NORTH BRANFORD >> Whenever the North Branford and Old Lyme girls lacrosse teams face each other, players and coaches always expect a tough, hard-fought close affair.
Despite an early three-goal lead by the Wildcats, the matchup on Thursday continued that trend.
The Wildcats held off a late rally by the Thunderbirds, Sydney Cowell and Maggie Berger had three goals each and goalie Hannah Guenther had 13 saves to lead Old Lyme to a 9-7 win over North Branford at Colafati Field.
After North Branford tied the game at 7 with 4 minutes, 33 seconds to go in the second half, Cowell scored with 1:30 to go to make it 8-7 Old Lyme. Daisy Colvin added an insurance goal with 11 seconds to go for the 9-7 final.
“When they tied it at 7-7, I was definitely concerned,” Old Lyme coach Emily Macione said. “What helped being in that pressure situation is we have already had some close games this season, so we’ve been playing under pressure.
“These games between us are always a tough test and this was a challenge. Our goalie played a great game, but North Branford was taking advantage of second and third rebound chances and that allowed them to get back in it and tie it. The turning point for us was getting that eighth goal. That allowed us to get the momentum.”
In the first half, Berger gave the Wildcats (4-1) a 5-2 lead with 3:54 to go.
North Branford coach Lori Connelly called time out and told her team one thing: “keep taking shots, keep shooting.”
The Thunderbirds responded by going on a 4-1 run that bridged the two halves to tie the game at 6.
North Branford’s Jessie Kilburn scored with 3:29 left in the first half and Adriana Ingarra added a goal with 19 seconds to go to cut the lead to 5-4 at halftime.
Berger opened the second half with a goal with 22:43 to go to make it 6-4. North Branford completed the comeback with a goal from Steph Seymour with 22:06 to go and a Tara Lauro goal with 13:59 left to tie it at 6.
Old Lyme regained the lead at 7-6 on a goal by Anna Mesham with 7:14 to go. Kilburn’s goal with 4:33 left tied it at 7, setting the stage for Old Lyme’s two-goal finish in the final 90 seconds.
“When they tied it at 7-7, it lit a fire under our butts,” said Abby Berger, one of the many key players on defense for the Wildcats. “We knew we could turn it on and hold them off. That eighth goal was a turning point for us.”
Connelly couldn’t say enough good things about her players.
“My kids laid it all on the line, they fought hard and never gave up,” Connelly said. “We weren’t used to a defense that was as quick as Old Lyme. We needed to adjust and we slowed it down on offense. That allowed us to get back in it.
“But their goalie was huge for them and our goalie played well too. We knew this would be a hard-fought game.”
Elissa Nuzzo had 10 saves for North Branford (6-1).
Old Lyme 9, North Branford 7
(at North Branford)
Old Lyme 4 5 — 9
North Branford 5 2 — 7
Goals: (NoBfd) Jessie Kilburn 3; Stephanie Seymour 1; Tara Lauro 1; Adriana Ingarra 1; Sydney Hogan 1; (OLM) Anna Mesham 2; maggie berger 3; Sydney Cowell 3; Daisy Colvin 1;
Assists: (NoBfd) Adriana Ingarra 2; Sydney Hogan 2; Jessie Kilburn 1; (OLM) Aliza Hackling 2; Sydney Cowell 1; maggie berger 1;
Saves: (NoBfd) Elissa Nuzzo 10; (OLM) Hannah Guenther 13;
Shots—OLM: 16; NoBfd: 29;
Team records—North Branford 4-1; Old Lyme 6-1