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Senior captain Jessie Kilburn and her teammates on the North Branford girls’ lacrosse squad want to defend their Shoreline Conference title and then some this spring. The T-Birds are off to a great start with a record of 5-0 through the first five games of the campaign. (Photo by Catherine Avalone/The Sound | Buy This Photo)
Junior captain Avonlea LeBeau scored seven goals in three games to help the North Branford girls’ lacrosse team sweep its week and remain undefeated early on this season. (Photo by Catherine Avalone/The Sound | Buy This Photo)
Junior Ali Barrett and the Thunderbirds earned a win versus Shoreline Conference opponent Morgan, followed by non-conference victories against East Catholic and North Haven in last week’s action. (Photo by Catherine Avalone/The Sound | Buy This Photo)
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The athletes on the North Branford girls’ lacrosse squad know that their opponents are circling their games versus the Thunderbirds on their calendars this spring. That’s what happens when you win a Shoreline Conference championship like North Branford did last season. With her team looking to defend its title, Head Coach Lori Connelly likes the way the T-Birds are working together in the early goings of the 2019 campaign. North Branford has stormed out to a record of 5-0 with four of those victories coming away from home.
“The more games you win, the more people want to give you that first loss. No matter who we’re playing, we need to go in expecting to play hard,” Coach Connelly said. “We know we have to work hard to stay at the top. The girls have shown great attitude, they work hard in practice, and we’re getting better every game.”
After graduating five seniors from last year, Coach Connelly has been pleased to see her team jelling so well at the beginning of this season. Connelly wants North Branford to continue rising up the state ranks, and she feels the T-Birds’ difficult non-conference schedule will serve them well in that regard.
“We have high expectations after winning Shorelines and making it to the [state semifinals] last year. I toughened our schedule this year and picked up games with Branford and Guilford and kept East Catholic and New Fairfield,” said Connelly. “We had two tough games [against East Catholic and North Haven last week], and we won them by a few, but they were definitely good games that challenged us and made us work.”
North Branford posted road victories over Morgan (17-7), East Catholic (13-10), and North Haven (17-11) in last week’s action. The T-Birds started off the week by notching a 17-7 win at Morgan on April 9. Senior captain Jessie Kilburn led the way by scoring five goals to go with two assists for North Branford. Junior Ali Barrett scored four goals and added two assists, while junior captain Avonlea LeBeau netted three goals and had three assists.
Juniors Sally Cucinotta and sophomore Gabby Gibilisco scored two goals apiece in the victory. Junior Melanie Norton had a goal with an assist, and seniors Mary-Kate Torgerson and Cayleen Defaranos each pitched in with two assists. Junior Carly Sorrentino recorded 10 saves in goal for the Thunderbirds.
Three days later, North Branford had a road game against East Catholic and gutted out a 13-10 victory in a non-conference matchup. Sorrentino played a great second half and made 10 saves in the win. Kilburn scored four goals, and senior captain Jordan Regan netted three goals with an assist.
Barrett scored a pair of goals to go with two assists, while freshman Olivia Toto, Cucinotta, and LeBeau all had one goal. Torgerson scored a goal and also contributed four assists for the T-Birds.
The next evening, North Branford went up against North Haven in another non-conference game and prevailed by the final score of 17-11. Barrett turned in a big performance with four goals and an assist, while Kilburn scored three goals and also assisted on three goals.
Toto, Cucinotta, LeBeau, and Norton scored two goals apiece for the T-Birds, who also saw Gibilisco and Torgerson each score one goal each. Sorrentino stopped five shots for another win in net.
North Branford has reached in double figures scoring in every game so far this season. Coach Connelly feels fortunate to be leading a team that has skill to spare, as well as a great deal of depth that gives the T-Birds lots of options.
“We have a lot of players that have the ability to score. We don’t rely on one person,” said Connelly said. “A lot of people can step up and shoot the ball, which is nice.”
From the Sidelines
The North Branford girls’ lacrosse team is comprised of senior captains Jessie Kilburn and Jordan Regan; fellow seniors Mary-Kate Torgerson, Morgan Ryan, and Cayleen Defaranos; junior captain Avonlea LeBeau; fellow juniors Izabella Mott, Melanie Norton, Ali Barrett, Calley Marcarelli, Sally Cucinotta, Emma Sheehan, Alyssa Waligroski, Bianca D’Onofrio, Carly Sorrentino, Sabrina Mone, and Lily Blomster; sophomores Sofia Votto, Karina Jassil, Kaila Manner, Zoe Miller, Zoe Hughes, Briana D’Onofrio, Landon Melillo, Alyssa Kendrick, Gabby Gibilisco, Amanda Nuzzo, and Madelyn Humphrey; and freshmen Olivia Toto, Saoirse Burke, Skylar Treichel, Meghan Montanaro, Marissa Raffone, Grace Marra, Alyssa Grimm, Samantha Helwig, Braeden LeBeau, Madison Montanaro, Lexi Marcarelli, and Sophia Jarra.
Lori Connelly is in her 15th year as the Thunderbirds’ head coach and her 16th season with the program. North Branford’s assistant coaches are Ryan Connelly and Danielle Pannone.
North Branford has outscored its opponents by a combined total of 84-40 through the first two weeks of the season.
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