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Historical flight! The Foote School Falcons glide through rarefied air of spring sports

Updated: Jun 4

By Rick Menning


NEW HAVEN, CT -- The Foote School spring sports season was unique and memorable in many ways with the ultimate frisbee, boys and girls lacrosse, girls softball, varsity and junior varsity tennis and coed volleyball teams all venturing into unchartered territory.


Seemingly on weekly basis, the achievements and accolades kept piling up with the Falcons' squads demonstrating the will to reach a bold, new world of achievements and accolades.


Take the ultimate frisbee squad, for example. For the first time in school history, the Falcons took the field competitively and, against Independent Day School, captured their first-ever victory.

'ULTIMATE' DREAM: The Foote School Falcons Ultimate Frisbee team competed in the school's first-ever season of competitive play in that sport. (Photo courtesy The Foote School).

As the final moments wound down in Middlefield, The Foote School disc throwers were able to experience the "ultimate" in conquests -- the team's inaugural win against the host IDS Coyotes.


"This team embodied the spirit of ultimate frisbee. They always worked hard and stayed positive," said Andrew Zielinski, one of the coaches along with Colin Maher. "... players strategized, problem solved and reminded each other to stay positive."


The Falcons experienced great growth as a team, learned how to apply different skills and strategies on the field and adjusted to their opponents' systems and style of play.


Many of the other schools had larger rosters than Foote but that didn't stop the maroon and gray from competing at the highest level.


ULTIMATE


Team Roster: Levi Lucarelli-Apatow, Zachary Brenner, Myles Carter-Solomon, Xavi Lopez, Alden Neuman, Daniel Perez, Will Shipley, George Thompson, Kameron Shahid, Ari Lopez, Rayne Queen. The coaches are Colin Maher and Andrew Zielinski.


DISC Award: George Thompson.

STALL Award: Alden Neuman.

HUCK Award: Will Shipley.


Here is the rundown of all the other spring sports action as reported by the coaches on all the teams:


BOYS LACROSSE


Another amazing sidelight to an historic sports campaign that began back in April was the return of boys' lacrosse to the springtime lineup.


Confronting the challenge of being a sixth-grade dominant team facing predominately eighth-grade opponents, the Falcons held their own and competed very well giving each team a run for their money. Each athlete stepped up and played extremely well in games where there was only one sub on the bench.


"While a few boys have been playing lacrosse for a while, most of the team was new to the sport," said Pablo Devos Deak, who coached the squad along with Khalil Dunham-Carson. "Each one of them continuously improved and showed that they were working on their stick skills outside of practice. We were a highly intensive team often beating the teams we played with those very skills."


There was a unified atmosphere surrounding both games and practices.


"Our practices were always filled with athletes being inquisitive and asking thoughtful questions," Dunham-Carson added. "And (the practices) were also filled with laughter and joy. The chemistry shows why I consider our team as a brotherhood."


In the end, the resurrection of boys lacrosse to that spring sports lineup was extremely positive and rewarding.


"The boys on this team felt more like a family the entire season, and they showed the heart and knowledge needed to play" Devos Deak continued. "Everyone came ready to work and came ready to have some fun. This created an environment that was both positive and supportive of the players who were still learning."


Dunham-Carson couldn't agree more.


"I am proud of how everyone came together this season to uplift each other, going against people who were (bigger) in size, in (higher) grades and playing outside of their school competitively," he concluded. "That's the biggest achievement if you ask me!"


Dunham-Carson acknowledged Eli Wilderman for his outstanding play in goal at the start of the season.


"Eli demonstrated a lot of heart by not being afraid of the big moment and being a leader for this team," Dunham-Carson said. "I am super proud to be a coach because of the selfless people we have on our team!" 


Boys Lacrosse


Team Roster: Matthew Bergantino, Jasper Byron, Ben Fasano, Noah Fisher, Sam Fisher, Daniel Johnson Yoobin Perry, Simon Rodriguez, Cadel Tiernan, Jamison Scott, Tristan Shahid, Eli Wilderman and Issac Wu. The coaches are Pablo Devos Deak and Khalil Dunham-Carson.


Stringer Award: Sammy Fisher.

GOAT Award: Matthew Bergantino.

MVP Award: Jameson Scott.

Best Defenseman Award: Yoobin Perry.

