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    Sunday, June 16, 2024

    High school notes: Waterford’s Madison LaForte plans to follow her dad’s footsteps into coaching

    Waterford’s Madison LaForte, left, moves past Bacon Academy’s Sophie Billings during a high school girls lacrosse game in Colchester on April 22. LaForte is part of a Waterford team which is 14-1 and will be seeded first in next week’s Eastern Connecticut Conference tournament. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
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    Stonington’s Brianna Plew catches a fly ball during a high school softball game against Fitch on May 1 at Washington Park in Groton. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
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    Madison LaForte’s older brothers played lacrosse in college, Michael for Grove City College and later Babson and Mason at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, where their father, Ray, is the head men’s lacrosse coach.

    “I would even say more, not to throw my brothers under the bus,” Maddie LaForte said this week of how much she loves the sport. “Me and my dad, there’s not a dull moment when we’re talking about lacrosse.

    “It’s 24-7. I go up in his office, I’m telling him where a kid could fit in better. It’s so real. Me and my brothers will meet in his office after a game.”

    LaForte, a senior midfielder/attack at Waterford High School and one of the Lancers’ captains, has helped lead the team to a 14-1 record overall and a perfect 8-0 mark in Eastern Connecticut Conference Division II to capture the division title.

    The Lancers have one regular-season game remaining, Friday against Branford, before turning to the ECC tournament next week, where they’ll be the top seed. The championship game will be held May 23 at Waterford.

    Maddie LaForte will continue her playing career next year at Messiah University in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, a Division III program, where she has determined her major will be health and physical education/teaching and coaching.

    Much like LaForte and her two brothers all wear the No. 15, the same as their dad did in his baseball and football career at Ithaca College — the Bombers won national championships in both sports in 1988, during Ray LaForte’s tenure — Maddie LaForte would like to join her dad in the coaching profession.

    “That’s my goal,” she said. “Growing up watching my dad ... I really want to be like that. I have so much respect for my dad. He’s such a good coach. First, he’s just an all-around good person. When he’s recruiting kids, they all see how good he is.

    “He puts so much work into these kids. They have it really tough over there (due to military obligations, along with athletics) and that gains a lot of a recruit or a player’s respect. Having the respect of the people you’re coaching ... he’s always working, he’s always coming up with new things.”

    LaForte credits her dad for his workmanlike effort in learning lacrosse, which was not a sport he played. He has overseen the Coast Guard program from the time it was a club team to several appearances in the Division III Top 25.

    She also credits her parents, Ray and Michelle, who is a local athletic trainer, for the warmth that all their of their children exude — all three members of the younger generation of LaFortes are quick with a smile or a kind word.

    “My parents are two of the most genuine people,” LaForte said. “Me and my brothers have seen that growing up. We go to the grocery store and he’ll talk to anybody.

    “We do senior superlatives (at Waterford) and I got voted ‘biggest social butterfly.’ Someone said, ‘Maddie would go up and talk to anybody.’ I said, ‘Why is that such a scary thing?’”

    LaForte said she couldn’t have asked for a better season, even though she has been ill for part of her senior year, with it finally determined that she suffers from anemia. The Lancers, under first-year coach Taylor Shannon, have 12 freshmen and sophomores on the roster, with Shannon urging the group to have a pass-first mentality.

    The Lancers’ only loss came April 25 against Hand, with eight straight wins since.

    “I’ve been really sick and had some personal issues, but regardless of that lacrosse is the one thing that can keep me happy,” LaForte said. “It’s such a positive environment. We’re all so happy to be at practice, pasta dinners, on the bus. It’s the environment as a captain I wanted.

    “Coach Shannon has it embedded in us, ‘Play as a team, win as a team.’ Girls have picked up on that. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”

    ‘What sports is about’

    Earlier this week, Stonington defeated St. Bernard 6-1 to clinch the ECC Division III softball title.

    But along the way, there was another celebration.

    Senior Courtney Wise, not usually in the lineup, started in right field for the Bears and had an RBI single in the second inning that gave the team the lead for good.

    “The dugout went crazy,” Stonington coach Ann-Marie Houle said. “They were all so happy for her. I teared up — it’s what sports is about.”

    Houle, whose team won the ECC Division II tournament last season, has certainly won titles before. She is two wins from the 300th of her career. And yet she was so excited when the Bears beat St. Bernard on Monday, she forgot to include some of the stats in her postgame email, necessitating a “P.S.”

    “I like to praise the kids who are great kids,” Houle said. “I have great kids.

    “This season has been such a great ride so far and so much of that has to do with the dedication of the girls. Winning Division III is never easy, every team is good and every game is competitive. ... As the season went on we made adjustments and I can’t say enough about the girls always buying into what we are saying and trying to accomplish. I’m beyond proud of every single one of them.”

    v.fulkerson@theday.com

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