By MICHAEL LETENDRE
The sport of lacrosse in the Mum City has been growing for years now and on several levels.
And with the two all-weather fields recently installed at both public high schools in town, the sport has been growing by leaps and bounds.
During the spring of 2016, Bristol Youth Lacrosse restarted it girls program after years of not offering an all-girls team.
Over the years, if girls wanted to play lacrosse in town, they had to compete on a boys team.
While that program ran for two months with twice-a-week practices and ended with a few scrimmages, the girls continued to practice and compete with a once-a-week summer clinic.
The number of participants grew from initially 12 registered athletes to over 20 for the summer program.
Coached by Mike Aldieri, Kevin Ward, and John Stavens – who recently admitted that he didn’t know a thing about girls lacrosse – the girl’s instruction was supported by high school and college players Samantha Hammer, Emily Stadnicki, Kayla Policarpio, and Shelby Folsom.
The Bristol girls co-op high school coach Kyle Phelan, as well as many of his players, often would come to help or watch the girls compete.
“It was really great for the two levels to come together,” said Stavens.
This past spring, the girls were offered a competitive “Senior” level team, despite of many girls being age appropriate for only a “Junior” level team.
That squad had 25 girls register between fifth and eighth grade, playing a full 14 game schedule.
They were supported by the leadership of the Bristol Youth Lacrosse board and a grant from the city of Bristol.
While playing a tough schedule against programs that have existed for many years, the girls ended up winning two of their last three matches, going 3-11 overall.
Julia Leba and Emily Lowe provided great work in the goal with a defense led by Morgan Labbe, Lily Hansen, Bella Crandal, and Samantha Ryan.
“Those girls often played midfield and attack throughout the game but the team needed their skill on defense or in goal to help them compete,” said Stavens.
Offensively, the team was paced by Emma Stavens, Sadye Kowalcyk, Tess Strasser, Christina Vontell, Hannah Aldieri, Ella Ward, and Jenna Lowe.
The likes of Abby Duval, Brooke Watson, Bridget Clute, Sophie Bogdanski, Vanessa Drury, Kailey Fontaine, Ainsley Fabrizio, Maddie Ross, Caitlin Gagne, Jenna Lukasiewicz, Abi Giles, and Meaghan Patterson provided critical offensive and defensive work to keep the matches competitive.
“Eight eighth graders provided excellent leadership and showed tremendous growth as they move on to the high school team this upcoming school year,” said Stavens. “Jenna Lowe, Sadye Kowalcyk, Lily Hansen, Bella Crandall, Christina Vontell, Morgan Labbe, Ella Ward, and Samantha Ryan will certainly contribute to the high school program right away.”
On Saturday, Aug. 5, 14 members of the Senior level team competed in the Nutmeg State Games, making up a squad called the Bristol Blazers.
They played in four matches that used a seven-versus-seven format from Veteran’s Stadium at Willow Brook Park in New Britain.
This summer, there was also a girls high school team and a 19-and-up unit representing Bristol at the Nutmeg State Games.
“What a great example of the growth of this girl’s sport here in Bristol,” said Stavens.