STRATFORD — Ball possession, balanced scoring and physical play combined to give New Fairfield the edge it needed against North Branford in the CIAC girls lacrosse Class S semifinals on Tuesday.
Turnovers didn’t help the Thunderbirds’ cause either.
As a result, Dominique DeMarsico and Nicole Berry each had four goals and Rachel Mikolay had four saves to lead No. 4 New Fairfield to a 15-8 win over No.1 North Branford at Bunnell High.
The Rebels scored the last six goals of the first half capped by an Alexa Meres goal for a 9-3 lead at halftime and the T-Birds never recovered.
“We knew they were a tough team and we needed to be focused,” New Fairfield coach Karen Nell said. “This wasn’t one of our better games. But once we settled down we started getting ground balls and winning draws and that was the turning point.
“We played them in the regular season (15-4 win) but that was six weeks ago and, like everyone else, they improved since then. It’s difficult to repeat as champion — this was a tough game — and we have lot of work to do. But it’s great to be in the final again.”
New Fairfield advances to the Class S final on Saturday against either No. 2 Canton/No. 3 East Catholic on Saturday at Law High at a time to be determined.
“In our league (Shoreline Conference) we’re not used to physical play and that took its toll today,” North Branford coach Lori Connelly said. “We were scared and a lot of times we backed off. When you give a team like New Fairfield that kind of room they are going to take advantage of that.
“But I give my kids credit because they never folded. We never advanced as far as the semis before and I think they felt a little pressure too.”
New Fairfield opened the second half with a quick goal by Sydney Colesworthy with 23:46 to go for a 10-3 lead. The Thunderbirds went on a 3-1 run capped by a goal by Jessie Kilburn to cut the lead to 11-6 with 14:53 left.
But the Rebels controlled the rest of the half and cruised to their second straight Class S title game appearance. DeMarsico scored the next two goals to give the Rebels a 13-6 lead.
“When they tied the game 3-3, we realized we needed to pick it up,” DeMarsico said. “This wasn’t one of my better games. But it was great to contribute and it’s feels great to get back to the final.”
Kilburn led the Thunderbirds with six goals and Carly Sorrentino had 10 saves.
NEW FAIRFIELD 15, NORTH BRANFORD 8
NEW FAIRFIELD 9 6—15
NORTH BRANFORD 3 5—8
Scoring: New Fairfield – Dominique DeMarsico 4g, Nicole Berry 4g, Reagan Tenaglia 2g, Sydney Colesworthy 2g, Katelyn Sousa 1g; North Branford-Jessie Kilburn 6g, Ali Barrett 1g, Emilie Wilkinson 1g; Saves-New Fairfield Rachel Mikolay 4; North Branford- Carly Sorrentino 10. Records: New Fairfield 19-3, North Branford 17-3.