MILFORD — Bunnell’s girls lacrosse team used its backer defense, and a solid possession game, to earn an 11-7 victory over Foran on Thursday.
“We used a zone up top to pressure them,” Bunnell coach Meghan Letko said after her team evened its slate at 1-1. “Wherever the ball goes, we have a backer behind the player on the attacker.”
Sophomore Morgan Reilly scored six goals and had an assist for Bunnell, out of the South-West Conference. Christina diBenedetto scored two goals.
Senior Samantha O’Neill led the Southern Connecticut Conference’s Lions with four goals and an assist. Freshman Celidgh Pikul had a goal and an assist. Freshman Mia Williams had two assists.
Foran, now 1-2, scored the first goal on Pikul’s shot off an assist from O’Neill barely a minute into the inter-conference matchup.Bunnell put the next five goals on the board, each coming after Foran defensive violations resulted in free position opportunities.
Reilly and diBenedetto alternated tallied to make it 5-1 with 7:26 remaining in the first half.
“Coming in we wanted to possess the ball better and we worked on our eight-meter offense,” Letko said. “Overall we did a good job running through ground balls. There was a lot of gritty play needed and I liked our intensity.”
Foran clawed back within 6-3 at the break.
“It’s hard to be mad when the effort is there,” Foran coach Tom Drew said. “Last week, we lost about seventy percent of our draw opportunities. Today, we were right at fifth percent of better. I liked that. We need to work on both sides (attack and defense) and we will.”
Jenna French had four ground balls to disrupt the Lady Bulldogs and help Foran to come back. Bunnell’s Holly Rosa was a catalyst and Maura Kelly had five ground balls.
The Lions’ Bridget Collins found O’Neill with a pass. She earned Foran’s first chance from the free position, but her low shot was stopped by Bunnell keeper Tatiana Wright. O’Neill stole a clearing pass and found the net with 4:15 left in the first.
Both teams were at their best over the next two minutes, with Foran goalie Chloe Oliver stopping diBenedetto and Wright stonewalling Williams. Bunnell made it 6-2 on its first goal not from the free position.
Oliver made a great save on Reilly, and with the final minute of the half running off the clock, Foran showed off its transition game. O’Neill fed Williams, who dished the ball to Kelly Storm, and with 24.8 seconds left the Lions were within 6-3.
Collins, who faced off with Bunnell’s Kelly and Reilly for most of the contest, won a push draw and picked the ball up quickly to start the second session.
She found a seam in the defense and beat Wright over the shoulder. Reilly answered almost immediately. Oliver came out and tried to block the shot. Her stick struck Reilly inadvertently on the goal.
Abby Mitchell came on, as Oliver served out the penalty, and the junior keeper made a pair of saves during her time on the field.
Collins looked to get another goal, but Wright stayed high in the net and caught her shot.
Nine minutes in, Reilly scored again, this time under the crossbar O’Neill countered with a goal.
Wright stopped Collins again, but Foran kept the pressure on. Pikul assisted on O’Neill’s third goal and it was 10-6.
Nicole North forced a Bunnell turnover and reset the offense. Williams looked for, and found, O’Neill lurking by the cage.
O’Neill took a step to her left, then patiently placed her shot in the opposite corner. Foran had drawn within 10-7 with 10:47 left to play. Bunnell’s used a give-and go, with Reilly curling left to catch a return pass and complete the scoring.
Liz Burrows, Addison Foley, Haley Ruane, North and Pikul keyed the Lion defense.
“Overall we did a good job running through ground balls. There was a lot of gritty play needed and I liked our intensity.”
— Bunnell Coach Meghan Lesko
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Morgan Reilly — The Bunnell High sophomore was noteworthy because of her six goals to go with an assist. She also got off the turf on multiple occasions after finding an unyielding defender in her path.