NORWALK — In the state semifinals, there are no magic words that bring success. It’s all about action.
Ridgefield High School girls lacrosse senior captain Caroline Curnal decided that she did not want the Tigers’ season or her girls lacrosse career to end Tuesday night.
Curnal made a long solo run and scored with 1:59 left in sudden-death overtime to give Ridgefield a remarkable 14-13 OT triumph over Cheshire High at McMahon High’s windy Jack Casagrande Field.
Curnal scored two goals and two assists down the stretch for No. 6 seed Ridgefield (14-5). The Tigers will face No. 5 New Canaan, which beat top-seeded Darien 12-11, for the Class L girls lacrosse crown Saturday at Jonathan Law High School in Milford.
“I didn’t have the best game of my life. (Sophomore) Alyssa Gagnon scored with 4.9 seconds left in regulation to put us into overtime,” Curnal said. “Everyone on this team loves playing with each other. That’s why we can step up when it counts.”
No. 2 seed Cheshire (18-4) gave Ridgefield all it could handle.Juniors Anne Eddy and Annie Acquavita battled Curnal on draws all evening. Cheshire won 12 draws to 11 for Curnal in the 50 minutes of regulation time. And the Rams won the only draw of overtime.
However, Ridgefield sophomore goalie Lexi Held (9 saves) made the save on a free position shot by Cheshire’s Mikayla Crowley.
“Lexi was clutch for us in double overtime against Greenwich. Lexi is fearless,” Curnal said. “She can stop anything. She was awesome.”
Cheshire sophomore goalie Sophie Kurtz (6 saves) was equally clutch in net.
Cheshire, which scored most of its goal from free positions, received four goals from Anne Eddy, three goals from Crowley along with two goals from Mia Pulisciano, Reagan Bailey and Annie Acquavita. Acquavita tallied with 29 seconds left in regulation to give Cheshire a 13-12 edge.
“I’m not disappointed in the kids. They played their hearts out,” said Cheshire’s veteran coach Dan Warburton. “Nobody expected us to be here (in the state semifinals). This loss hurts but it doesn’t overshadow a great, great season.”
But going through the gauntlet that is FCIAC girls lacrosse benefitted Ridgefield Tuesday night. The Tigers, which have won 11 of 13 contests since April 17, did not panic when Cheshire turned a 7-6 halftime deficit into a 10-8 lead with 17:12 left to play.
Sophomore Caitlin Slaminko paced Ridgefield with four goals, all in the opening 17 minutes. Senior Mae Briody collected three goals and three assists. Maeve Tobin and Curnal each had two goals and three assists.
“I’ve been with this group since sophomore year. The team has always been talented,” Curnal said. “We all came together when it mattered the most. We made it clear to each other that we got this.”
Ridgefield lost to Greenwich in the FCIAC playoff quarterfinals. Saturday will be the Tigers’ first state final appearence.
“We showed that hard work pays off. It was do or die today,” Curnal said. “I’m so glad to spend more days together with these girls. And to finish my high school in a state final is so special.”
Cheshire will lose five seniors to graduation. But the Rams have a foundation of postseason experience to carry forweard.
“Playing together made us a good team,” Cheshire coach Warburton said. “I told the girls on Day 1 that hard work can put them in position for success. They worked so hard to get here. We were in position to win today. We were right there with a very good Ridgefield team. We were one break away. But we didn’t get it.”
RIDGEFIELD 14, CHESHIRE 13 (OT)
RIDGEFIELD 7 6 1—14
CHESHIRE 6 7 0—13
Records: Cheshire 18-4, Ridgefield 14-5.
Scoring: C—Mikayla Crowley 3 goals; Mia Pulisciano 2g; Reagan Bailey 2g; Anne Eddy 4g; Sophie Cremo 1 assist. R—Caitlin Slaminko 4 goals; Mae Briody 3g, 3 assists; Maeve Tobin 2g, 3a; Caroline Curnal 2g, 3a; Hannah Boylan 1g, 1a; Alyssa Gagnon 1g; Erica Linke 1g. Goalies: C—Sophie Kurtz (6 saves); R—Lexi Held (9 saves).