Double Trouble Award: Ben Fasano and Jasper Bryon.


GIRLS LACROSSE


The Falcons displayed their true grit and determination in one particular girls' lacrosse game against Kingswood-Oxford Academy (KO).


Although considered a middle-school team, the KO squad included many ninth graders who were playing by high school rules.


"This meant that they were making full contact with our girls when we usually play no contact," coach Lauren Luparia explained. "They were doing full checking while we usually do modified checking below the shoulder. "


She went on to point out that the high-school version of the sport presents a special challenge for middle-school athletes because it is a faster paced and more aggressive game.


Nevertheless, that didn't bother the Falcons who played their hearts out and earned the respect of their opponents.


Throughout the season, the Falcons showed exceptional communication on the field, seamlessly rotating in and out and supporting each other even when the Foote athletes had no substitutes or were down a player. Additionally, players took on new positions and roles, showcasing their versatility and commitment to the team.


One of the notable achievements came during that Kingswood-Oxford game as Poppy Shor turned in an incredible performance in goal with over 12 saves.


"The chemistry among the team was fantastic. Our girls really stepped up to lead, especially considering that I was new to Foote lacrosse," Luparia said. "They encouraged each other to work hard, offered tips and pointers and were always supportive. This positive attitude and respect for each other created an exceptional athletic experience."


Despite challenging weather and a schedule that included some tough opponents, the Falcons continually improved their skills all while having fun and enjoying the sport.


"This year, we truly stepped up," Luparia said. "Everyone got significant playing time and learned a lot. We grew as a team and supported each other whether we were winning or losing."


Luparia gave a special shout out to Molly Larsen, who exemplified all the team qualities.


"Molly consistently demonstrated dedication, a positive attitude and outstanding teamwork while making significant contributions to our team's success," Luparia said.


Girls Lacrosse


Team Roster: Lexi Andersson, Amelia Andersson, Avery Bruce, Maia Cort, Eloise Dickson, Desilucia Freidah, Noor Gonzalez, Safiya Gonzalez, Dylan Hawkins, Molly Larsen, Catherine Schlachter, Esther Schonberger, Annabel Sheehan, Poppy Shor and Cordelia Thompson. The coach is Lauren Luparia.


'11' Award: Cordelia Thompson.


GIRLS SOFTBALL


Heart and determination were certainly major qualities of this season's girls' softball team.


In fact, were it not for a hard-fought and valiant effort against an always-tough Rumsey Hall squad that fell one run short, the Falcons would have achieved back-to-back undefeated seasons.


But there were no frowns or what-ifs among this group of talented girls who practiced day after day to be at their very best come game time.


Their goal was to simply to give 100 percent and handle any challenges that came their way.


Like the game against Renbrook School when sixth-grader Izzy Pakutka -- the only experienced pitcher available that day -- struck out 13 of the visitors' batters in a gutsy victory with 80-degree heat. She was outstanding all season and finished as the team leader in home runs with five.


The Falcons won four of their five games and started with a dazzling performance on the mound by Logan Slabaugh, who struck out 19 in yet another hard-fought win against The Hopkins School.


Slabaugh prevailed in a great pitching duel against former Foote pitcher Elaina Pakutka, who also excelled inside the circle for the Hilltoppers with 12 strikeouts.


Elaina's catcher, Willa Kennedy, also is a former Foote student who along with Elaina played on the 2023 undefeated Falcons' squad.


Ava Rose, one of the co-captains along with Slabaugh, belted two home runs this season while Slabaugh added one.


And who can forget Avocet MacDougall's perseverance in her first pitching outing the very next game. Loading the bases with no outs, she proceeded to strike out the side against Hamden Hall.


"My personal 'wow' moment was watching Avocet pitch (this season)," head coach Chloe Shaw said. "She did not give up. I have great heart in her season and I know she learned a lot and showed a ton of grit out there on the mound. "


Despite the age difference between the eighth and sixth graders (there were no seventh graders on the team), the group came together with camaraderie and spirit and brought the softball program's two-season record to an amazing 13-1.


"Everyone was extremely supportive of one another. I couldn't be prouder of this team," Shaw concluded.


Softball


Team Roster: Shayann Bershtein, Sasha Bindra, Natalie Curtis, Audrey Lasater, Cora Lloyd, Avocet MacDougall, Ruthie Myers, Izzy Pakutka, Ava Rose, Elizabeth Scott, Logan Slabaugh and Ellie Sudmyer. The coaches are Chloe Shaw and Rick Menning.


