Though thrilled after winning the East Super Regional Championship at the Under Armour All-America Lacrosse Games in August, the CONNY Command girls lacrosse team knew its mission wasn’t complete.
There was still a national championship to be won, which CONNY — a girls high school lacrosse team comprised of athletes from Connecticut and Westchester County, New York — had its sights set on since the team was formed during the summer.
It was of course, a challenge, but after playing four games in one day, the first of which was a tough loss, the CONNY Command team emerged as national champions.
Defeating a team that beat them in the first game of the tournament, CONNY captured the Under Armour All-America Lacrosse National Championship with an 8-5 victory over Baltimore in the Command Division final at the Princess Anne Athletic Complex at Virginia Beach, Va, this past Saturday.
The tournament’s Command Division features high school players who are scheduled to graduate in 2023 or 2024. CONNY posted a record of 3-1 in the national tournament.
“Overall, I would say the takeaway from the first game was communication and composure,” said CONNY coach Tara Clough, who is the varsity girls lacrosse coach at Greenwich High School. “They played with great communication and composure the remainder of the day. They enjoyed the challenge, it was a total team effort. A team and experience they will never forget.”
The opening game of the national tourney saw CONNY drop a 9-6 decision to Baltimore. CONNY then beat the Midwest Command team 11-2 and downed Long Island, 11-6, setting up a rematch with Baltimore.
The All-America national tournament was originally scheduled to take place over a two-day span, but since Virginia was added to the COVID-19 travel advisory list for the tri-state area Oct.13, it was shortened to one day, since the athletes couldn’t stay in the state for 24 hours. That meant CONNY played in four games over a 7-hour stretch on Saturday.
“We had to be mentally and physically prepared for the championship game,” said CONNY’s Chloe Humphrey of Darien, who was named the tournament’s MVP. “Right out of our long car ride, with all the games in one day, we didn’t know how we would work as a team. We really needed to get our chemistry back together.”
In the title game against Baltimore, a team CONNY lost to in the semifinals of the All-America tournament in 2019, Humphrey and Darien’s Ryan Hapgood each recorded hat tricks to pace the squad offensively. Alex Scialdone (Yorktown, N.Y.) and Kaleigh Sommers (Fairfield Ludlowe) added one goal apiece in the winning effort.
“Baltimore is a relentless team that would not go away,” said Humphrey, a Darien sophomore. “Last year we lost to Baltimore, it meant so much more than one game.”
Indeed, losing to Baltimore had CONNY extra psyched up for the championship matchup.
“It was definitely awesome to get the second opportunity to play them and we lost to them last year, so we got to show them what we had,” said Hapgood, also a Darien High sophomore. “Going into the second game we were underdogs, which made us much more motivated. Ever since the first tournament and first practice we all connected in a way that allowed us to play in this tournament.”
In a marathon day, claiming the title was especially rewarding to the CONNY squad.
“We were definitely tired, but we were also so excited to play lacrosse all day and be with each other,” Hapgood said. “The win over-rided the exhaustion. We all entered the tournament with the mindset that we were going to be victorious.”
Rebecca Arpano, a Greenwich Academy sophomore, had a standout game in goal for CONNY in the finals, making 10 saves.
“Everyone knew after the first game, which was a little rough for us, that there was room for improvement on offense and defense,” said Arpano, who along with Humphrey, was selected for the event’s All-Tournament Team. “After playing them (Baltimore) once earlier in the day, we were able to see their strengths and weaknesses, so we were all really excited for the challenge of playing them again.”
In the championship game against Baltimore, CONNY led 4-3 at halftime, before increasing its lead in the second half. Key draw controls in the second half by Sabine Godwin (Masters School, Croton-on-Hudson resident) and sound defensive play from Ellie Johnson of Greenwich Academy, Godwin, Ella Patterson (New Canaan) and Morgan Massey (Darien) enabled CONNY to extend their advantage in the final.
“Our defense did a really good job, overall,” Arpano said. “The strong defensive play enabled our attack to do their magic and took some pressure off them. Coach was emphasizing winning the draw. Winning the draw gave the defense a break, also if you win the draw, it adds so much excitement to the team.”
Said Clough: “We knew it was going to be a 50-minute game and we didn’t let up, on every 50/50 possession we were there. We were riding hard, we we were able to convert offensively and we played that goalie like she was the last line of defense. Our team defense stepped up, Rebecca had some amazing saves and our transition game was strong.”
Humphrey’s five goals and Wilton’s Molly Snow’s four tallies helped power CONNY in its semifinal-round win against Long Island. Devin Russsell of New Canaan and Ellie Burdick (Greenwich Academy) each had one goal in the triumph, which saw Arpano and Laura O’Connor (Sacred Heart Greenwich) share the goalkeeping duties.
“The defensive unit and our defensive middies played unbelievable in that game,” Clough said. They displayed great denial defense on cutters and broke down their momentum on offense.”
Humphrey (three goals), Snow (two goals), Colette Quinn of Darien (two goals), Hapgood (two goals), Kaci Benoit (Darien, one goal) and Caroline Trinkaus (Ridgefield, Canterbury School, one goal) paced the offense in its second game.
CONNY’s championship squad included: Arpano, Benoit, Burdick, Paige Flanagan (Darien), Godwin, Hapgood, Humphrey, Johnson, Massey, Sophia Nietzell (Greenwich), Kathryn Norton (New Canaan), O’Connor, Emerson Pattilo (Wilton), Patterson, Colette Quinn (Darien), Russell, Scialdone, Snow, Sommers, Sadie Stafford (Darien), Maggie Sullivan (Sacred Heart Greenwich), Trinkaus and Truus van Wees (Ridgefield, Taft).
Serving as an assistant coach on the staff was Ashley Humphrey, a Darien graduate and Stanford University freshman. After starring at Darien, Humphrey will play on Stanford’s lacrosse squad. Chloe Humphrey, Ashley’s sister, grew up playing the sport with Ashley and her oldest sister Nicole, who competes at North Carolina.
“Growing up, I have always looked up to them,” Ashley Humphrey said. “They created a whole path for me. I wouldn’t know how to cradle a stick or shoot a ball without them. Over the years, they’ve been my biggest supporters and fans. Having her (Ashley) coach me was so amazing.”
Though the high school spring lacrosse season was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the CONNY team got to experience a tournament they’ll long remember.
“With all that was going on, it was hard to find things to look forward to,” Arpano said. “We were looking forward to this tournament forever. It was special just being part of this team.”