Moving up the ranks of girls lacrosse in Connecticut is tough enough. When you’re in the FCIAC and squaring off with teams consistently ranked at the top of regional polls, it becomes a nearly impossible task.
That hasn’t stood in the way of Fairfield Ludlowe. In fact, the Falcons welcome the challenge.
“The FCIAC is a gantlet, but we embrace that,” head coach Kimberly Sheehan said. “Especially as a young team, I view us as being fortunate to face challenging competition game after game — I think it’s helped our progress, really forcing us to raise our level of play and come together as a squad.”
The results are clear. With a roster that features only two seniors — co-captains Maddie Herron on defense and Taylor Horine on attack — the Falcons have soared to a 12-4 record, the No. 6 seed in the FCIAC tournament and a No. 6 ranking in the state.
Ludlowe is also trending upwards heading into the postseason, with successive victories over Warde 9-3, Pomperaug 13-12 and Wilton 9-6 during a recent seven-day span. The Falcons lost to Staples 11-10 in the regular-season finale on Saturday, but will get another shot at the Wreckers when they square off in the FCIAC quarterfinals in Westport at 4 p.m. on Friday.
The win over rival Warde was satisfying, but the victory over perennial power Wilton, the third-ranked team in the state, was the true eye-opener.
“The wins over Warde, our biggest rival whom we had not beaten in seven years, and Wilton were huge for us,” Sheehan said. “As a team, these wins gave us confidence in ourselves and I believe showed not only us, but also the league, that we are a great team with a lot of talent.”
The two senior co-captains have been key to the team’s development.
“Maddie Herron and Taylor Horine are both extremely coachable athletes who model what it means to be a great teammate,” Sheehan said. “They pump us up and take things seriously while reminding us to have fun and support one another.”
There have been numerous stars for the Falcons.
Georgia Hoey, a junior goalie, has been outstanding — Sheehan called her “a machine” — and Herron leads the defense in front of her.
The midfield corps features juniors Ashley Moynahan, Paloma Meehan and Caroline Sullivan.
Sophomore Callie Cirilli has been a huge weapon on attack, and led the way with four goals and one assist in the win over Wilton.
“Offensively, Callie Cirilli has emerged as our leading scorer who we rely on for her lacrosse IQ and her playmaking creativity; her field vision is incredible,” Sheehan said.
With a young roster that features 11 juniors, nine sophomores and a pair of freshmen, Ludlowe appears to be a team that is on the rise for this year’s postseason and the future.
“I think we’re really fortunate to have such an amazing team with such a talented group of athletes,” Sheehan said. “Every game I think someone new has emerged as a standout player, and it’s been so heartwarming and rewarding to see our girls really getting comfortable with themselves as players and as a team.”
AND THEN THERE WERE NONE
The girls lacrosse postseason will have no unbeaten teams this season, as Staples bumped New Fairfield from the undefeated ranks with an 11-10 win on Tuesday at New Fairfield High School.
Both Staples and New Fairfield proved a point in the game.
“We knew New Fairfield was a tough team because they had an undefeated record,” Staples senior Elle Fair told GameTimeCT’s Ryan Lacey. “It was a long bus ride but we came in with confidence; we possessed the ball on attack and played tough on defense.”
“It was awesome to be that close,” New Fairfield’s Kaitlyn Sousa said. “I think because we’re in Class S we’re overlooked and this shows that we can absolutely compete with the Class L teams. It doesn’t matter what class you’re in; there’s no reason to overlook anyone.”
Staples’ Kyle Kirby led the Wreckers with seven goals and one assists, while Fair had a hat trick and freshman goalie Sara DiGiovanni made seven saves.
For New Fairfield, Sousa scored four goals and Sydney Colesworthy scored twice. Senior goalie Rachel Mikolay was outstanding with 13 saves.
The rivalry contest between Ridgefield and Wilton was such a thriller, they’re going to do it again on Friday.
The eight-team FCIAC tournament kicks off this week with one of the best quarterfinal matchups featuring No. 5 Wilton (8-5) at No. 4 Ridgefield (10-6) at 5 p.m. at Tiger Hollow.
It’ll either be a chance for revenge or a double whammy for the Warriors, as the Tigers roared to a 10-8 victory over Wilton, ranked No. 3 in the state, at Kristine Lilly Field on Tuesday.
While Ridgefield finished the regular season on a high note, Wilton has lost three straight.
Warriors coach Meredith Meyran looked at the game as a learning experience.
