NEWTOWN — Right before the opening draw, the announcer at Newtown High School told fans to get ready for an instant classic.
He wasn’t kidding.
Reagan Tenaglia’s goal off a free position with 1:40 to play provided the margin of victory as top seed New Fairfield defended its South-West Conference title with a 9-8 win over second seed Pomperaug on Wednesday night.
Tenaglia’s winner was the final piece of a three-goal run that brought the Rebels back from an 8-6 deficit. After drawing a foul, Tenaglia beat Pomperaug goalie Catherine Windover with a bounce shot.
“High shots weren’t the best option in this game, so I went with the bounce shot,” Tenaglia said. “I saw a little opening low and tried to put the ball there.”
Befitting a title contest, the game included seven ties. The only two-goal advantage came when Jessica Evans scored twice in less than two minutes to put Pomperaug ahead 8-6 with 7:19 left.
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New Fairfield closed within one on Alexa Meres’ goal with 4:59 remaining and then got the equalizer from Daria Bock just 30 seconds later.
Each team committed a turnover before Tenaglia was fouled and converted on the free position.
“We spend a lot of time practicing them,” New Fairfield coach Karen Nell said about free-position plays. “When we missed the ones that we missed those weren’t our best efforts. I guess a little confidence and a little pressure gets you going.”
“I tell our team all the time that lacrosse is a game of peaks and valleys and you always hope your valley is bigger than your peak,” Pomperaug coach Danielle McCauley said. “So we knew that the shift could happen. You just hope it happens earlier in the game when you have a little more than three minutes to respond back.”
Pomperaug made sure New Fairfield earned its second consecutive conference championship. The Panthers applied pressure throughout, with Camden Frissora and Jillian Murray leading an attack that used one-on-one moves to create space for shots or passes.
“The girls gave a ton of hard work … I don’t think they left anything out there on the field,” McCauley said. “We’re appreciative to have the chance to fight another day and to play New Fairfield a lot closer than we did during the regular season.”
“I told the girls before the game that I knew Pomperaug was going to be hungry for it … they worked really hard,” Nell said. “We had an injury going in to one of our starters (senior midfielder Sydney Colesworthy, lost to an ACL tear in the final regular-season game), who’s a key player for us, and then we got another injury (Katelyn Nieves, foot) really early in the game, which made it kind of tough. But it just goes to show that our team really came together when we needed them to and everyone did their job.”
New Fairfield now turns its focus to defending another title while posting a three-peat: The Rebels are the two-time reigning champs in the Class S state tournament, which begins Tuesday.
“I think they’ve really been planning to defend their title,” Nell said. “The last few games have really tested us, so I think we’re ready.”