If you can jump on people, especially as the visiting team, you’re going to put a lot of pressure on people.”

Silverhart score on a fielder’s choice grounder by Jon Greenfield. Just as Vogel-Freedman appeared to have put early jitters behind him, a passed ball enabled Kelly to make it 2-0. The mistake was a sign of things to come. 

“Defensively we’re not playing as well as we’re capable or need to,” Conard coach Ty Bongiovanni said. “It’s put a lot of pressure on the pitchers because mentally they’re changing the way they pitch because of it. They feel they need to strike out more guys than they really need to. I think it’s changing the way we approach just about everything. Our bats are totally different when we’re losing than when we’re winning.”
The bottom of the Hall order darkened Conard’s day in the second frame. Ben Horwitz singled and raced to third on a hit by Lucas Huber. Horwitz scored on a throwing error and Kelly laced an RBI single plating Huber.

Hall made it 5-0 in the third and ended Vogel-Freedman’s stint. Singles by Will Cook and Dan Nunes set the table. Horwitz walked and Huber earned a painful RBI when he was hit by a pitch with the bases full.
Conard battled back with single tallies in the third and fourth innings.

John Dinucci singled, stole second and scored on a double by Brendon Rossmeisl. After Alex Goroshko reached on an infield hit, Caleb LaRosa hit a laser to left, but Huber snared it and doubled off Rossmeisl at second.

The Chieftains climbed within three in the fourth when Fisher was hit by a pitch and scored on a single by Mike Eddy, but Hall began executing a successful end-game in the fifth. Nunes doubled to left and scored on a single by Zach Dobbins.

A little extra insurance at the University of Hartford seemed only suitable. Silverhart, who Billing dubbed the offensive MVP, started the sixth with a single, stole second and scored on an error – one of two dropped infield pops by Conard on the day.

When the final out was made, the Hall defense remained on the field and Bongiovanni ambled to the mound.
A special young man – Conard’s senior manager Phil Prieto – came to the plate for an honorary at-bat.

Prieto, a mentally challenged youngster who cannot play competitively due to safety issues, crushed a pitch into the right-field gap, circled the sacks and slid head-first into the home-plate dust.
It was a feel-good finish for a memorable afternoon.

              2013 Mayor’s Cup Baseball Classic

                              Hall 7, Conard 4
    (May 3, At Fiondella Field, University of Hartford)

Hall                                                Conard
                              ab  r  h  bi                                      ab  r  h  bi
Silverhart dh       4  2  2  0           Litke 2b                4  1  1  0
Kochen p             0  0  0  0           Dinucci rf            3  2  2  0
Kelley ss              4  1  2  1           Rossmeisl c        3  0  1  1
Greenfield 1b       4  0  0  1           Gorashko ss        4  0  2  1
Cook 2b               2  1  1  0           LaRosa 1b            3  0  0  1
DHorwitz pr        0  0  0  0           Fisher dh-p          3  1  1  0
Monos rf             4  0  0  0           Vgl-Frdmn p        0  0  0  0
Nunes cf              4  1  2  0           Muchin 3b          2  0  0  0
Dobbins 3b         4  0  1  1           Fracasso ph        1  0  0  0
BHorwitz c          2  1  1  0           Venora lf              1  0  0  0
Huber lf               2  1  1  1           Balesano ph        0  0  0  0
                                                        Eddy cf               3  0  1  1
Totals                 30  7  10  4        Totals                 27  4  8  4

Hall                                    221  011  0 – 7   10  0
Conard                              001  100  2 – 4     8  4

E – Rossmeisl, Fisher, Muchin 2. LOB – Hall 7, Conard 9.
DP – Hall 1, Conard 1.  2B – Kelley, Nunes, Rossmeisl.
SB – Huber, Nunes, D. Horwitz, Silverhart, Dinucci.
SF – LaRosa.

                            ip    h   r  er  bb  so
Kochen  W        7     8   4   4   4   2

Vgl-Frdmn L     2.2   7  5   4   2   6
Fisher                 4.1   3  2   1   1   2

PB – Rossmeisl. HBP – by Kochen (Fisher, Balesano);
by Vogel-Freedman (Huber; by Fisher (Cook).
A – 300. T – 2:11.  

Records – Hall 7-5 (3-4 CCC West); Conard 7-4 (4-2).