Between lacrosse and volleyball, Cheshire High School athletes Lauren Samela and Taryn Ugrin have spent countless hours working alongside each other. While they are preparing for the start of their final year together this fall, the seniors have made plans to extend their playing careers in the same sport.
For lacrosse, Samela has committed to play on the Division I level at Wagner College in New York, while Ugrin has decided to stay local and compete in D-II at Southern Connecticut State University.
“I feel like it is a really good accomplishment and an exciting opportunity,” Samela said.
Samela chose Wagner over Merrimack College (Massachusetts) and Campbell University (North Carolina).
“It is close to home and still far enough away,” stated Samela, of Wagner. “It is right outside New York City, so there is something to do.”
A member of the Northeast Conference, the Seahawks compete for Head Coach Kelly McPartland. As a player, McPartland won two national titles at the University of Maryland.
“I like the way that Wagner’s program is set up compared to other ones,” explained Samela.
As a freshman, she set a goal of playing college lacrosse, but wasn’t sure on the level.
“In the summer before junior year, I decided that I really wanted to play D-I,” recalled Samela. “I’m excited for the next step.”
Ugrin wanted to play a college sport because she felt that it would help her manage time between athletics and academics. In choosing SCSU last year, she thought that it was good to relieve pressure going into her final two seasons of lacrosse.
“I’m very happy because I wanted to stay close to home,” said Ugrin. “I love the coach (Kevin Siedlecki) and Southern is a great academic school for me.”
At SCSU, the Owls play lacrosse in the Northeast-10 Conference.
“I want to provide what the team needs,” stated Ugrin. “I’ll have more goals, as I get closer to that level.”
Ugrin started playing lacrosse at a young age. In fifth grade, she joined the inaugural Team 203 Girls’ Lacrosse Club and has played for the program ever since.
“I’ve played with a lot of Cheshire players,” reflected Ugrin. “I’ve also met girls from places like Guilford. That has been fun.”
Last summer, Ugrin and Samela helped their club squad claim the Open Division of the 2021 Brine District East National Cup in Conshohocken, Pennsylvania.
While in just first grade, Samela picked up lacrosse in Wolcott. She played with boys up until fifth grade.
“It wasn’t as bad when I started, but as the boys got bigger, it was a challenge in size and strength,” explained Samela. “In shifting over to the girls’ game, it was hard at first getting used to the rules.”
When her family moved to Cheshire, Samela felt that lacrosse helped her make new friends.
“It was fun. The people were very welcoming,” reflected Samela. “My dad grew up in Cheshire, so he knew a bunch of people.”
Over the years, she believes that lacrosse has become a relaxing place for her.
“I can be myself and have fun,” stated Samela.
Because of the start of the pandemic, Samela and Ugrin had their freshman lacrosse season canceled at CHS, but both girls returned to make the varsity team in 2021.
Ugrin compiled 14 goals and two assists in her sophomore year.
“It was kind of tough starting out in sophomore year. None of the girls (in my class) had experienced the freshmen or JV (junior varsity) levels,” reflected Ugrin. “It was nice to be put on varsity and understand what the coach’s expectations were early in my career.”
As another mid-fielder Samela tallied 29 points (13 goals, 16 assists) in 2021 and became a leader on the draw.
“I didn’t know that I wanted to play on the draw until sophomore year. I was put there and found that I was good at it,” explained Samela. “Placement is key, along with telling your girls where the ball is going to go. Communication is also huge.”
She has additionally contributed in coming up with ground balls.
“That allows us to get possessions when we need them the most,” said Samela.
“Lauren is one of those players who doesn’t have to score to have an impact on a game,” added CHS Head Coach Dan Warburton. “She is a scrappy player who comes up with loose balls and win draws.”
The Rams made the 2021 Southern Connecticut Conference Tournament and won a game in Class L play.
Ugrin looked forward to her junior season, but due to being diagnosed with a torn meniscus about four or five months ago, she had to sit out the opening 14 games this year.
“I heard a pop in my knee during my freshman year. I thought it was tendonitis, but it kept coming up. They checked me out and saw that I had tore my meniscus,” recalled Ugrin. “It was so frustrating to miss most of the season. I still went to every practice, but couldn’t walk or run for awhile.”
In her return to the field, Ugrin scored a goal to help the Rams win 20-10 at Lauralton Hall.
“It felt so good to be back in action with all of my teammates,” recalled Ugrin. “I still had things to work on, but it was good to be back on the field.”
As a junior, Samela had 29 goals and two assists, along with joining classmates Ava Harris and Ava Matikowski as key players on the draw. In a highlight, Samela tied a career high with five goals in a 20-8 win over Amity in the SCC semifinals.
“That win was amazing after we had lost to them (11-10) the last time we played them,” said Samela. “We couldn’t lose on our home field.”
CHS advanced to the conference final where they came up short 12-6 against Guilford.
“Those rivalry games are great,” stated Samela. “You fight for it all. It makes games worth playing for.”
For states, CHS defeated Conard (14-11) and Farmington (12-7). Cheshire finished with a 17-6 loss at Wilton.
The Rams graduated eight players, but the program can bring back 15 seniors in 2023. Many seniors have been playing together on varsity for years.
“It is exciting,” said Ugrin. “Even though there are only two captains (Harris, Taylor Fitzgerald), I think we can all contribute as seniors and help show the younger girls how the varsity program works.”
Samela believes that chemistry will allow the Rams to start fast next year.
“It makes it easier to trust that people are going to catch the ball,” said Samela.
After missing the majority of her junior season, Ugrin is motivated for next year.
“I want to be stronger and faster as a mid-fielder,” stated Ugrin.
“It can take awhile to come back from a knee injury,” said Warburton. “After having nine months post surgery, I think Taryn will have a good senior year for us.”
Samela is also preparing for her senior season. She recently competed in the All-American Lacrosse Underclass Tournament held from last Thursday to Sunday in Baltimore, Maryland.
Matikowski teamed with Samela on the Connecticut New York (CONNY) Highlight team, while junior Stella Tessier played in the Spotlight section.
“I like going up against the top girls in the country,” stated Samela. “It boosts your game to be challenged by good competition.”
Before playing their final lacrosse season next spring, Samela and Ugrin will compete in volleyball this fall. Last year, Cheshire girls started 24-0 and won their record 15th SCC crown in a 3-1 victory over Amity.
The Rams lost 3-1 to Fairfield Ludlowe in the Class LL semifinals.
This year, Cheshire returns 11 seniors to the team.
“I think volleyball is going to be fun,” said Samela. “I won’t touch the court again after the season is over. I want to have a great year.”
“It is good to mix it up with sports,” added Ugrin. “I’m excited for the season.”