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Can Northwest United Girls Lacrosse Live to See Another Season?

Caroline Donnelly, a sophomore from Litchfield High School, runs with the ball in a game against St. Paul during a 2023 game. (Courtesy of Marianthe Glynos)

WOODBURY ‒ The Northwest United lacrosse co-ops finally became recognized as an interscholastic sport in time for the 2023 season. After years of being club teams, NWU could finally say they had a team.

But is all that hard work going down the drain?

The Northwest United lacrosse team is struggling to gain involvement from other schools. Nonnewaug athletes make up the majority of the co-op, which includes Litchfield, Wamogo, and Thomaston. Not having enough players from the other schools has brought attention to the team, and not in a good way.

The Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference has had its eye on the girls co-op because having too many players on the NHS side of the co-op has skewed the mathematical formula that governs co-op programs.

Declan Curtin, Nonnewaug’s athletic director and coordinator for Nonnewaug’s part in the co-op, thinks the participation of other schools in the co-ops give Northwest United a chance to be competitive. Without the extra players provided by Litchfield, Wamogo, and Thomaston, Curtin thinks the deck would be stacked against Nonnewaug.

“Right now being combined gives somewhat of a competitive look, but if we took away some of those players from other schools, I think it would quickly be very difficult for us to compete at the varsity level,” said Curtin. “I want to make sure that our young men and young women have a fighting chance this season.”

Logan Beauprey (9) puts his arm around Connor Segers (20) as they walk off the field for Northwest United last season. (Courtesy of Northwest United Lacrosse)

Matthew Paolino, a junior at Thomaston High School and a captain for the boys co-op, wants to expand advertisement to get other players to join.

“The co-op isn’t being advertised that well in my school,” said Paolino. “I’m the only player from Thomaston, so the only way anyone can be made aware of the co-op is through me. So I act as a recruiter of sorts even though there isn’t much interest.”

But Paolino isn’t just the only student-athlete advertising. Girls captain Gabby Guerra, a senior at Nonnewaug, is also giving other schools’ students a chance to join the co-op.

“Involvement from other schools is based on interest, so we can advertise through socials and talk to the students we know, but we can’t force students to join the co-op,” said Guerra. 

Allie Barber, a freshman at Wamogo High School, also sees recruitment issues at her school and wishes for that to change.

“I think that there could be more involvement and representation from all the schools,” says Barber.

Northwest United boys coach Judd Baggett thinks there should be more communication to get the information about the co-op out to all schools involved. 

“I think [everyone] need to communicate and work together more,” said Baggett.

Curtin wants more involvement from all the schools so that there will be an equal balance and Nonnewaug can stay in its co-op.

“We feel that in the first year, things were kind of going in the right direction. However, as you know, Nonnewaug was the majority of the roster,” said Curtin. “I will say that the people from Litchfield and Wamogo do wish numbers were higher and wish there was more involvement from the students of Litchfield, Wamogo, and Thomaston.”

From left, Northwest United lacrosse players Julia Longoria, Merritt Tessir, Caroline Donnelly, Kaitlyn Boyce, Skylar Palmer, Kristi Sundstrom, Juliana Bailey, and Haley Sarandrea all stand in a line as the varsity lineup is called in the 2023 season. (Courtesy of Juliann Noyd)

The CIAC’s mathematical formula that governs co-ops is the reason why the Northwest United girls program is at a crossroads and facing a one-year phase-out season.

“[The CIAC] believes that Nonnewaug could probably survive on its own as a school playing the sport,” said Curtin. “There’s a CIAC formula that is established for all sports and for all CIAC member schools … and it only allows you to have a certain number of athletes from one school. Right now, the mathematical equation is that we are too dominant with that number [at Nonnewaug].”

The girls co-op has three options for next year’s season. The team can either disband altogether, remain in place but not be eligible to qualify for the state tournament, or re-apply as a co-op and go through the same process that happened prior to the 2023 season.

As of right now, Northwest United is sticking with the decision to remain in place without postseason eligibility.

The boys team is safe for now because each school’s contribution to the roster falls within the CIAC’s co-op formula.

Northwest United girls coach Steve Boyce isn’t too worried about next year’s season, but knows there will be some bumps along the way.

“With the merging of the two schools [Wamogo and Litchfield],” Boyce said, “the worst thing that could happen is we won’t be eligible for the state tournament.”

From a captain’s point of view, Guerra would like to see more participation from other schools.

“We aren’t getting the numbers we need to support the continuation of the co-op,” said Guerra.

But low participation from other schools isn’t the only thing the Northwest United co-ops are dealing with this year.

The teams this year have struggled during the first half of the season, but the players still have hopes.

“I strongly believe the team will only improve this year and do so greatly,” said Sandor. “Compared to last season, there is already major improvement in most of our athletes, specifically those new to the sport last year or within their high school years.”

Guerra agrees but sees more room for improvement this season.

“I’m hoping this year’s team will improve both skill-wise and number-wise,” said Guerra. “We have a lot of new players that are showing some promise, but we also lost some talented girls that we need to make up for.”

Kristi Sundstrom, a junior from Nonnewaug, is excited to see the team grow along with her. 

“I think we are just gaining our balance and getting into the swing of things. Throughout the season we will improve and begin to skyrocket,” said Sundstrom. “Our team is very close and will always keep spirits up and I think it will be a good season.”

Baggett wants his whole team to not just improve but be a family that just keeps growing.

“I think the whole team in general is going to improve our skill level and the way we play together,” said Baggett. “It’s tough to get a lot of kids all playing as a unit when we used to play against each other. I think being the second year playing as a family is really going to go a long way with the kids and as a team.”

About the Contributor
Deme Jones '26
Deme Jones '26, Reporter
Deme Jones is a sophomore at Nonnewaug High School who writes for the NHS Chief Advocate. This is her first year as a writer for Chief Advocate, and she hopes for a great year filled with many well-written pieces. Demetra enjoys her sports - lacrosse and field hockey -- and hopes to play in the future.
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