CHESHIRE — Top-seeded Cheshire entered the opening round of the CIAC Class L Girls Lacrosse Tournament with only two losses, one of which came against Greenwich — a team it also had never beaten before and the squad it had to test its skills against to start the tournament.
So despite being the No. 1-seeded squad, the Rams knew they were in for a game that was destined to go right down-to-the-wire.
The trio of Annie Eddy, Annie Acquavita and Raegan Bailey helped the Rams seal the deal this time against the Cardinals.
Eddy scored a game-high four goals, while Acquavita and Bailey each tallied twice to lead host Cheshire to a hard-fought 9-7 win over 17th-seeded Greenwich in the first round of the Class L Tournament on Tuesday.
Cheshire (18-2) advanced to the Class L quarterfinals, where it will face Ridgefield.
“It feels good to get that win against Greenwich,” said Cheshire coach Dan Warburton, whose Rams were defeated by Greenwich, 13-12, in overtime on April 11. “Greenwich is a great program, we have been waiting for them for a while and that’s a compliment to them. We’ve never beaten them in our program’s history. We’ve come so close, we have four one-goal losses against them.”
Besides defeating the Rams during the regular season, the Cardinals had the upperhand on Cheshire in past postseason games.
“When we saw that we had them in the first round, we felt it was another opportunity for us to do something we could have done earlier,” Warburton said. “It’s a good win for our program.”
Greenwich, which topped Brien McMahon in the Class L qualifier on Friday, finished its season at 9-10. The Cardinals trailed 8-3 at one point in the second half, before closing to within 8-7 with three minutes remaining.
“It was a game of bounces and the girls played with a ton of heart, they played so hard,” said GHS coach Rachel Vallarelli, who concluded her first season at the helm. Cheshire played very, very well, give credit to them. They held the ball well and fought through everything and they played through every whistle. Unfortunately, the bounces just didn’t go our way.”
Seniors Grace Fahey and Paige Finneran scored two goals apiece for Greenwich, which received single tallies from junior Kate Loughran and seniors Olivia Caan and Katie Large.
Eddy, a senior, scored three first-half goals, sparking the Rams to a 6-1 lead over the first 22 minutes. She opened the scoring with a goal at the 23:05 mark. After the Cardinals tied the score on Fahey’s goal with 19:15 to go in the opening half, the Rams countered with five straight tallies.
Bailey converted a shot with 16:34 left in the first half, Acquavita tallied at the 9:47 mark, then Bailey and Eddy added goals, making it 6-1.
“We went up because we all wanted it and it gave us time to work the clock and gave us more confidence, because of how many goals we were ahead by,” Acquavita said. “Having Greenwich in the first round for state playoffs wasn’t the best situation, but we wanted redemption and we got it. So now we are looking forward and hopefully, we can make it to the championship.
Goals late in the first half from Fahey and Loughran trimmed the Rams’ lead to 6-3 at halftime. Cheshire extended its advantage again when Eddy put a free position shot past Greenwich senior goalie Sloane Loveless and Acquavita tallied with the Rams running their settled offense, making it an 8-3 game.
“We knew Greenwich was going to be a tough opponent,” Eddy said. “They played such strong competition this season, so it didn’t matter how many losses they had. We didn’t care who we were playing we had the hunger, motivation and desire to win.”
Loveless made 10 saves in goal for the Cards, several of which came during the latter part of the second half, enabling Greenwich to go on a 4-0 run. Finneran tallied off a dodge, then Fahey snapped a free position shot by Rams junior goalie Sophie Kurtz, cutting the deficit to 8-5. Large scored at the 6:06 mark, then senior defender Olivia Caan showed her speed, going coast-to-coast before converting a shot from close in, pulling GHS to within 8-7 with 3:02 remaining.
“I was amazed with our team today,” Caan said. “When we had that whole week of practice before this game, we just worked as hard as we could. We played practice like we played a game every day. Every single girl on our field and on our sideline wanted it more than anything. Unfortunately, some of the bounces didn’t go our way. But at the end of the day, we put it all on the field and I’m so proud of everyone and what we’ve done.”
Added Finneran: “We improved on what we did in the first half by minimizing our turnovers. We crawled back into the game, but we dug ourselves too big a hole to come out of. It just wasn’t our day.”
Kurtz made five saves in goal for Cheshire, which hosts ninth-seeded Ridgefield on Thursday in the quarterfinals.
“We lost to them last year in overtime, but I believe that our team can do it this year,”Eddy said of Ridgefield.
Bailey closed out the game with a goal in the final second of play, after Cheshire ran an effective stall. Seeking to tie the score at 8-8, Greenwich’s final possession ended with 1:54 left to play. Junior Kiley Jackson forced a turnover deep in Greenwich’s zone and gathered a ground ball, giving the Rams possession.
“We always work on our stall in practice, so it was good to see our hard work pay off and that we were able to finish the game off,” said Bailey, a sophomore.
“For four years this program has been my family, we do everything together during the season,” Fahey said. “Even out of season, we are all just so close, so it’s hard to say goodbye. This season taught us to persevere when things didn’t go our way and to do things for each other and our coaches.”
Said Bailey: “We have such good senior captains, they lead so well. Whenever we are not doing well they tell us to calm down and relax. Everyone on the field working together helps us win games.”
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Eddy made key plays throughout the game for her Rams squad.
“This win shows how hard we’ve worked,” Eddy said. “We have gotten better each year and becoming a very good program.”
CHESHIRE 9, GREENWICH 7
GREENWICH 3 4 – 7
CHESHIRE 6 3 – 9
Scoring: G – Paige Finneran 2 g; Grace Fahey 2 g, 1 a; Katie Large 1 g 1 a; Olivia Caan 1 g; Kate Loughran 1 g; Jennifer Kelly 1 a; C – Annie Eddy 4 g; Raegan Bailey 3 g; Annie Acquavita 2 g; Mikayla Crowley 1; Goalies: G – Sloane Loveless (10 saves); C – Sophie Kurtz (5 saves).