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H-K Boys’ Lacrosse Wins First Shoreline Title
The H-K boys’ lacrosse squad claimed its first Shoreline Conference title in team history by earning an 11-9 win over Valley Regional in the league title game at the Indian River Complex in Clinton on May 26. (Photo by Wesley Bunnell/The Source)
The Haddam-Killingworth boys’ lacrosse team was still without a head coach as the 2021 season was about to begin. This was certainly a concern for a team that hadn’t played a game in two years, but then one phone call changed everything for the Cougars.
Lauren Braren, who has coached H-K’s youth lacrosse teams, got a call from Athletic Director Lynne Flint the night before the Cougars were scheduled to have their first practice. Braren was offered the head coaching position for the H-K boys’ lacrosse team and accepted the job, starting a journey that’s taken the squad to the top of the Shoreline Conference.
On May 27, H-K claimed its first league title in program history by earning an 11-9 victory versus Valley Regional in the Shoreline Conference Tournament final at the Indian River Complex in Clinton. H-K has an overall record of 13-5 as the team opens play in the Class S State Tournament this week.
Coach Braren felt ecstatic to see the Cougars take home the Shoreline title, especially since she’s been working with many of these athletes for the past decade.
“I’ve been coaching in the youth programs at H-K for at least 10 years now. I know every single kid on the high school roster, and I coached the entire sophomore class of players since they were kindergarteners,” said Braren. “It was an easy decision for me to take on the role as head coach, so these kids could have a season.”
Before she accepted the head coaching position, Braren checked in with her two sons—senior captain Cal Braren and sophomore Nolan Braren—to make sure that they were OK with her coaching the team. Both of the boys gave mom their blessing, and Braren was ready to roll as the Cougars’ coach.
“That’s the only thing I was a little bit leery of. I didn’t want to put them in a spot that made them feel uncomfortable if they didn’t want me coaching,” Coach Braren said. “But both of my boys were very accepting of it, and this year turned out to be fabulous.”
After posting a regular-season record of 11-5, H-K entered the Shoreline Conference as the No. 1 seed and hosted No. 4 North Branford for a semifinal game on May 25. The Cougars had defeated North Branford twice during the regular season and then completed the trifecta by claiming a 9-8 victory versus the Thunderbirds to advance to the final.
Sophomore attacker Nolan Braren, freshman midfielder Cooper Savoy, senior captain attacker Aidan Coleman, and junior Corey Phipps each scored a first-half goal to give H-K a 4-0 lead at the break. North Branford then cut the Cougars’ lead in half by scoring two goals to open the third quarter.
H-K pushed its lead to 8-2 on three more goals from Coleman and a strike by junior long-stick midfielder Sam Young. North Branford didn’t give up and went on to score five-straight goals in the fourth quarter to trim the deficit to 8-7 in the final minutes. However, H-K responded when Phipps buried a shot for insurance goal that solidified a 9-8 win for the Cougars.
“Whenever we play against North Branford, it’s always a physical, competitive game,” Coach Braren said. “This is something we’ve been doing all season. We jump out to big leads, and then we let the other team back into the game. I think part of it has to do with fatigue, and the other part is us being too aggressive on offense, when we should simply be possessing the ball. Either way, it was a great win for us.”
Two days later, H-K took on 2nd-seeded Valley Regional in the Shoreline Conference final and came away with an 11-9 victory versus the Warriors at the Indian River Complex. Valley was the only Shoreline Conference team to which H-K had lost during the regular season, having taken a 12-11 defeat to the Warriors on May 11. In the Shoreline final, the Cougars held a 2-1 lead after the first quarter and then outscored Valley 4-1 in the second quarter to bring a 6-2 advantage into halftime. Two teams traded a pair of goals in the third quarter and then Valley outscored H-K 5-3 in the fourth, but the Warriors were never able to get within a goal, and the Cougars walked off the field with the conference championship in hand for the first time in team history.
Coleman and Savoy netted three goals apiece for the Cougars, while Nolan Braren had two goals in the win. Phipps, Cal Braren, and senior Matt Mohammed all scored one goal. Junior goalkeeper Ethan Wright made 10 saves to help H-K get its historic victory in its first campaign with Braren.
“I was expecting this team to win it, even two years ago, before I was head coach,” said Braren. “This is a big senior class and a very talented group of kids. All the credit goes to them. I just really just stepped into the success when I took this job.”
Braren said that having a deep roster full of selfless athletes is one of the biggest reasons why the Cougars were able to reach the peak of the Shoreline Conference this spring.
“The thing that I always tell the boys is that we’re not a team of one or two guys or one or two standouts. The is a real team and a team full of weapons,” Braren said. “We have a really strong defense and an offense that is very unselfish with the ball at their stick.”
H-K is the No. 8 seed in the Class S State Tournament and started off the tourney by playing a first-round home against No. 9 Tolland on June 2 (after press time). The quarterfinals are on Saturday, June 5; the semis are on Wednesday, June 9; and the Class S state final will be held on Saturday, June 12.
H-K’s roster also includes senior captain Dan LaRosa; seniors Ryder Wink, Anthony Corda, Nathan Marciniec, and Antonio Calderoni; juniors Damion Coleman and Mateo Piacenti; sophomores Alex Phipps, Michael Reilly, Colin Griswold, Carey Harwood, Aiden Griswold, Neil Scheppach, Luke Haase, Aaron McLeod, Jack Insalaco, Lee Harwood, Trevor Fulcher, and Nathan Kelly; and freshmen Kaden Listano-Rode, Braden Civiello, Tyler Gagliardi, Alexander Battistoni, Charles Maxwell, and Cooper Pitts.