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Senior captain defender Zaina Gebril and her teammates on the North Haven girls’ lacrosse squad are looking to get a little better every time they hit the turf during their first season with Head Coach Bernie Pellegrino. (Photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
Senior attacker Adrianna Corniello scored a goal for North Haven in both of last week’s games as the club took losses against Branford and Cheshire. (Photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
Attacker Gianna Mastroianni is one of the 16 seniors who is leading the North Haven girls’ lacrosse team on the field during the 2021 spring campaign. (Photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
Senior Sophia Barra is patrolling the defensive end of the field for the North Haven girls’ lacrosse team this year. (Photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
Bernie Pellegrino wants to see the North Haven girls’ lacrosse team get better every time that it takes the field in his first season as the program’s head coach. Pellegrino said that he’s seen plenty of progress from his squad thus far and is looking for continued improvement as North Haven enters the second half of its campaign.
North Haven has lost its first eight games of the season while navigating a difficult SCC schedule, mostly recently taking a 10-6 home loss to Branford on April 27 and a 20-2 road loss versus Cheshire on April 29. Although North Haven has yet to see its effort show up in the win column, Coach Pellegrino is happy that his athletes are displaying the determination that’s needed to succeed on the field.
“Our goal is to be better than we were when we walk off the field each day. We’re taking it one day and one game at a time, focusing on player development, honing our skills, and learning new tricks,” said Pellegrino. “We want to compete and play hard to the end, and I think we are doing that.”
North Haven has big numbers with 57 players in the program and is fielding a varsity team, a JV team, and a freshman/sophomore team this year. North Haven features a large senior class with 16 athletes, including three players who are leading the charge as the team’s senior captains.
North Haven’s captains are attacker Mariella Biceglia and defenders Mackenzie White and Zaina Gebril. All three players are starters and returning varsity players from the 2019 team. Last fall, Biceglia and White earned All-SCC honors while leading the North Haven field hockey squad as senior captains. Gebril has also competed for the girls’ indoor track team.
“They are all strong leaders,” Pellegrino said of his captains. “Mackenzie leads the team by example, Zaina is more of a vocal leader, and Mariella is a combination of both.”
North Haven’s senior class also includes attackers Taylor Quinn, Adrianna Corniello, Arianna DePaola, Isabella DeFelice, and Gianna Mastroianni; along with midfielders Kaitlyn Freeman, Sophia Papa, and Emily Orth; and defenders Mariam Gebril, Sophia Barra, Gillianne Bolduc, Hailey Anasoulis, and Sarah DeGrand.
Much like the captains, Coach Pellegrino said that North Haven is receiving great leadership from every senior on its roster.
“They are all great team players. On occasion, we’ve been shorthanded with our JV team, and some of them have jumped in when we’ve needed them to,” said Pellegrino, whose coaching staff includes Frank Bisceglia and Alex Acquarulo. “They are all providing leadership to the younger kids, which has been great. They are keeping them up when things are down and reining in emotions when people are excited in order to keep them focused.”
North Haven also has a “deep and skilled” junior class that includes attackers Sophia Dorio, Eliza O’Connor, Riley Minns, and Hayly Caruso; midfielders Emma Kircaldie, Jenna Pine, and Erin Johns; defender Lauren Bogaert; and starting goalie Hannah Sommer. Sophomore Gabriella Barry is the backup varsity goalie and also starts in goal for the JV team.
Junior Juliana Mascia is injured and currently serving as the team manager. North Haven also suffered a big blow when one of its top juniors, attacker Shea Saracino, was injured in the team’s first game of the year, sidelining her for the entire season.
It’s been quite an adjustment for North Haven to play without Saracino, who was expected to be one of the club’s leading scorers. However, Coach Pellegrino said that he’s pleased with the way his team has handled the adversity.
“I’m really impressed with how they’ve reacted to our schedule and losing one of our best players. I’m proud of how they’ve stayed together, hung in there, and are committed to not give up,” Pellegrino said. “Our players play hard every game and are supporting each other. Spirits are still high. That is something I hope to continue to see until the season ends.”
Pellegrino saw North Haven give a valiant effort when his squad faced off against Branford last week. North Haven only trailed the Hornets 4-3 at halftime before Branford pulled away in the second half to get the 10-6 victory.
Coach Pellegrino said that North Haven turned in its best offensive performance of the season versus Branford. O’Connor scored two goals for North Haven, which also received goals from Minns, Dorio, Barra, and Corniello. Sommer made 12 saves in net.
O’Connor and Corniello scored North Haven’s goals when the team took a 20-2 loss to Cheshire later in the week. Sommer had 22 saves for North Haven in the game.
Pellegrino said that North Haven played an explosive Cheshire team tough in the first half. In fact, Cheshire Head Coach Dan Warburton sent Pellegrino a text after the game, telling him that North Haven played the Rams harder during the first half than any team had all season. Pellegrino shared that message with his players, and it gave everyone a lift on the bus ride home.
Coach Pellegrino believes that North Haven has learned a lot as a result of playing such a challenging schedule. For the rest of the regular season, North Haven has two contests against Lauralton Hall to go with single games versus St. Joseph, North Branford, Mercy, Morgan, and Amity.
Pellegrino said that his players are hungry to put a few wins in the books before all is said and done this year. One of team’s goals coming into the season was to qualify for the SCC Tournament, and Coach Pellegrino believes that goal is still attainable for North Haven.
“The level of competition that we have seen so far will help us as we embark upon what we are calling the new season. We have been through the difficult part of our schedule, and we will be competitive in every game for the remainder of the season,” said Pellegrino. “They are very hungry to get a win. They are excited. They came into the season with high expectations that were tempered in the first half, but we’re going to be stronger than ever in the second half.”