Full Count Award (8th Grade): Cora Lloyd.

Full Count Award (6th Grade): Ruthie Myers.


VARSITY TENNIS


The positive mindset that was featured throughout an excellent season on the courts was never more evident than in the Falcon netters' 5-4 triumph over Kingswood-Oxford from West Hartford.


Every game mattered and, in the end, The Foote School prevailed.


The final game against The Hopkins School was a great day for the team as it was purely doubles matches. This required athletes to play with partners whom they were unfamiliar with, but coaches Ross Holzschuh and John Hay noted that everyone seemed to have a lot of fun and the Falcons ended up winning most of the matches.


Most players even had the opportunity to play at least two matches, which was tough going on a hot day.


"The varsity team were an excellent group of athletes, not just for their skill but also their sportsmanship and attitude during games," Holzschuh said. "They complemented each other as well as their opponents. They were encouraging to one another, and extremely polite to opposition coaches. We were very proud of them!"


JUNIOR VARSITY TENNIS


As for the junior varsity netters, the squad had a lot of fun practicing each day, playing fun games, working on skills and playing matches.


"We were so proud of their ability to roll with the challenges they faced, from weather and court availability to changing practice times and locations," said Katie Larsen, who coached the team along with Ali Nauen. "They always carried the ball hoppers without complaint and shared the responsibility as a team."


Attitude and a willingness to play with any teammate were outstanding qualities among the JV group, and there were some particularly fun and exciting matches among the players. 


"We had so much fun! We laughed a lot and had some silly moments," Larsen continued.  "We had students from every grade playing together!"


Tennis (Varsity and JV)


Team Roster: Maya Abeles, Justin Aseme, Lexi Baez, Felix Boone, Quinn Byron, Pablo Cruz, Bradley DeCew, Lucien de la Cruz y Carmin, Salome Del Rio, Alara Deniz, Hatim Elarabi, Aiden Gomez, Jack Ginnetti, Lorenzo Graham, Elias Joseph, Gus Larsen, Will Matouk, Avik Patel, Gage Seymour, Jackson Shaw, Sid Srihari, Keda Tan, Luhao Tang, Milos van den Bosch, Gabriel Wang, Owen Whang, Fiona Wiman, Tyler Witkowsky. The varsity coaches are Ross Holzschuh and John Hay; the JV coaches are Katie Larsen and Ali Nauen.


Golden Racquet Award (9th Grade): Salome Del Rio.

Golden Racquet Award (8th Grade): Jackson Shaw.

Golden Racquet Award (7th Grade): Luhao Tang.

Golden Racquet Award (6th Grade): Keda Tan.


COED VOLLEYBALL


And last but certainly not least in rounding out what was truly a spring season for the record books at The Foote School, the coed volleyball team returned to the court with a willingness to learn and succeed.


"(They) showed incredible perseverance and camaraderie," said Audrey Morrow-Krone, a co-coach along with Ozler Kayaarasi. "Being the first time playing this sport, many students did not know what to expect when learning to play volleyball ... I was completely impressed by their grit and persistence!"


She went on to say that volleyball is no easy sport to learn, and that athletes must support one another constantly.


"It requires communication, encouragement and a willingness to try again even when things are challenging," she said.


The Falcons' serve-and-spikers consistently cheered for each other and uplifted one another when struggling. At the end of each practice, time was given for students to shout out a success they saw on the court that day.


Coed Volleyball


Team Roster: Aquinnah Anastas, Slater Boms, Lark Bromage, Noor Burgess, Sofia Caliendo, Avery Earnshaw, Iris Elliot, Cosma Gregg, Alora Hansen, Pelin Kayaraasi, Isla Kelly, Zee Lang, Eve Laskin-Tievsky, Ari Lopez, Dorothea Myers, Alice Nietzke, Rayne Queen, Lucy Rapkin, Alex Rouwenhorst, Kameron Shahid, Eric Silva, Lulu Tang, Natalie Tolchin, Ava Vidal and Maryam Zagmout. The coaches are Audrey Morrow-Krone and Ozler Kayaarasi.


Court Conqueror Award: Iris Elliott and Eve Laskin-Tievsky.








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