NEWINGTON - On a cold afternoon at ClemLemire Athletic Complex, Newington boys lacrosse coach Zach Zarookian was in a tee shirt and shorts pacing the sidelines, jumping up and down and motivating his players both on the field and next to him on the sidelines.
Now in his third year, that energy Zarookian brings every game has been instilled in his players and with it, the Indians now expect to win games rather than just hope to.
The recent 8-5 loss to Southington on Tuesday was a sign of a team on the rise. Newington had lost to the Blue Knights by a combined 26 goals in the first two seasons with Zarookian on the sidelines.
“We used to take moral victories,” Zarookian said. “[Tuesday] was a game that we’re definitely happy with how far we’ve come and it was a good measurement for how far we’ve come. But we felt like it was a game we could have won and we made some mistakes at the end of the game that they didn’t really force us to do. So it’s definitely a bittersweet feeling. We’re happy that we played them tight and the program’s come so far. It gives us good confidence for the rest of the year, but at the same time, disappointing to have them on the ropes and not be able to finish the job.”
While Zarookian’s energy has sparked the program, the former freshman coach attributes much of the growth to having the ability to coach and mentor his players for more than just the one season he had to as a freshman coach.
Mike Ganley, Rob Petronio, Connor Brennan and Matt Barron, the four Indians’ senior captains, have taken on the leadership role for Newington and have developed under Zarookian.
Just as important, the work ethic of the four has started to show in the younger players daily duties.
“What’s really nice is we’re kind of seeing a trickledown effect,” Zarookian said. “Where kids that are freshmen and sophomores that weren’t here in the beginning are doing what the older kids are doing now and they’re seeing what’s expected. The seniors have really good leadership and they’re all program players. It’s been big for us to have them.”
In his first season as the head coach, Newington won five games. Last year the Indians won eight games. Off to a 2-1 start, Newington is likely to again improve on last season’s record with Zarookian at the helm and it’s not going unnoticed by the Indians’ opponents.
“Newington is just an overall improved program,” Southington coach Ron Chase said. “Zach got there and has really turned this program around. That’s something I told Zach earlier in a conversation I had with him. And just talking to the Newington parents, I said ‘that it’s a completely different team and a completely different program.’ Everything from the way they act on the field to the way they play is different.”
Dan Orencole can be reached at 860-973-1811 or firstname.lastname@example.org