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Hartford Girls Lacrosse Gets First Win Since 2013

  • Victoria Stevenson, 7, high fives with her Hartford teammate Amanda Locke as Lilly Duda, right, hugs Avery Centeno, back left, in celebration of their first win after 35 losses over the past two years, at Dothan Brook School in Wilder, Vt. Monday, May 2, 2016. Hartford beat Randolph 11 - 10. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Michaela Ricker, of Hartford, passes over the block of Alice Dwyer, of Randolph, during their game at Dothan Brook School in Wilder, Vt. Monday, May 2, 2016. Hartford won 11 - 10. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • With the score a close 11 - 10 in Hartford's favor, Hurricanes, from left, Avery Centeno, Shayla Prior, and Morgan Furlong, watch as their teammates go on the offense in the final minutes of the game in Wilder, Monday, May 2, 2016. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Hartford girls lacrosse head coach Jennifer Wheatley watches her team on offense at the close of their first win in two seasons in Wilder, Vt. Monday, May 2, 2016. Hartford won 11 - 10. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 5/3/2016 12:24:34 AM
Modified: 5/3/2016 12:28:06 AM

Wilder — Hartford High girls lacrosse coach Jen Wheatley had a feeling Monday’s game against Randolph might be different, that her team might have a chance. Then again, for a program that had gone 35 straight games without a victory, it has become increasingly difficult to pinpoint the difference between foreshadowing and wishful thinking.

That made breaking the slide all the more special: an 11-10 victory against the Galloping Ghosts at Dothan Brook School in which Hartford took and held on to a lead from the game’s second minute to the end. The result caught Wheatley and her team completely off-guard, so much so that as the final seconds fell off the scoreboard, her team playing keepaway in the offensive zone, Wheatley was left standing on the sideline with her mouth open, a look of shock on her face.

“I have no words,” she said following a lengthy on-field celebration. “I’m literally speechless right now. I’m so happy, I’m probably about to cry.”

For the first time in more than 800 days, spanning more than two seasons and two head coaches, Hartford got a chance to experience a victory.

The Hurricanes put together a fluid offensive strategy, a stingy defense and timely saves from goaltending tandem Jaden Sanborn and Victoria Stevenson. Hartford’s speed flourished in the wet conditions, on a day in which rain and soaked fields drove most spring teams in the Upper Valley inside.

Now, Wheatley said, she had her team can breathe a whole lot easier. “It’s almost like a weight is off my shoulders,” Wheatley said.

It didn’t take long to notice that Monday’s game was going to be different.

Hartford’s Kaylee Williams and Emily Ricker scored nine seconds apart in the second minute of play, retaking the lead after Randolph opened the scoring just 30 seconds in. The Galloping Ghosts cut the deficit to one goal six different times the rest of the game but couldn’t break through and tie. Sanborn, who started the game, and Stevenson, who played the second half, combined for nine saves in the victory.

“It feels so good to finally do this,” Wheatley said. “The girls have been working so hard for so long. And a lot of these younger girls I’ve been coaching for years with the youth program. So watching them do this for so many years and finally getting this is just … there’s no way to describe it. It feels amazing.”

Perhaps more impressive was Hartford’s offensive play, creating flurries of chances in front of Randolph’s goal. One such rush occured with 10 minutes remaining in the first half, as Hartford piled on three scoring chances without a turnover. On the fourth try it worked, as Amanda Locke gave Hartford a three-goal lead, 7-4, with 9:08 remaining in the first half.

Not exactly the offensive tenacity that Hartford is known for.

“We played like a team,” Wheatley said. “For the first time.”

Hartford took a two-goal lead, 8-6, into halftime, and after once again giving up the first goal of the half, the Hurricanes answered with two more of their own. Randolph just couldn’t respond offensively.

“The majority of our goals were assisted,” Wheatley said. “It just looked good. We were connecting, finally. And then finally in the second half, our defense was connecting, too. We were all playing together, and the defense was getting louder and actually talking to each other. It was nice. It just … It just looked good.”

She added, “Everything just came together and it looked so good.”

Emily Ruffing and Alice Dwyer added two goals in the victory. Dwyer finished with two assists. Michaela Ricker and Amanda Locke each added one goal and one assist, and Morgan Pero added a goal for Hartford.

For Wheatley, getting a win is the first step in rebuilding — if anything, it gets thoughts of the losing streak off her team’s minds. More importantly, a win solidifies the message of a young coach trying to get a group of athletes to buy in.

In her second year, Wheatley hopes getting a victory will change the mindset of not just her players, but of others who see her program from the outside looking in.

“Everyone’s seen us as this losing team,” she said. “And now, we’re finally not. So they can’t say that anymore. … It’s huge. It’s almost like the anticipation is over because we’ve been waiting for so long and there’s been this buildup, like, ‘When is it finally going to happen?’ And now it has. So now, it’s like, ‘You can do it. You’ve seen that you can do it, guys.’ They know they can, and now they proved they can.”

It helps that the program has grown. For the first time in recent memory, Hartford has had 21 girls come out to play lacrosse; the past several years, the Hurricanes have had trouble fielding a team. A lot of that has to do with Wheatley’s presence at the seventh- and eighth-grade levels, where she still is the coach.

The consistency has kept athletes interested in the sport and swelled its numbers. Wheatley hopes to have enough athletes for a junior varsity team in the next few years.

But now, for at least the rest of this season, it’s a different story. Wheatley hopes that a victory will pull her team together. With the weight off its shoulders, maybe Hartford can spend more time looking ahead than backward.

“We just got to keep the momentum going off of this,” Wheatley said. “The girls are such a good group of girls, and they work so well together. That’s a huge thing this year, too. If that word spreads, we’ll get more girls to join (the team). That’d be great.”

Josh Weinreb can be reached at jweinreb@vnews.com or at 603-727-3306.




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