NEWINGTON - Before the season began, Owen Freeman wasnât sure where or how he was going to fit into the lineup for the Newington boys lacrosse team.
But as the sophomore competed for a first-line midfielders spot throughout the preseason, he began making an impression.
âAt the beginning of this year we didnât even know if [Freeman] was going to start or not,â Indians head coach Zach Zarookian said. âHe was doing really well and scoring a lot. All last season he had zero goals and two assists on varsity, against lower competition. Heâs been huge for us this year, scoring two, three goals every game. Heâs just been kind of doing his job and what we ask from him, he does a great job.â
Through the first eight games this season, Freeman netted 13 goals with two assists and Thursday afternoon, in Newingtonâs âbiggest game of the seasonâ against South Windsor, he came through when called upon. Freeman finished the game scoring three goals during very crucial moments of the game.
âGame ball definitely goes to Owen Freeman,â captain and defenseman Rob Petronio said. âHe brought it [Thursday]. He had a lot of poise and he was just clutch throughout the entire game.â
Zarookian was thrilled with Freemanâs performance. Thursdayâs matchup was a breakout game for Freeman and the entire team was surprised to see him perform like he did so early in his career.
âWe reminded everyone through the week that we had to come out strong,â Freeman said. âAfter our loss last year by a large margin, I knew what I had to do and when the opportunities were there I seized them although we did come up short and [in] double overtime which was heartbreaking knowing that you put your heart into that game.â
Freeman has been playing lacrosse since he was in fifth grade and has been under Zarookianâs tutelage since seventh grade. Throughout the last five years, Freemanâs growth as a player has been noticeable and this season, the head coach gave his player the task of playing on the crease.
âWe put him on the crease and in the beginning of the year the kids hated the crease position,â Zarookian said. âThey were not touching the ball a lot. But I told them that if you play the crease, youâre going to score a lot of goals this season.â
Balls slide off the crease and the opposing team usually leaves those players wide open. Freeman has taken advantage of those opportunities.
âOwenâs really small, but heâs really scrappy,â Zarookian said. âHe plays really hard. Heâs actually made a bunch of what we call âgarbage goalsâ where he hits the goalie's stick and it bounces off. I'm surprised he gets the ball as much as he does because he is one of the smaller guys out there. He just plays with a lot of heart and is also very skilled. Heâs a very talented young player.â
And with Freeman being just a sophomore, there is still plenty of room for growth.
âHe can only get better,â Petronio said. âHeâs going to do bigger and better things over the next few years.â
But Freeman isnât getting too ahead of himself, keeping his focus solely on winning games this season and making a postseason run.
âIâm just trying to stay motivated and to fight on the next string of games,â Freeman said. âThese next games are important and we need to keep the gold wave flowing.â
The second half of the Indiansâ schedule will be tough. In the upcoming weeks Newington will face Avon, Hall, Northwest Catholic and Farmington before heading into the conference tournament.
âNone of the wins [weâve had] were that impressive,â Zarookian said. âWeâre really looking for a quality win opposed to just racking up wins. For us, weâre trying to make a statement.â
One of the goals Freeman and the rest of Newingtonâs team is to win that conference championship. The Indians have never won a conference championship in school history, since the program began in 2000.
Theyâre looking to make history this year and Freeman could play a big role in doing so.
Shelby Iava can be reached at (860) 801-5096 or firstname.lastname@example.org