NEW MILFORD — It was gut-check time for the New Fairfield High School girls lacrosse team in the second half of the South-West Conference championship game Friday afternoon against Barlow.
The Rebels had seen their eight-goal lead whittled down to one in less than 12 minutes by a Barlow team that refused to go quietly into the night.
Gut-check time, for sure, and the Rebels responded. They never surrendered the lead, they only added to it — and secured the championship with a 20-14 victory.
“This is amazing. We’ve been working for this all season,” said New Fairfield sophomore Katelyn Sousa, the tournament’s Most Valuable Player. “This was the goal, and we made it.”
It wasn’t easy, though. The key was how the Rebels didn’t get swept under when the tide of momentum started pulling away from them. The Falcons erupted for seven straight goals in less than seven minutes to narrow the gap to 14-13 with 11:49 to go. That was as close as they came.
“We’ve really tried to prepare ourselves to stay calm in these types of situations,” said New Fairfield coach Karen Nell, who also coaches field hockey, and in her 11th season has won her first SWC title in either sport. “Earlier in the season, we would tend to fray a little bit. The team really pulled together and picked it up a notch. They were hot and tired, and they dug deep. I’m really proud of them.”
BY THE NUMBERS
Dominique DeMarsico led New Fairfield with four goals and three assists, and Katelyn Nieves added four goals and one assist of her own. Sydney Colesworthy, Reagan Tenaglia and Daria Bock scored three goals apiece, with Bock adding an assist. Nicole Berry had two goals and an assist, and Sousa chipped in with a goal. Goalie Rachel Mikolay made five saves.
While Sousa may not have put up flashy stats, she did a lot of the little, intangible things that don’t necessarily show up in the score book. That’s what made her most valuable.
“She’s definitely the one who can chase the ball down for us,” Nell said. “She’s very good at taking care of the ball. You’d like to have the ball in her stick.”
For Barlow, Bella Miceli had five goals and an assist and Julia Shapiro tallied four goals and three assists. Sarah Witherbee scored two goals and Molly Carroll, Julia Hartmann and Lucy Witherbee each scored a goal, with Carroll adding an assist. Goalie Brooke Squitieri made three saves.
The Falcons were without senior captain Cat Goncalves, who coach Steve Coppock said injured her knee in the semifinals on Thursday against Newtown.
“She’s a competitor,” Coppock said. “She’s been a four-year varsity starter, a two-year captain. I would have loved to have seen her out there today, but we had a lot of players step up today.”
As was previously mentioned, Barlow scored seven straight goals to trim a 14-6 deficit to 14-13 with 11:49 remaining. Sousa and DeMarsico each scored a goal for New Fairfield to stop Barlow’s surge, but the momentum was still in the Falcons’ favor, a point made even clearer when Shapiro scored a free-position goal with 5:42 remaining — her fourth goal in less than 11 minutes — to make it 16-14.
The Falcons simply refused to back down.
Then, with 3:00 to go, Berry threaded a crisp pass from behind the net in front to Colesworthy, who tucked it home to give the Rebels a little more breathing room at 17-14. DeMarsico then scored unassisted with 1:56 remaining, after which Tenaglia controlled the ensuing faceoff and set up Bock for a goal with 1:38 to go.
At the other end, Mikolay made a huge save on a low shot with about a minute to go to fend off Barlow’s last chance.
Barlow (13-6) secured the eighth seed in the Class M state tournament and is scheduled to host ninth-seeded North Haven on Tuesday at 5 p.m.
“It stinks to lose, but I think they learned a lot of stuff today that will help us in states and next year,” Coppock said.
Defending Class S state champ New Fairfield (16-3) earned the fourth seed in the Class S tournament and is set to host 13th-seeded Valley Regional in the first round Tuesday at 5 p.m. And the Rebels sure would like to add a state championship banner to the SWC banner they won Friday.
“We keep aiming high,” Sousa said. “I think that’s the most important thing, to never set your standards low, and to just go after whatever you think you can get.”
That mentality has served the Rebels well so far.
NEW FAIRFIELD 20, BARLOW 14
NEW FAIRFIELD 11 9 — 20
BARLOW 5 9 — 14
Records: New Fairfield 16-3; Barlow 13-6. Scoring: NF—Dominique DeMarsico 4 goals, 3 assists; Nicole Berry 2g, 1a; Katelyn Sousa 1g; Katelyn Nieves 4g, 1a; Sydney Colesworthy 3g; Daria Bock 3g, 1a; Reagan Tenaglia 3g. Ba—Julia Shapiro 4g, 3a; Bella Miceli 5g, 1a; Molly Carroll 1g, 1a; Julia Hartmann 1g; Sarah Witherbee 2g; Lucy Witherbee 1g; Emily Grob 1a. Goalies: NF—Rachel Mikolay (5 saves); Ba—Brooke Squitieri (3 saves). Shots: NF—24; Ba—21.