High School Lacrosse: Trinity girls — and coach — learn on the jobBy ALEX HALL
April 17. 2018 11:31PM
LIKE SOME of his players on the Trinity of Manchester girls’ lacrosse team, coach Mike Connell is new to the game.
For Connell and the Pioneers, the program’s inaugural varsity season this spring is all about learning.
Connell, who also coaches the Trinity boys’ hockey team, is in his first season coaching girls’ lacrosse. He refers to attackers as wings and thinks of midfielders as centers. While he still likes to use hockey lingo that is familiar to him, Connell has noticed the two sports have their share of differences.
“They’re a lot less similar than I thought, to be honest,” Connell said.
After playing as a club team last year, the program was in need of coach for its first varsity campaign. Connell volunteered to lead the team.
“It’s exciting to be part of the first ever girls’ lacrosse team at Trinity,” Connell said. “As I told the girls, ‘When you come back for your 30th reunion, everything you see up on the walls, any kind of accolades the program gets all starts right now.’ It’s exciting.”
Trinity’s 17-player roster includes some that are new to the sport but also features more than a few with experience and talent. Junior Nicole Calder, freshman goalie Kevynn Knoettner, and sophomores Estela Raya-Fouts and Gabby Desrochers are among the experienced Pioneers. The four have helped their fellow teammates and coach learn the game.
For a team with no seniors on its roster, Connell said their leadership will benefit the program both now and in the future. Those learning from the experienced players will develop and understand how to lead the program when it is their turn to do so, he said.
“That culture is being built in naturally,” Connell said. “Like with hockey and other sports I’ve played and coached, there’s not as much of that one-on-one coaching or teaching player-to-player as much as I’ve seen here.
“It’s a great thing to see. It shows the maturity for such a young team.”
Connell has seen firsthand how that culture has grown from Day 1 to now. On the first day of practice, Connell described his players as “church quiet.” On the bus ride to Laconia for the program’s first varsity game, the players were anything but quiet.
When Calder scored the program’s first goal in a 14-1 loss to the Sachems last Friday, her teammates were overcome with excitement.
“They’re just upbeat every day,” Connell said. “They came to me and said, ‘Coach, we want to do more running.’ That tells me right there how competitive they are.”
Connell said the Pioneers’ goal for this season is to be as competitive as they can possibly be and to improve each day.
With his current players leading the way, Connell would like to see the program grow to the point where it has both a varsity and junior varsity team featuring players both experienced and new to the sport. Connell also hopes the school eventually finds an experienced coach to lead the team.
“It’s the right group of girls at the right time to make that happen,” Connell said. “They’re the ones that are really going to do it.”
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IN just four years, the Derryfield School of Manchester boys’ lacrosse team has become one of the usual Division II powers.
Derryfield is the two-time defending D-II champion and finished runner-up in 2015, its first season in Division II. Before leaving Division III, the Cougars won the league title in 2013 and finished runner-up in 2014.
The Cougars began this season by defeating Bow and St. Thomas Aquinas of Dover — two playoff teams last year — by a combined score of 27-6.
The Cougars owned the fifth-longest winning streak in the country (35), according to laxrecords.com, entering their bout at Manchester Memorial on Tuesday.
“I know as a coach, I’ve wanted to be the Pinkerton or BG (Bishop Guertin) of the division we’re playing in,” Derryfield coach Chris Hettler said in the preseason.
If the Cougars were playing a D-I schedule this season, they would be among the best teams in the league, said Bishop Guertin coach Chris Cameron.
“They would be a top-five team in D-I,” Cameron said of the Cougars before the season began.
I agree with Cameron. With college-bound talent like junior midfielders John Anderson (Providence College) and Jon Maclean (Monmouth) and Hettler at the helm, Derryfield would be a legit D-I title contender this year.
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THE HANOVER boys’ lacrosse team did not leave with a win in its season opener at Pinkerton. The 14-2 loss to the Astros on April 11 did provide the Marauders with some perspective, however.
“We’re very young in a lot of places and we saw a really good team today that if we can emulate, that’s where we want to be at the end of the season if we can be,” Hanover coach Ryan Gardner said after the setback.
Hanover has 13 seniors and nine juniors on its 33-man roster.
The High School Lacrosse column runs Wednesdays during the season. Alex Hall can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.