EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

April 25, 2013

Lacrosse: Windham girls tearing it up

Windham tearing up Division 3 opposition

High School Lacrosse
Christopher Smith

---- — Windham girls lacrosse is in just its third varsity season but already the Jaguars are the powerhouse of Division 3.

Last year’s team went 18-0 and won the Division 3 state title. This year’s quad is 6-0 after graduating six seniors.

“We have a great (Windham) youth program in lacrosse and great coaches for the youth,” sophomore star Courtney Sweeny said. “They have us as high schoolers go down to help them and they get to see how we play. So they are ready coming into high school. And our school is just really close, too. So it’s a lot easier for the freshmen to come up and get along with the team.”

Sweeny is part of Windham’s tremendous offensive attack that also includes sophomore Ali Connors and junior Melissa Cino.

Through the first four games, Connors had 20 goals and nine assists, Cino 17 goals and 33 assists and Sweeny 19 goals and 17 assists.

Cino posted 150 points (55 goals, 95 assists) last year while Sweeny had 138 points (62 goals, 76 assists) and Connors tallied 56 goals.

But it’s not just those three young stars. Nine different Jaguars scored in a 21-1 victory over Pelham on April 11.

“We have a huge variety of skill sets,” Sweeny said. “We don’t have a lot of weak spots on our team. We make sure we work it around. We have a team goal that we have 80 percent (assisted goals) ... instead of one person running down the field and trying to score.”

Head coach Jill Bartlett has done a tremendous job with the program.

“If you’re having a bad day, she has us talk about it so we can just focus on lacrosse (at practice) instead of what happened during school,” Sweeny said. “She’s just great. She has great drills that are meant to (review) game plays so we know what’s coming at us.”

Windham assistant Paul Cino, Melissa’s father, is the longtime director of Windham Youth Lacrosse. He starred at Pinkerton then was a second-team and a third-team All-American at Army in the early ‘80s.

“We started picking up the stick (because of her dad), and I think we started U9 co-ed when we were really young and we ended up loving it,” Sweeny said. “We played with the boys for a couple of years.”

Windham also has been strong on defense, allowing just nine goals in four Division 3 games, behind strong goaltending from Tori Cipollone. The junior who was all-Division 3 last year.

“We definitely knew we lost some talent (including two-time Eagle-Tribune All-Star Kayla Breton), but we knew that during the season we’d be able to build it back and as a team get to where we were last year,” Connors said.

A complete player

North Andover attacker Nick Pino had a very good season last spring. But the returning Eagle-Tribune All-Star knew from a quick look at his stats (65 goals, 16 assists) there was one area in which he needed to improve.

“Something I worked on over the summer and stuff is moving the ball, looking for my teammates more and more assists,” Pino said. “Last year I only had (16) assists and I had 65 goals. So that doesn’t really add up too well. So I worked on that this summer and in the preseason — looking for my teammates when double-teams come.”

So far, so good. Pino had four assists in a 10-4 win over Haverhill.

Pino hopes to play at Assumption and Plymouth State.

Pino’s brother, who is 10 years older than him, got him interested in lacrosse at a young age. But his sister Jenn, who was the Eagle-Tribune Athlete of the Year in 2009 and plays at Merrimack, is the one who really motivates him.

“I look at my older sister, she kind of showed me the way — that you’ve got to work hard to get where you are,” Pino said. “We’ve always been competitive from playing knee hockey, street hockey outside, lacrosse and everything. Even kickball and Wiffle Ball.”

The Scarlet Knights are 6-2 after going 10-10 last year.

“We had a better start because we have a lot more experience,” Pino said. “Our attacking is working well. We’ve been playing together for three years.”

Thanks, cousin

Windham’s Ali Connors, grew up playing softball but switched over to lacrosse in fifth grade with the help of her cousin.

“Originally, I didn’t want to play but she convinced me. I tried it and I love it,” Connors said. “She talked about it all the time when I was younger because she had played for so long.”

Connors has had some huge games, including netting eight goals in a recent 23-16 victory over Billerica.

From JV to varsity star

Pentucket sophomore Connor Beaton spent last year on JV and played on varsity only sparingly.

This year, is a much different story. He leads the Sachems in points (11 goals, seven assists).

“He’s really come out this year and taken a leadership role on attack,” Pentucket coach Dan Leary said. “He moves the ball well and does a lot for us offensively.”

Leader on defense

Senior defender Conor Murnane is a big reason North Reading is 7-2.

“He clears the ball incredibly well, he gets the ball in transition,” North Reading coach Chuck Campobasso said. “He can take the ball and lead the way in transition. He’s vocal. He gets everyone in position. We have young guys back there and he’s constantly telling others where to get into position.”