Natick Girls Lacrosse Squad Could Have a Prosperous Season

Ken Hamwey, Staff Sports Writer
Issue Date: 
April, 2019
Article Body: 

Tanner Guarino is in her third year as the Natick High girls lacrosse coach and if the goals she’s set for her third season at the helm are realized, then the Redhawks could have their best season since the 26-year-old took control of the program.
A former Bay State Conference all-star in lacrosse at Framingham High and an all-American at UMass-Amherst, Guarino has already had success as Natick’s coach, leading her team to the tourney in both of her two previous years.
“We want to improve daily, both in practice and in games,’’ Guarino noted. “Then we want to convert close losses into wins. Last year, we had a 12-6 record but lost four games by one point each. Our final goal is to go deeper in the tourney than we did in our first two years.’’
In Guarino’s first two campaigns, Natick won its tourney opener but was eliminated in the second round. The coach firmly believes that all three of her objectives are realistic .
“We’ve got some definite strengths that will play a role in our improvement and help us win close games,’’ she emphasized. “And, we can advance further in the tourney this year if we keep working hard and stay focused. Another key along the way is to build confidence and maintain it.’’
The 2019 Redhawks, who open their season hosting Needham on April 2, will feature a balanced offense, a strong defense and speed and quickness at midfield. Only five players graduated from last year’s team.
“Our strengths include experience, athleticism, positive attitudes, strong skills, solid stick-work, leadership and good team chemistry,’’ said Guarino who was a two-time State champion in high school and led UMass to three Sweet 16 appearances.
On the defensive side, the Redhawks have a pair of juniors and a sophomore who will set the tone. Juniors Kayleigh Hacker and Caroline O’Connell are in their third seasons and sophomnore Mary Dougherty got some valuable playing time last year as a freshman.
“Kayleigh has a fine defensive IQ,’’ Guarino said. “Her skill-set is very good, she’s athletic and has excellent footwork. Caroline is a quality leader who’s smart. She relies on an aggressive style and her presence is strong. Mary is fast, gets position and is skilled. She’s an effective one-on-one defender.’’
The midfield corps will be led by a pair of BSC all-stars. Senior Molly Burnes was a first-team all-star last year and junior Stephanie McAuliffe was an honorable-mention choice. Burnes scored 25 goals and had 3 assists last year while McAuliffe had 27 goals and 9 assists.
“Molly is a work-horse,’’ said Guarino. “She gets to the 50-50 balls and her lateral moves are quick. Her stick-skills are excellent and she’s solid in transition. Stephanie has improved her skills greatly. Her lacrosse IQ is high, she’s fast and she’s a strong defender who excels in transition.’’
Three juniors will be counted on to generate offense from their attack slots. Victoria Norchi, who scored her 100th goal last year, is explosive. A first-team BSC all-star last year, she scored 70 goals and had 32 assists for 102 points. Zoe Sullivan had 19 goals and 27 assists last season and Tyler Jackowitz is a powerful competitor.
“Victoria leads our attack,’’ Guarino noted. “She’s very quick, has good footwork and explosive speed. Her field awareness is top-notch, her skills are strong and she dodges effectively. Tyler approaches the goal with amazing power. Her shot is strong and she’s very quick. She can be an explosive player and we’re hoping she has a terrific season. Zoe sees the field effectively, she’s a fine passer who finds the open cutters in the middle. A left-handed attacker, her stick-skills are strong and she’s a very capable passer.’’
Junior Paige Ghilani, who’s in her first year playing lacrosse, is ticketed for goal-tending chores, and Guarino likes what she’s seen so far. “Paige has a great work ethic and her skills are improving,’’ said. Guarino. “She’s working diligently to grow her game. She’s athletic, has quick hands and her instincts are good.’’
Relying on an athletic philosophy that focuses on competing to win, reaching one’s potential and having fun, Guarino is acutely aware that sports teach valuable life lessons. “Players learn how to overcome adversity and to be responsible and accountable,’’ she emphasized. “Leadership, goal-setting, mental toughness and time management also can be learned.’’
All those lessons no doubt helped Guarino as a player and they still are because she competes as a midfielder during the summer for the New England Command of the Women’s Professional Lacrosse League. In the league’s first year, the Command won the championship.
“Playing the sport keeps me involved,’’ Guarino said. “The kids know I play professionally and I hope it inspires them. I enjoy promoting lacrosse and seeing it grow.’’
And, seeing the Redhawks’ program grow and prosper is exactly what Tanner Guarino is aiming for during Natick’s 2019 season.