CANTON, April 13, 2021 – It’s a new season for the Canton High girls lacrosse team this spring. No one on the current Warriors roster got any significant playing time on the varsity team two years ago.
Some of them bring varsity experience from other sports – but not on the lacrosse field.
“There will be growing pains,” long-time head coach Sean Cole said Tuesday night after the Warriors dropped their season opener to Southington, 15-8, under the lights on the turf field at the high school.
Twice, Southington led by 10 goals in the game before Canton rallied in the second half to cut the lead to four, 12-8, with 7:07 left in the contest. But the Blue Knights quickly reasserted themselves with two goals in the next two minutes.
“We certainly won the second half,” Cole said with the Warriors outscoring the visiting Blue Knights by a goal. “Our entire team was (like) a deer in the headlights in the first half. The upside is incredible because now in practice, when I speak about the opponent, they will have something to compare my words to.”
At times in the first half, Southington players simply outran Canton down the field, set their feet and fired the ball past Canton goalie Ava Daukin. Several times, the Southington players were wide open for their shot on net. The Knights have fewer opportunities in the second half.
Kagli Gascia led Southington with four goals and two assists while speedy teammate Talie Richardson had three goals and an assist. Makayla Wineja had two goals and one assist.
For Canton, Mary Deritis led the way with three goals while Gabby Delsanto, Emma Mates, Jordan Defina, Ellie Bahre and Heather Delbone also scored individual goals.
Due to COVID-19 protocols, the players competed in masks. But there is no complaining. A year ago, there wasn’t a single practice or a single game as the pandemic swept across the country. There were no classes at the high school either with all classes online and students at home.
The opportunity to be together is special.
“We’re able to have that connection,” Canton senior Camille Kashnig said. “Last year, we lost that connection (with each other). I had hopes we would have a season but I wasn’t 100 percent sure. Being able to have this season has brought this group of girls back together again. We’ve been working hard to get back where we left off.”
Added Isabella Gentile, “It’s exciting to get that bit of normalcy back and be the team we wish we had last year.”
It’s natural to wonder what would have happened in 2020 had the pandemic not hit. Coming into the season, the Warriors won 14 of 16 regular games in three consecutive seasons, captured three consecutive NCCC titles and made four straight appearances in the Class S semifinals. They had won 35 straight NCCC contests dating back to 2016.
This year’s team will have to make their path. All six NCCC teams were absorbed into the Central Connecticut Conference this year on a one-year basis due to the pandemic.
Due to their tremendous success over the past years, Canton and Granby were both played in CCC North with some of the larger schools in the league — Southington, Glastonbury, Simsbury, Hall, Conard and South Windsor. Canton will face eight Class L teams this spring, three Class M teams and five Class S squads.
Cole has never shied away from a tough game against a big school in the past – but it wasn’t the majority of his schedule. Canton beat Hall and Simsbury two years ago.
This spring, the CCC North includes Avon, Conard, Farmington, Glastonbury, Hall, Southington, South Windsor, Simsbury and Granby.
He didn’t dwell on it. “At the end of the day, yes, we are super excited to be practicing,” he said. “We are super excited to be into our game schedule.”
The girls are on the field. They are together playing games.
“Our team really focuses on togetherness and bonding as a family,” Emma Mates said. “That is what Canton lacrosse is about. One family. We lose together. We win together.”
Added Gentile, “COVID took that from us (in 2020). We couldn’t be that family. This year (we are together) and it is really, really nice.”
The Warriors return to action on Friday when they host South Windsor at 4 p.m.
Southington 15, Canton 8
Southington (1-0) 10 5 — 15
Canton (0-1) 2 6 — 8
Goals: Kagli Gascia (S) 4, Talie Richardson (S) 3, Makayla Wineja (S) 2, Gaby Castonguay (S), Auria Mullins (S), Ella Huard (S), Lilli Doran (S); Mary Deritis (Ca) 3, Gabby DelSanto (Ca), Emma Mates (Ca), Jordan DeFina (Ca), Ellie Bahre (Ca), Heather Delbone (Ca); Assists: Gascia (S) 2, Jolie Lewwitt (S) 2, Richardson (S), Winejas (S), Taylor Foresi (S), Doran (S), DelSanto (Ca), DeFina (Ca), Sophia Stamos (Ca); Saves: Ava Daukin (Ca) 5