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Concord girls’ lacrosse aims to win with new faces

Last year couldn’t have gone better for the Concord High girls’ lacrosse team. Eighteen wins. No losses. A state championship, the school’s first since 2006.

This year, there’s change in the air. All but four of the players from that powerhouse team are gone, and so is the coach. Steph Johnson is in for Terry Anderson, and the former Crimson Tide player knows there are going to be bumps in the road going forward as the team handles the transition.

“Mostly everyone’s incorporating into a new group,” she said. “It’s a whole new group coming together to work together. … We’re starting small and working our way up.”

The little-picture outlook seems unusual for a team coming off a perfect season, but the Tide will be taking the field this year with a vastly different look. Last year’s high-powered attack is missing most of its key contributors, with senior captains and midfielders Mary Annon and Grace Orzechowski and junior attack Adelaide Symmes the only offensive holdovers. The defense is even more uncertain, as junior Melissa Harper is the only player returning from that part of the field.

With spots in the lineup opened up, the Crimson Tide will have to make it work with the newcomers. Seniors Hannah Bouchard and Aly Beaulieu and sophomore Veryonica Daniels round out the attack, while senior Lexi Erickson, juniors Keely Mills, Brooke Simonton, Chelsey Jobin and Jess Malfait and sophomore Sarah Ek contribute to the midfield. Harper will be joined by junior Molly Waite and sophomores Brittany Munnell and Bella Rubin on defense, while junior Lizzie Donlon is in line to take over in net.

It’s a situation that last year’s team, which had a polished attack thanks to 12 returning seniors and a plethora of games played together, didn’t have to face. Rebuilding that chemistry with so many new parts can be a process, but the captains said it’s one that is getting easier with each practice and scrimmage.

“There are a couple of us from varsity last year, and we’re trying to mix in with (the JV players),” Annon said. “I think it’s going well so far. Once we get outside, we’re improving each game.”

“Some of our first goals are to try to work together as a team,” Orzechowski said. “A lot of us have never played together before. I think we’re mostly working on being able to learn each other’s strengths and weaknesses.”

Finding a rhythm on the field is tough, but grooming new sources for leadership can be tougher. The 2012 Tide was a playoff-tested group that knew all about handling big games and playoff runs. The responsibility is on Annon and Orzechowski to fill that role, and the two players said that getting experience on a championship team prepared them for that duty.

“We had some really great captains last year, some great leaders,” Orzechowski said. “It inspired us to work hard and play hard every game, because you never want to let your captains down. We want to be those captains.”

The season’s young, but the picture’s starting to click. Johnson pointed to a few emerging strengths for the team, most notably the offensive attack, which has settled with Annon and Symmes leading the scoring charge. It’s enough to convince her that Concord, while likely not in line for another undefeated romp, will still be a contender in Division I.

“We don’t have to necessarily start over,” she said. “We’re not at the bottom. … It’s definitely not a team where you’re alone and you have to work hard to get out from under (the rest of the division).”

(Drew Bonifant can be reached at 369-3340 or abonifant@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @dbonifant.)

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