NORWALK — The New Canaan and Staples girls lacrosse teams didn’t face each other during the regular season, so it was difficult to know what to expect when they squared off in the FCIAC semifinals Monday night at Testa Field in Norwalk.
One thing second-ranked New Canaan didn’t expect was to fall into a 3-1 hole in the first four minutes. Once they got rolling, however, there was no stopping the Rams.
New Canaan reeled off 10 unanswered goals over a span of 20 minutes to take control on its way to a 14-8 victory, as the Rams reached the FCIAC final for the first time since 2016.
For New Canaan head coach Kristin Woods, the turnaround after the slow start was attributable to two things.
“Taking care of the little things and getting the early-game jitters out,” Woods said. “All season, we’ve been a second-half team but that run we went on was great.”
“Once we got the first couple of goals, that’s when the momentum changed and we knew we had it going” said senior co-captain Campbell Connors, one of three Rams with hat tricks in the game. “We kind of let them get in our heads a little at the beginning, but once we got the first couple of goals, we were gone.”
No. 2 New Canaan (15-3) will now take on rival Darien (16-2), the No. 1 seed, in the FCIAC championship game at 7 p.m., Wednesday, at Norwalk High School. Darien defeated Wilton 19-9 in Monday’s early semifinal.
The Rams have been in the FCIAC final 12 times, but have won only once: Way back in 1993, which was also the league’s first conference championship.
New Canaan defeated Darien 12-11 in last year’s CIAC Class L semifinals, and the Blue Wave defeated the Rams, 11-10, during their regular season meeting at Dunning Field this spring.
— Dave Stewart (@DStewartSports) May 21, 2019
For No. 3 Staples (15-3), Monday’s loss was tough to take, but the Wreckers did have a lot to take away from the game.
“This game was really frustrating because when we had the ball and we were doing things and executing the right way, we could score,” Staples head coach Nicole Gerosa said. “When our defense was playing well, they were stopping the ball and coming up with big turnovers. Limiting turnovers and draw possession was an absolute game-changer for us.”
New Canaan puts its many weapons on display, as Connors, Dillyn Patten and Quincy Connell each scored three goals — Patten also had an assist — and McKenna Harden had two goals and scooped up five ground balls. Jane Charlton and Hollis Mulry each had a goal and an assist.
Staples’ attack was led by Shira Parower with three goals and an assist and Kyle Kirby with two goals and two assists. Elle Fair had two goals.
The Rams’ defense came up huge, led by Caroline Schuh, Katelyn Sparks, Natalie Lopez and Liz DeMarino and goalie Caroline O’Dea (5 saves).
“Our defense goes on rolls where they makes some great stops and that gets our attack going,” Woods said. “I think that’s one of the reasons we went on that big run.”
— Dave Stewart (@DStewartSports) May 21, 2019
After Fair and Kaleigh Harden traded goals in the first two minutes, the Wreckers had back-to-back tallies from Parower and Fair to take a 3-1 lead in the first 3:12.
New Canaan didn’t score again until the 8:23 mark, when Patten found the net on a free position, but that ignited a long Ram rally. Patten scored again with an assist from Charlton to tie the score at 3-3, and Charlton then shoveled in a goal for a 4-3 lead with 14:32 to go in the half.
New Canaan added five more goals for a 9-3 halftime lead, and Connell opened the second half with two goals for an 11-3 advantage.
“New Canaan made adjustments and instead of being our normal patient, disciplined offense, we were very frantic with the ball,” Gerosa said. “We definitely did not play our game.”
The Rams’ offense featured seven players with goals and nine with points.
“We’re a very connected offense and we’re all close friends,” Connors said. “We’ve got two freshmen on the attack and they’ve been great, and two seniors, me and Lauren (Bisceglia), and then the two lines of middies and we’re all such a close, united team, when we play together that shows on the field.”
The Wreckers didn’t go away quietly and went on a four-goal run to close the gap to 11-7 with 8:08 remaining.
New Canaan put the hammer down in the stretch, finishing with a 3-1 run to secure the win.
For Staples, there’s still the state Class L tournament to get ready for and Gerosa said they’ll use the loss to New Canaan as a stepping stone.
“It’s a learning experience,” Gerosa said. “We have states coming up and its win or go home. Thankfully, we have another opportunity to play — this is isn’t it for us. We still have a season left.”
PLAYER OF THE GAME
New Canaan’s defense. The Rams’ D kept the Wreckers off the scoreboard for a span of nearly 37 minutes, helping New Canaan turn a 3-1 deficit into an 11-3 lead.
“I’m so excited to play (Darien) again. We learned from that first game and we know what we have to do. It was a terrible loss after winning against them in states (last year), but we have one day to get ready and we’re going to go into fired up and ready.” — New Canaan senior co-captain Campbell Connors.