Nonnewaug Club Lacrosse close to CIAC dream, eyes co-op with Litchfield

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Nonnewaug Club Lacrosse close to CIAC dream, eyes co-op with Litchfield

Collin Bootsma and Logan Beauprey



BY JASON LEVY
REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN
WOODBURY — In the weeks following the conclusion of the Nonnewaug Club lacrosse season, the program’s dream of becoming an official Nonnewaug High team moved closer to reality.

With the CIAC relaxing its rules limiting players for cooperative programs, Nonnewaug and Litchfield are deep in talks to form a co-op team. Many of the Nonnewaug athletes have played for the Litchfield Hills lacrosse program at some point in their lives and the two Berkshire League schools are eager to make it happen.

Nonnewaug athletic director Declan Curtin said he has been in touch with Litchfield AD Kyle Weaver and superintendent Chris Leone regarding the co-op and is waiting for an MOU (memo of understanding) to hammer out the details, which he expects will come after Litchfield is finished dealing with the (possible) merger with Wamogo.

The team will begin playing a CIAC schedule next spring, but details such as costs, coaching staff and fields still need to be worked out.

At Nonnewaug, families pay a $250 entry fee for each player, which 2022 club manager Kylie Bootsma said allows the team to pay for coaches, referees, balls, net replacements and lighting the field. Families also pay for their own equipment, which itself can be a few hundred dollars per player.

Nonnewaug coach Judd Baggett said that the entry fee has been a barrier to entry for some players who can not afford it. It is one of the biggest drawbacks to not being an official Nonnewaug team, one that has impacted the on-field performance.

“That right there is a big thing because you see once we get into the fourth quarter with 14-17 guys, half of our season we had three guys hurt, so you can just tell when we play teams with large numbers, that is when our guys get gassed,” Baggett said. “The fourth quarter comes around and you can just see they are being beaten purely by not being able to keep up.”

Curtin thinks it would benefit everyone to form a co-op with Litchfield and join a league with Greater Waterbury area teams like Holy Cross and St. Paul. Curtin has long wanted to see Nonnewaug add a lacrosse program, noting three of his sons play the sport. He said the Region 14 Board of Education supports the idea and is optimistic an MOU will be accepted.
The timing finally appears to have worked out.

“There is enthusiastic support from the community that we join with Litchfield,” Curtin said. “It is something that the lacrosse community has wanted for the last 8-10 years. This is a sport that is growing in the northwest corner and it is something that we have looked at.”
Juliana Bailey, a freshman captain last season who also swims for Nonnewaug, wasn’t sure if the school would ever show its support for the lacrosse programs. But having that support would be a boon for the teams.

“It obviously shows a lot of popularity because we have almost 20 girls and all of them come from Nonnewaug and there would have been even more,” Bailey said. “But since many of them couldn’t pay the fee (they didn’t join). I feel like it is a very up and coming sport. It is very popular and it could have a lot of potential if it was a school sport.”

Ross Inglis believes the co-op will be beneficial to everyone. He coached the Nonnewaug Club in 2021 and both of his kids played lacrosse from their youth in Norwalk up to the club level.

His son Connor played for both Litchfield Hills and Nonnewaug Club before graduating from Nonnewaug in 2021 and his daughter Zoe plays for Litchfield Hills and is committed to Merrimack after she graduates next year. Playing in a varsity program could help all the student-athletes take the step to the next level.

“You are going to create some opportunities with athletics for some of these kids to have an opportunity to go to a school that they didn’t have before,” Inglis said. “To me that is always a good thing. It has been a great six years to watch this grow. I am really excited that we are this close. Hopefully we get it over the line.”

The returning Nonnewaug players are excited about the possibility of playing for a CIAC team. Haley Sarandrea, who spearheaded bringing back the girls team last season as a freshman, commended the boys team for maintaining its consistency for the last several years to make this possible.

Ethan Moshier, the boys team goalie, has spent three seasons with Nonnewaug Club Lacrosse. He believes if the co-op deal goes through, it would show the school and Region 14 Board of Education support the program.

“We anticipate a lacrosse program with increased levels of stability, a program that is here to stay,” Moshier said. “This further allows for CIAC sponsored games and referees, decreasing the program’s cost. I hope that this opportunity allows us to properly represent our high school and for lacrosse at Nonnewaug to be taken seriously. We hope that this program creates more educational opportunities for players to play at the collegiate level. Furthermore we hope that with these changes we retain our head coach Judd Baggett.”

Having the schools take over the program would also make life easier for the lacrosse parents, many of whom had to step up to manage the team as a club program. Jess Sarandrea, Haley’s mom, said the parents just don’t have the connections and resources of a school athletic director.

“The possibility of a co-op would allow our athletes the ability to participate more consistently in games against other schools instead of being pushed to the back burner when refs are unavailable or other, more important, games need to be made up since they are part of the CIAC schedule,” she said. “I look forward to the day when I can sit in the stands as a parent and cheer my daughter on as she participates in something she truly loves and has fought so hard for.”