CHESHIRE >> The Hand and Cheshire girls lacrosse matchup ranks right up there with some of the most fiercest high school rivalries in Connecticut and when the Rams and Tigers met on Thursday, as usual, they put on quite a show for their fans.
Despite building up a four-goal lead four different times in the game, Cheshire needed late goals, one from Maddy Levy with 1 minute 27 seconds left, and another from Olivia Larson with 1 second left, to put the game away and take a 15-13 Southern Connecticut Conference win over Hand at Cheshire High Turf Field.
Levy ended up with a career-high seven goals and Larson had five for Cheshire, which beat Hand 17-14 in last year’s SCC championship game.
Another item in the Rams’ favor was that Hand starting goalie Emilee Wargo was recovering from a concussion from a previous game and the Tigers used backups Lisa Chupps, a senior, and freshman Caitlyn Harvey.
“It was important to get the early lead we did, but it was pretty scary at the end since we led most of the game,” Levy said. “It was important to maintain our lead but Hand is always tough and fought hard to come back. I was so excited when I scored (the 14th goal).”
Hand coach Kevin Siedlecki and Cheshire coach Dan Warburton agreed the turning point in the game came after the score was tied 3-3 in the first half. The Rams scored four unanswered goals and when Larson made it 7-3 with 11:42 to go it took most of the game for Hand to overcome the spurt and eventually tie the game.
“When Hand and Cheshire play it’s always a lot of fun,” Warburton said. “One of our goals tonight was to make them come from behind. Hand has some major weapons and the only way to beat them is to keep the game close.”
In the second half, the Rams scored the first two goals with a Larson goal 1:02 into the half and another by Levy with 18:54 left for a 12-8 lead. The teams traded goals and with the score at 13-9, the Tigers played a more aggressive, physical game and went on a 4-0 run to tie the game. Hand’s Lauren Cole scored her seventh goal of the game to tie it at 13 with 2:20 to go.
“The last 15 minutes of the game we played more aggressively and it gave us more opportunities to score and come back for the tie,” Siedlecki said. “Our kids played a hell of a game to fight like they did and come back.
“We had opportunities to get that lead but their goalie (Alexa Carbone) came up with some big saves for them. These Hand-Cheshire games are always like this, exciting right to the end.”
After Levy gave the Rams a 14-13 lead, Hand’s Brenna Hobin had a prime opportunity to tie it with a free position opportunity with 1:10 left in the game. But Carbone made the stick save and cleared the ball away.
Hand actually outshot the Rams 22-17.