NEW CANAAN — To say the Greenwich girls lacrosse team had a rough week would be an understatement.
Just a few days removed from a 21-8 loss to No. 1-ranked Darien, the Cardinals dropped a 10-2 decision to No. 2 New Canaan Saturday afternoon at Dunning Field.
Facing the top two teams in the state was a tough way to bookend the week for the Cardinals, who fell to 7-8 overall and 5-4 in the FCIAC. Greenwich — ranked No. 7 in the latest State Coaches Poll — is now in an unenviable, must-win situation in order to finish the regular season at .500 when it plays St. Joseph on Tuesday.
“It was difficult and to add on the girls had AP testing this week so there was a lot of craziness and stress this week,” Greenwich coach Rachel Vallarelli said. “As a coach I’m extremely proud of them. We had some turnovers in transition that looking back cost us, but our defense really stood on its head and contained a really great New Canaan team. I think every game, win or lose, they’ve been getting better and evolving as a team.”
Meanwhile the Rams improved to 12-3 overall and 8-1 in conference play. After falling to Darien last weekend by a single goal, New Canaan has reeled off three consecutive wins.
“It was a great effort all-around,” New Canaan coach Kristin Woods said. “I was really impressed with our play. Offensively I think we can do a little better job of moving off ball. I think the kids were a little hesitant. Greenwich did a great job as well, Rachel is a great coach and we’re looking forward to maybe seeing them in the postseason.”
Seven Rams landed in the scoring column, led by seniors Campbell Connors and Lauren Bisceglia and sophomore McKenna Harden who each had two goals apiece.
New Canaan also benefited from an ironclad defensive effort. Senior co-captains Katelyn Sparks and Caroline Schuh and junior Natalie Lopez led the Rams backline along with senior goalie and co-captain Caroline O’Dea, who had five saves.
The Cardinals kept the game close in the first half, thanks largely to the play of senior goalie Sloane Loveless, who had seven saves on the day, including six in the opening stanza.
Jane Charlton got the Rams on the board at the 16:55 mark with a nifty underhand shot that beat Loveless for a 1-0 lead. 34 seconds later, Connors maneuvered from behind the net for an unassisted goal to make it 2-0 Rams.
A key turning point in the game came with just five seconds left in the half when a Greenwich foul gave Connors a free position shot. The Rams co-captain made it count, scoring a backbreaking goal to give New Canaan a 3-0 lead heading into the half.
Goals from Bisceglia and freshman Kaleigh Harden opened up a 5-0 New Canaan advantage early in the second half.
At the 16:39 mark Greenwich was hit with a double yellow card, leaving the Cards down a player for four minutes. The Rams made the most of it as Bisceglia and senior Kendall Patten scored during the man up advantage, extending the New Canaan lead to 7-0 with less than 15 minutes left in the game.
Senior co-captain Grace Fahey broke the Greenwich scoring drought with a goal at the 10:38 mark of the second half off a beautiful feed from junior Leah Caputo, cutting the New Canaan lead to 7-1.
The Rams countered with three unanswered goals—two by McKenna Harden and one by junior Kearney McKiernan—in a span of less than five minutes, breaking the game open at 10-1.
Greenwich added a late score from junior Jess Ware to make it 10-2 New Canaan, which held up as the final and sets Greenwich up with a win-or-stay-home scenario for states hanging in the balance on Tuesday.
“The girls respond really well and I’m excited to see them Tuesday,” Vallarelli said. “It’s Senior Night so it’s a special night for our 10 seniors and everyone is going to come out and play hard for them.”
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Natalie Lopez, New Canaan: The Northwestern-bound junior defenseman was relentless throughout the contest, forcing several Greenwich turnovers, scooping up multiple ground balls and igniting New Canaan’s transition game.
“One thing we need to better is start the game off hard. We have had slow starts in the last few games, so that’s a goal for us—to come out with fire and intensity.” — New Canaan head coach Kristin Woods.