Previews of spring sports at West Hartford’s Northwest Catholic High School have been compiled with input from coaches.
By David Heuschkel, West Hartford Press Sports Editor
Northwest Catholic softball team has the look of a contender
Following its best season in years, the Northwest Catholic softball team has high hopes heading into this season.
The bar was set high by an 18-4 record last spring, but it may have been lowered a bit by a 23-7 loss to Bristol Eastern in the season opener April 1 and a 16-4 loss in 9 innings to Conard on April 3.
Northwest has an All-CCC battery with pitcher Samantha Scott and catcher Allison Tessman. Scott was 10-3 last spring with 115 strikeouts in 96 innings. She is a threat to beat teams with her bat, hitting .615 with two homers, 23 RBIs and 32 runs scored to earn all-conference honors for the second straight year.
Tessman hit .426 with three homers, 35 RBIs, 28 runs and threw out 12 runners attempting to steal.
Sophomore third baseman Taylor Popella is another productive bat for the Lions. She hit .393 with five homers, 28 RBIs and 25 runs.
Center fielder Mu Kue (.352), shortstop Lexi Smolenski (11 RBIs) and first baseman Francesca Discenza (.328, 19 RBIs) are the other returning starters who will be counted on to contribute.
“We have four of our top five hitters returning, so we expect to make a deep run in the Class S tournament,” Rick Smith said.
Northwest, which was in Class M last year, will also rely on some young players to step into starting roles.
“If the freshmen step up like I believe they will, we will go far,” Smith said.
The Lions moved down to Class S, but the regular season schedule will be challenging.
The graduation of nine players, including seven starters, leaves Northwest Catholic coach Cory Carlson with plenty of holes to fill. The pitching and defense is strong, but the hitting is Carlson’s bigger concern.
Evan Clark, a junior outfielder, is the top returning hitter (.325) and senior Chase Rancourt is the top pitcher. Catcher Ben Manzi, outfielder Patrick Walsh and infielder/pitcher Drew Wendorff are other returning players.
In its first two outings, Northwest lost to Conard (13-3) and Hall (7-2).
With 187 career points, senior James Nicholas is on pace to become the program’s all-time leading scorer. He has committed to Vassar College.
Brennan Horn, a junior long stick midfielder, scored 24 goals last season and was an all-conference selection. Midfielder Sean Macary (21 points), attack Nico Mazzoca (39 points) and Will Robinson (21 points) are other offensive threats.
Macary, a senior captain with Nicholas and Robinson, won 66 percent of face-offs. C.J. Baldini had a 59 percent success rate on draws as a freshman last season.
There are eight returning starters, including goaltender John Lewis. So head coach Peter Vlahakis expects his team will be better than last year (9-7) and perhaps be a strong contender in Class S.
The boys have two decisive wins in the first week of the season, a 14-1 victory over E.O. Smith and a 19-1 win over Enfield.
The girls lacrosse team has gone 6-10 each of the last three years, falling one win shy of qualifying for the state tournament.
But head coach Ashley Mara is confident the postseason drought will end this spring. The Lions have seven returning starters led by senior midfielder Claire Carew, an all-conference selection last year. She will be joined by senior attacks Meghan O’Shea and Meghan Sisk, junior middies Nora Staunton and Sydney Taylor, junior defender Katherine Hurley, and sophomore attack Lindsay Robinson.
The girls lost 14-5 to Simsbury in the season opener on Thursday.
Scott Fletcher has a team that could contend for a state championship. The Lions moved down to Division IV after a sixth-place finish in Division III last June.
Senior Justin Mathew finished tied for second in the D-III tournament. The all-state golfer was one of four players in the lineup last season. Michael Baldini, Matthew Shea, Steve Lu and Justin DeFina will round out the lineup.
Girls golf coach Jeff Przech has his largest team ever – 16 golfers – and his No. 1 player back. Senior Jenna Fahey earned all-conference honors each of her first three years. She will be joined by junior Keagan Ostop, an all-conference selection last spring.
Like what you see here? Click here to subscribe to We-Ha’s newsletter so you’ll always be in the know about what’s happening in West Hartford!