Laconia girls’ lax team faces new challenges after winning back-to-back state titles

  • Laconia’s senior goaltender Lyndsey Paronto, a third-year captain, figures to plan an important role for the Sachems this season as they chase a third straight Division III crown. NICK STOICO Monitor staff

  • Laconia girls’ lacrosse Coach Kerri Howe watches her team scrimmage with Pinkerton on Wednesday, April 5, 2017, in Laconia. NICK STOICO / Monitor staff

  • Laconia’s Becca Howe carries the ball as her teammate Camille Pollak watches from behind the play during a scrimmage with Pinkerton on Wednesday, April 5, 2017, in Laconia. NICK STOICO / Monitor staff

  • Laconia senior goaltender Lyndsey Paronto prepares to clear the ball during a scrimmage against Pinkerton in Laconia on Wednesday, April 5, 2017. NICK STOICO / Monitor staff

  • Kearsarge goalie Anya Nowicki makes a save against Laconia during the Division III championship game last spring. Laconia won its second state title in as many years with a 14-13 win. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor Staff

Monitor staff
Published: 4/6/2017 10:52:56 PM

LACONIA – Kerri Howe is convinced that championship teams are built on a strong defense.

Sure, it may sound cliché, but Howe would know better than anyone. As the winner of back-to-back Division III state championships, no one is questioning this coach’s judgment.

But this year’s lineup for the Laconia High School girls’ lacrosse team looks a little different than. The Sachems’ offense was gutted as two of Howe’s top scorers from last season graduated. In addition, senior Helen Tautkus, Laconia’s top goal scorer last season, is out with a knee injury she suffered while playing indoor lacrosse in January.

So the emphasis on defense will be greater than ever before for Laconia.

“We’ve got to make it up somewhere,” Howe said. “We’re going to have to make it up on the defensive end. We may not score the goals we used to score but we’ll definitely prevent the same amount of goals we’ve prevented in the past.”

The Sachems’ defense begins with Lyndsey Paronto in net. The senior goaltender played a monumental role in both of Laconia’s championship runs, and this year, her eyes are set on another.

Paronto’s competitive edge is clear. She’s vocal from the crease, helping direct the defense to fill holes and can clear the ball deep downfield. But the Sachems have a target on their backs again this year as defending champions, and Paronto wouldn’t have it any other way.

“That’s definitely motivation,” she said with a determined grin earlier this week. “We’re going to try our best to take everyone down.”

Laconia played Pinkerton, the reigning D-I champions, in a scrimmage Wednesday on the Sachems’ turf field. Pinkerton held a seven-goal advantage at the buzzer. From Howe’s perspective, that’s not too bad. But the coach came away with a better idea of how much they’ll need to improve scoring.

“We have to work on attack, it was evident today,” she said. “We’ve got girls that don’t have much confidence, but our defense will be strong.”

One Tautkus may have to watch from the sideline, but there will be another on the field. Skylar Tautkus is a sophomore midfielder that Howe has high hopes for.

“Skylar is stepping right in,” Howe said. “I think she’ll be one of our top goal scorers this year.”

Paronto is entering her third season as a captain. She’s one of a handful of players to have been on both championship teams, but she’s trying to keep the pressure off her teammates.

“There’s no pressure to try to win,” she said. “We’ve just go to go out there and show everyone what we can do. If we can’t get there, I know we’ll grow next year. There’s no pressure, but I definitely feel like we can do it.”

Senior midfielder Abby Crowell, on the other hand, feels there is pressure to replace the offense their older teammates left behind last spring.

“With the seniors gone ... and now we have to step up, I feel the pressure a lot more than I did even last year,” Crowell said. “Now that we’ve won two, there’s pressure to win another one. And I really want it.”

Howe is trying to curb some of that stress her players may be putting on themselves.

“I know the girls have a lot of pressure on them and want to win this year and I think they can win this year, but it’s going to be hard work,” Howe said. “We definitely want to be in that final four. If we can come out on top again for another year, then great. I would love it for those seniors.”

Howe enters her sixth season coaching the Sachems with her husband, Bob. Laconia went 17-2 last season, which ended with a 14-13 win over Kearsarge in the title game.

The program has enjoyed significant growth in the time since the Howes took over. In their first season, Laconia went winless at 0-14. Fast forward to the present and Kerri and Bob Howe are leading a program that has developed an environment of success with more and more players each year continuing their careers into college.

After this season, Crowell will play at SNHU and Tautkus is committed to Assumption College, both Division II programs. Kerri and Bob’s daughter Becca, a junior, is committed to D-I St. Bonaventure. They already have one daughter, Mackenzie, playing at Boston University.

“The seniors that graduated last year kind of created that whole atmosphere,” Kerri Howe said. “Every player that comes in, they know they’re playing at that level. Sometimes it turns kids off because they know what is expected. But the athletes who come to us, they want to work, they want to learn and they’re good athletes. They may not be lacrosse athletes, but they’re good athletes and we can teach them the lacrosse part.”

(Nick Stoico can be reached at 369-3339, nstoico@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @NickStoico.)




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