WALLINGFORD — Kaitlin Mills is a three-year varsity starter for the Sheehan girls lacrosse team at the goalie position and has never garnered too much attention in that time.
This season, that should change.
“She’s been playing well so far the last couple of weeks,” Sheehan coach Charissa Zbikowski said after Monday night’s 4-2 victory over Lyman Hall. “She’s a great leader for us. She brings the whole defense together. That’s why the defense is doing so well.”
Mills, despite being just a junior, is a captain. She’s also one of the team’s most experienced players, having started every game the past two years as a sophomore and a freshman.
Heading into Thursday’s game at Sacred Heart Academy, Mills had made 37 saves with a .685 save percentage and an 8.50 goal against average. For reference, most coaches will tell you a women’s lacrosse goalie with a .400 save percentage is good and over .500 begins to tiptoe into the category of great.
Stats, however, are not what impresses Zbikowski about her three-year starting varsity goalie.
“You’re supposed to put your best athlete in goal, and Kaitlin has been our starting goalie since her freshman year,” said Zbikowski. “I’m so glad we have her for four years and that we have her for one more. I’m confident with any ball that comes her way.”
As a captain, Mills understands the responsibility she has of leading this season’s team while also being a role model for the upcoming classes.
“I have younger girls looking up to me as a junior captain, the first one in Sheehan girls lacrosse history,” said Mills. “Especially as a goalie, I feel like I can lead from all the way up at the offensive end to all the way down to the defensive end.”
With 13 seniors, including nine starters, having graduated from last year’s team, Mills has a ton of responsibility not only in the leadership role, but the ball-stopping role. Mills has to come into games this season with a different mindset than in the past.
“Coming in with a strong, positive mindset,” said Mills. “Coming in with a ton of confidence. I have to play my game.”
Mills is no stranger to a lacrosse stick. Unlike many girls playing lacrosse at the varsity level in Wallingford, Mills has been playing since fourth grade.
With those years of experience, Mills recognized the difficulty many girls have when transitioning into lacrosse. She has taken it upon herself to help new girls pick up the sport and not be discouraged if they do not see the results they want right away.
“We have to make sure they know we are here for them and to keep fighting,” said Mills. “If they’re just starting and they feel like they are doing bad, just to tell them to keep going and put forth the effort because it will definitely show in the future.”
Mills also recognizes that the team as a whole still has some improving to do, not just the newcomers.
“Definitely passing and catching,” said Mills. “Once we get that down we will be a strong offensive force. We have to motivate each other more because I feel like that helps us out a lot.”
The blessing for Zbikowski and the Sheehan girl’s lacrosse program is that Mills still has some time to go before she graduates. Mills is unsure about college lacrosse at this point, but her future is bright.
Likewise, the Sheehan girls lacrosse future is bright. That’s because after Kaitlin graduates, a Mills will still be taking up space in the cage.
Mia Mills, a freshman and Kaitlin’s younger sister, is now under the tutelage of the three-year varsity starter. Mills passes down all the knowledge she has accumulated and has high expectations for her younger sister.
“Having her follow in my footsteps and teaching her everything I knew as a goalie,” said Mills. “I’m a little tougher on her because she knows she can do it, so I push her a little bit more.”