BEST OF THE BUNCH: Lacrosse finalists filled the net and furthered the legacy

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The CIAC lacrosse tribe increased this spring with the addition of the Meriden Co-op. For the first time, the game was played at the varsity level in all four R-J towns.

The flagship program remains Cheshire. The boys team featured a pair of 2022 All-Americans.

Like Cheshire, Southington and Sheehan sent both of their squads to the CIAC postseason, with everyone winning at least one state tournament game. For the Southington girls, it was a first.

So, in a sport that remains dominated by the Gold Coast — five of the six state titles went to Fairfield County teams and all eight Class L semifinalists hailed from there — area squads did well for themselves:

■The seven playoff qualifiers — the Lyman Hall boys made it in Class M — went a combined 77-35 in the regular season, 87-46 overall.■The Cheshire and Sheehan boys were stopped by eventual state champs — Cheshire to Wilton in Class M, Sheehan to Weston in Class S. The Titans, in their 10-9 quarterfinal loss, gave the Trojans their toughest state game by far. Weston won its three other contests by a combined 52-8.

Our eight finalists for Record-Journal Boys and Girls Lacrosse Players of the Year are almost exclusively players who filled the net. The four boys scored 221 goals this season. Two of the girls were 100-goal scorers for their career.

Those girls shared the same field: Sheehan seniors Jayna MacKenzie and Allie Ottochian. All-SCC Second Team selections this spring, they were part of a three-season run in which the Lady Titans went 39-15 and reached two state quarterfinals and one semifinal.

MacKenzie scored 101 goals this year alone and set up 36. She finished with 178 goals and 79 assists for her career, which was essentially just two years thanks to an ACL tear suffered four games into her freshman campaign and the lost pandemic season of 2020.

Ottochian, with 72 goals and 39 assists in 2022, signed off with 149 and 67. She also controlled 104 draws this season, scooped up 37 ground balls and caused 17 turnovers.

Ottochian will continue playing down the road at Quinnipiac. The equally versatile MacKenzie is off Springfield College. She had 55 draw controls, 45 ground balls and 23 caused turnovers to go with her 101 goals this season.

Over in Cheshire, the 100-goal milestone is only a matter of time for Ava Harris. This year, as a junior, she scored 69 and assisted on 39. She now has 85 goals for her caeer.

Harris was named All-State Class L and All-SCC First Team. Though only a junior, she’s already commited to a school: Bucknell University.

From Southington, Gabby Castonguay is on her way to Division I lacrosse at Merrimack College after guiding the Lady Knights on a two-year run of 23-9.

The Lady Knights, who have been part of the landscape since girls lacrosse became a CIAC sport in 2004, is truly on firm footing now thanks to girls like Castonguay, lifelong players who have come of age through feeder programs.

Castonguay capped her career being named All-CCC West. A crafty playmaker, she set the program’s single-game assist record this spring with seven.

“I know we wouldn't be where we were this season without her,” remarked Southington coach Dave Sargent. “She does so many things on the field that makes the team and her teammates better.”

Across the way on Fontana Field, Southington boys coach Ron Chase will be returning his leading scorer — not just next season, but for the next two.

Gavin Pelletier followed up a 29-goal freshman campaign in 2021 with 43 goals this year as a sophomore. Pelletier pocketed five-goal games against Berlin and Rocky Hill. He also corralled 36 ground balls.

At season’s end, he was named to the All-CCC West Team.

In the SCC, the postseason accolades overflowed for Cheshire. Seven different guys made All-Conference. Six were All-State.

And then there were the two All-Americans, Charles Kurtz and Matt Jeffery

Both are underclassmen. Both are lethal with the ball on their stick.

Kurtz, a junior, tallied a team-high 71 goals this spring, pushing his career total to 113. He tallied 47 assists.

On the night of April 5, Kurtz enjoyed an 8-goal, 10-point night against Southington. On April 19, three days after scoring seven goals vs. Glastonbury, Kurtz had 11 points against eventual Class M runner-up Notre Dame-West Haven.

Jeffery had a 10-point game against Simsbury on April 24, six goals and four assists. That’s a reflection of the sophomore’s acumen as both set up man and finisher. Jeffery led the Rams with 57 assists. He was second to Kurtz with 55 goals.

There was a third Ram who surpassed the 50-goal mark this season, a third Cheshire boys finalist, and that’s Jason Raba.

Raba is unique. For one thing, he’s the only finalist for R-J Boys Lacrosse Player of the Year who is a senior. Come next year, he’ll be playing at St. John’s University.

Raba scored 52 goals in his final season at CHS this spring, including a season-high seven against Notre Dame. He made the All-SCC Second Team and played in the Senior All-Star Game.

But that’s only the half of it. Half a year ago, none of this seemed possible. While playing football, Raba dislocated his hip. His return this spring got Raba named the SCC’s Male Comeback Player of the Year.

Up next: Golf & tennis


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