FAIRFIELD — After the game was over, Warde girls lacrosse coach Tom Davis made his way over to his three seniors, Libby McKenna, Olivia Seymour and Cara Bebey, and, one by one, gave them each a fatherly hug.
All season long, the three had given Davis everything they had on the playing field — and more — and on Thursday against Cheshire in the quarterfinals of the Class L tournament, the three were once again, leading the way as the Mustangs looked to pull off the upset.
No. 2 Cheshire was dominant on faceoffs, committed on its possessions and did just enough to hold off the No. 7 seeded Mustangs 12-10 on a rainy afternoon at the Maclary Athletic Complex.
“We knew if we could stay with them, we’d have a good shot at it,” Davis said. “We got down a couple (of goals) and in girls’ lacrosse, if you have the ball, you can stall for 15 minutes if you want and we knew that somewhere around six minutes, that’s what they were going to do. We needed the ball, we weren’t getting the draws and they played a great game. Cheshire played great today.”
The difference for the Rams — who improved to 17-3 and will face Ridgefield in the semifinals on Saturday — was its ability to win the midfield faceoff and control the possession. Cheshire won 15 faceoffs to just six for Warde, an impressive stat, according to Rams coach Dan Warburton.
“Faceoffs were huge today, our girls did an excellent job on the faceoffs, I thought that was real important,” Warburton said.
Cheshire scored barely one minute into the game, but Mckenna netted three of her six goals over the next 10 minutes as the Mustangs grabbed a 3-1 lead.
“She always plays in the big games, she’s always been there and she’s always worked so hard for us,” Davis said. “She’s a gamer, that’s why she’s an All-American.”
“(McKenna) gave us a hard time,” Warburton said. “She’s a good player, but I thought after we got through that initial phase with her, we did pretty good on her.”
Indeed. McKenna did not score again until there were just nine minutes left and her last two goals got the Mustangs within two, but no closer.
“It was fun, I had a lot of fun with my team this season. I know it’s a sad ending but it’s also a great ending to a great season,” McKenna said.
Down 3-1, Cheshire scored six of the next eight goals to take a 7-5 halftime lead as Annie Acquavita had three goals, Mia Pulisciano had two and Mikayla Crowley and Anne Eddy had one each.
The Rams netted three of the opening four goals of the second half to open a 10-6 lead — too much for the Mustangs to overcome.
Eddy finished with four goals, Pulisciano had three, Acquavita and Crowley had two goals each.
“That’s our thing,” Warburton said. “We don’t set stuff for one or two kids, we run a system, it’s not built for any one person, and we love when it’s a scorebook filled with a lot of different people. That’s what we want because it makes it that much harder to defend.”
Warde finishes the season at 12-6. McKenna had six goals and two assists, Claire Cherniske had two goals and and Katherine Risley and Olivia Seymour each had a goal.
“Olivia is playing with a broken thumb, she missed three games, I’ve got two players out with ACL’s, Caleigh Walklet and Grace Dougherty,” Davis said. “That’s 50, 60 goals right there. When they went down the next kids came up, I mean, everyone stepped up … it was a good season, we had a good season.”
“We started six sophomores and we’re solid in goal, Abby King is tremendous, with the sophomores and juniors coming back, the future is pretty bright.” — Warde coach Tom Davis
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Warde’s Libby McKenna. After scoring seven goals in Warde’s opening Class L win over Hall, the Villanova-bound forward added six goals and two assists against the Rams.
CHESHIRE 12, WARDE 10
WARDE 5 5 — 10
CHESHIRE 7 5 — 12
Records: Warde (12-6), Cheshire (17-3)
Scoring: W — Libby McKenna 6 goals, 2 assists, Claire Cherniske 2 goals, Olivia Seymour 1 goal, 2 assists, Katherine Risley 1 goal, Claire Cherniske 1 goal, Cassie Llewellyn 1 assist. C — Annie Acquavita 3 goals, Anne Eddy 4 goals, 2 assists, Mikayla Crowley, 2 goals, Mia Pulisciano, 3 goals, 1 assist. Goalies: W — Abby King (6 saves), C — Sophie Kurtz (5 saves). Shots: W — 15, C — 14