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Greenwich Academy hoping to add to its lacrosse titles

April 1, 2017 GMT

The FAA Tournament lacrosse title narrowly eluded perennial powerhouse Greenwich Academy two years ago, but the Gators reclaimed the championship last season, adding their 30th winner’s trophy to their expansive collection.

Greenwich Academy knows title No. 31 won’t come easy, as the FAA seems to become more competitive each season. Yet as past seasons have shown, the Gators can successfully meet almost any challenge.

Coach Melissa Anderson is highly optimistic about her squad’s fortunes this season, and rightly so. The Gators possess most of their players from last season’s championship squad and have added seven freshmen with skills that should aid the team.

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“I’m really excited about the season,” Anderson said. “It’s a fun group. We had a great team last year and we added a lot of strength to it.”

Blessed with depth at each position, GA’s leadership stems from senior captains Tate Horowitz and Anna Khoury. Horowitz heads the Gators’ defensive unit, which made it difficult for the opposition to score last spring.

“I’m really hopeful for a good season. We have a lot of returning players, which will help the younger players learn a lot,” Horowitz said. “The younger players are all extremely talented and we are all starting to mesh well together.”

GA posted a record of 14-1, including an 11-5 win over rival Sacred Heart in the championship game of the FAA Tournament last season. Khoury registered one goal and two assists in the tournament’s title matchup and provided her usual leadership on attack.

“Our captains are great leaders, who lead by example,” Anderson said. “They have a big presence on the field with their ability to see the game and lend all sorts of support.”

The Gators scrimmaged formidable Darien Wednesday and will visit Staples in a preseason game on April 5. They open the season April 8 against visiting Westminster School.

“Playing against Darien showed us what we need to work on. It helped us,” Khoury said. “One of our goals is working together, especially since it’s sometimes difficult with a new team to find those meshing points.”

AT THE HELM: Anderson is entering her fourth season as coach of the Gators. She led GA to the league title her first season and to the championship game her second year. Last season, the Gators claimed the tournament title. Returning as varsity assistant coaches are Katie Johnson and Sally Duval.

WHO’S GONE?: Defender Charlie Johnson was GA’s lone senior last season. She served as the squad’s captain.

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“She was the glue of our defense,” Anderson said of Johnson. “She had great vision and always provided help in the scoring area. Also, she was great at double-teaming and playing tight defense.”

WHO’S BACK?: Junior goalie Maggie Reville begins her third season as a starter.

“She has been terrific every year,” Anderson said. “Maggie has gotten more assertive and is really enjoying her role of anchoring the defense.”

Horowitz is back to lead the defense, along with junior Emmeline Kelley, senior Caroline Keller, sophomore Claire Aube and senior Mia Nixon. Returning as midfielders are junior Karina Schulze and senior Whitney Balanoff, both of whom sparked the squad offensively a year ago. Also solidifying the midfield is sophomore Haley Aube.

Back on attack are Khoury (team’s leader in points last season), junior Courtney DeNaut, senior Chapin Ruffa (the team’s leading goal-scorer last spring) and junior Holly Johnson.

DeNaut tallied three goals and two assists in last season’s FAA final, while Ruffa added three goals and one assist. Balanoff tallied twice and Schulze notched one goal and two assists in the championship win. Also returning are junior midfielder Kate Morton, senior defender Olivia Koorbusch and sophomore midfielder Leila Schneider.

NEWCOMERS: Freshmen Catie Duggan and Binney Huffman bring depth to the defense and freshman Grace Schulze, Taylor Lane and Tessa Brooks should help patrol the midfield. Eliza Bowman and Katie Goldsmith, both freshmen, have the potential to help ignite the offense at attack.

STRENGTHS: The Gators should receive balanced scoring.

“What was great about last year was that we didn’t have a go-to person and this year, everyone is a threat,” Anderson said. “We are a team that works best when we work as a unit. It’s nice to know that when someone isn’t having their best day that support could come from someone else.”

Speed and chemistry are also assets for Greenwich Academy, which spent a week training at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., recently.

“We had a really good week of training,” Horowitz said. “We got a couple of practices in a day. Getting the time in each day was really good for team chemistry, especially since we have so many new people.”

CAPTAIN’S QUOTE: “Our expectations are that everyone comes to practice each day, works hard and wants to get better,” Khoury said. “We’re continuing to work on our chemistry and passing, which will help us.”

SHOWDOWNS: Holy Child (home), April 18; Choate Rosemary Hall (home) April 22; Sacred Heart (away), April 29; Taft School (away), May 3; Hotchkiss School (away), May 13.

dfierro@greenwichtime.com; 203-625-4423