“If we were going to lose to Ridgefield, this was the time to do it,” Meyran told Hearst’s Tim Murphy. “We need to learn from this loss. We have a couple of practices before FCIACs start (on Friday) to work things out.”
Ridgefield had big games from Caitlin Slaminko, who had four goals and one assist, and goalie Lexi Held, who came up big down the stretch, including a key save when Wilton had a free position with 13 seconds on the clock.
“I thought that even if Wilton scored a goal we were still OK,” Ridgefield coach Cece Berger said. “But then Lexi made a save and the ball went wide and took three or four seconds to get out of bounds. And that was the game.”
Emma Ashe, Staples: Ashe scored the game-winning goal with 22 seconds remaining as the No. 4 Wreckers edged No. 8 Ludlowe, 11-10.
Raegan Bailey, Cheshire: Bailey netted four goals to lead Cheshire’s scoring in a 12-10 win over Glastonbury.
Ali Barrett, North Branford: Barrett had 11 points on seven goals and four assists in North Branford’s 17-5 win over Branford.
Leah Cogguillo, Lauralton Hall: Cogguillo had eight points on four goals and four assists as Lauralton Hall lost a close game with Valley Regional, 13-12. She also scored five goals and dished out three assists in a 12-7 win over West Haven.
Maeve Counter, East Lyme: Counter had four goals and a pair of assists to help East Lyme double up Fitch 14-7.
Carlee Crispens, Sheehan: Crispens scored a game-high five goals and had three assists in a 16-6 victory over Watertown.
Georgia Hoey, Ludlowe: The senior goalie collected 11 saves in No. 8 Ludlowe’s 9-6 win over No. 3 Wilton on Wednesday.
Kyle Kirby, Staples: Kirby led the Wreckers with seven goals and one assist in a 11-10 win over previously unbeaten New Fairfield.
Brooke Lacey and Victoria Gracy, Bethel: Lacey and Gracy had eight points apiece as Bethel routed Bunnell 17-9. Lacey had six goals and two assists, and Gracy had five goals and three assists.
Rachel Mikolay, New Fairfield: The Rebels’ senior goalie amassed 14 saves to lead a great defensive effort when New Fairfield knocked off Pomperaug 13-7. She also made 13 stops in New Fairfield’s 11-10 loss to Staples on Tuesday.
Erinn O’Hara, New Milford: O’Hara had 11 points on nine goals and two assists in the Green Wave’s 16-2 rout of Notre Dame-Fairfield.
Allie Ruel, Valley Regional: Ruel scored five goals, including the winner with 26 seconds remaining, and had four assists in a 13-12 win over Lauralton Hall.
Caitlin Slaminko, Ridgefield: The Tigers’ senior had four goals and one assist during a 10-8 victory over rival Wilton on Tuesday.
Sophie Sudano, Wilton: Sudano collected a game-high five goals in the Warriors’ loss to Ridgefield.
GAMES TO WATCH
North Haven at Cheshire, Thursday, 6 p.m.: Cheshire closes out the regular season against a solid opponent to launch into the tournaments.
FCIAC quarterfinals: Ludlowe at Staples, Friday, 4 p.m.: The FCIAC quarterfinals should be more contentious than in previous years, and this game is a good example. Staples beat Ludlowe by one goal in their regular-season meeting on Saturday.
FCIAC quarterfinals: Wilton at Ridgefield, Friday, 5 p.m.: Ridgefield defeated Wilton 10-8 on Tuesday. The rivals now have a playoff rematch three days later.
Guilford at North Branford, Friday, 6 p.m.: Guilford leads Class M with a 13-1 record. North Branford is fifth in Class S and is looking to rebound from losing two of its last three games.
Glastonbury at Guilford, Saturday, noon: Guilford finishes up a tough back-to-back stretch against a 9-4-1 Glastonbury squad.
SCC quarterfinals, Saturday: Daniel Hand will host Sacred Heart Academy at 5 p.m., and Branford will host Sheehan at 6 p.m.
FCIAC semifinals at Norwalk HS, Monday, 5 and 7 p.m.: With seven of the state’s top eight teams in the coaches poll in the FCIAC tournament, the semifinals should feature four premier teams.
SWC semifinals at higher seeds, Monday, TBA
SCC semifinals, Tuesday: Top-seeded Cheshire and No. 2 Guilford will be the hosts.
FCIAC championship at Norwalk HS, Wednesday, 7 p.m.
SWC championship, site TBD, Wednesday, 7 p.m.
SCC Championship at West Haven HS, Thursday, May 23, 5:30 p.m.