Natick Girls Lacrosse Team Is Tourney-bound Again

Ken Hamwey Staff Sports Writer
Coach Tanner Guarino
Issue Date: 
June, 2018
Article Body: 

Tanner Guarino and the Natick High girls lacrosse team have fulfilled two of their three goals for the 2018 season.
They’ve competed at peak levels in practice and games and they’ve qualified for the playoffs. Their last objective, to go deep into the tournament, is about to play out this month. Guarino, who’s in her second year as the Redhawks’ coach, has guided her squad to a 9-4 record at Local Town Pages deadline and she’s hoping the style she’s employed and her team’s strengths can be major factors in helping Natick advance in the sectional tourney.
“We’ve relied on balance on offense and defense,’’ said Guarino, who previously was Holliston High’s head coach for two years. “We can play an up-tempo game and we can be deliberate, relying on accurate passing and good decision-making.’’
Guarino’s players, especially her 12 starters, have a plethora of strong points. They’re fast and quick, hard-working, aggressive and skilled in the basics. “Our team chemistry is solid, the girls are resilient and eager to improve,’’ she emphasized. “And, we know we can always be better with our stick-work and our ability to read plays and react. Our decision-making with the ball can improve, too.’’
Last year, the Redhawks split a pair of games in the playoffs, beating Newton North then losing to Franklin, which is coached by Kristen Igoe, Guarino’s sister-in-law. “That was the first time in my three years as a head coach that I experienced tourney play,’’ Guarino said. “Playing in the Bay State Conference should be a plus for the playoffs because it’s so competitive. If you’re not prepared, any team can beat you.’’
Guarino knows a thing or two about lacrosse — she led Framingham High to a pair of state titles and at UMass-Amherst she scored 99 goals, was an Atlantic 10 choice for the all-rookie team, was twice selected to the Atlantic-10 all-star team and capped her career as an all-New England selection.
She also plays the sport at the professional level. For two years, she played midfield for the Boston Storm and this summer she’ll compete for the New England Command.
Now, she’s hoping her players can take command of business in the tourney. They certainly have displayed talent, desire and dedication during the regular season.
A terrific starting point when assessing the Redhawks is senior goalie Allison Collins, who was chosen as an All-American last year by the Eastern Mass. Girls Lacrosse Coaches Association. A captain this year, her save percentage is/was 54.8. “Allison has lots of energy, is positive and an excellent leader,’’ Guarino said. “She reacts quickly, uses her stick effectively and her clears are effective. She’ll be playing for Assumption next year.’’
Natick’s defenders are led by senior captains Christina Polymeros and Emily Hawley. They’re joined by sophomores Kayleigh Hacker and Caroline O’Connell.
“Christina was an attack last year but was switched to defense,’’ Guarino noted. “A captain who’ll be playing at St. Anselm’s next year, she’s aggressive, fast, pressures the ball and is solid in transition. Emily, who’ll be playing for Merrimack next year, started the season as a midfielder but was moved to defense. Emily is hard-working, aggressive and gets her share of 50-50 balls. She makes a positive impact all over the field. Kayleigh communicates well, reads plays quickly, and works hard. Caroline is tall, has a definitely presence, is aggressive and physical and slides very effectively.’’
The midfield corps includes junior Molly Burnes, sophomore Stephanie McAuliffe and freshman Mary Dougherty.
“Molly is competitive, creates turnovers and wins draws and ground balls,’’ Guarino said. “She’s a threat on offense. Stephanie has improved her overall game. She’s got great speed, has good stick skills and is solid on offense and defense. Mary has lots of speed, is coachable and has adjusted well to varsity lacrosse.’’
Senior captain Meghan Rodino, who’ll be competing for Manhattan University next spring, is an experienced attacker who’s joined by junior Grace Hicks and sophomores Tyler Jackowitz, Victoria Norchi, and Zoe Sullivan.
“Meghan is a terrific read-and-react player who creates offense by feeding open teammates,’’ Guarino emphasized. “She’s seasoned at her position. Grace is a solid player and consistent contributor. Tyler has a powerful style, her shot is strong and she knows how to create space on offense to set up her teammates. Victoria is very quick, a big threat on offense and a good dodger. She uses her speed and agility to score.’’
Guarino is bullish on her squad and she’s also pleased with her team of assistant coaches. Kara McMahon directs the jayvees and varsity assistants include Lizzie Mazzola, Chelsea d’Hemecourt and Taylor Thomas. “They work hard and are dedicated,’’ Guarino said.
When assembling a roster, Guarino has no magic formula for what will work and who will become all-stars. But she knows what attributes she prefers.
“Stick-work is important and being physically fit and mentally tough are keys,’’ Guarino noted. “Players who are passionate about lacrosse and have solid technical skills are important factors and being coachable and being good teammates are necessary.’’
Those guidelines may or may not be the magic formula to compete hard and win but they certainly have worked for the personable Guarino. She’s in her second year as Natick’s coach, she’s only 25 and she and her capable squad are now preparing for their second appearance at the big dance.