CHESHIRE >> After losing to Cheshire in the final regular-season game, Hand girls lacrosse coach Kevin Siedlecki had a message for his players – improve your playmaking if you want to succeed in the Southern Connecticut Conference tournament semifinals against Lauralton Hall.
“Against Cheshire, we weren’t aggressive enough and the playmaking wasn’t there,” Siedlecki said.
The message got through.
Aggressive playmaking, especially from sophomore Taylor Scully, paid off for the Tigers. Scully had four goals and seven assists and Cameron Ruberti added five goals and an assist to lead No. 1 Hand to a 19-15 win over No. 4 Lauralton Hall at Alumni Field in Cheshire on Tuesday.
The Tigers (15-2) advance to the SCC final on Thursday at West Haven High at 6 p.m. and will face No. 2 Cheshire. The Rams (13-4) defeated No. 3 Branford 14-4 in the other semifinal.
“Playmaking was the message coming in here today,” Siedlecki said. “We were aggressive and the playmaking was there from start to finish. There wasn’t too much defense today, but that will happen when you have two strong offensive teams facing each other.
“Our sophomores like Taylor have made an impact all season. But it’s also been the leadership of our seniors, Annie Hesse, Cam Ruberti and Katherine Garnett and even our seniors on the bench, who have led by example.”
The Tigers scored the first four goals of the game in less than three minutes. Scully’s second goal made it 4-0 with only 2:22 gone in the game. But with Hand leading 6-2, the Crusaders scored four unanswered goals to get back in the game. Nikki Zaccaro scored with 10:22 left in the half to give the Crusaders a 6-6 tie.
The teams traded goals to make it 7-7 but two straight goals would give the Tigers the lead for good. Glenna-Kate Gies gave the Tigers a 9-7 lead with 6:40 to go in the first half and Hand would go on to lead 12-9 at halftime.
The Tigers scored the first three goals of the second half to take control. Emma Sullivan scored off an assist from Scully for a 15-9 lead as the Tigers held off a late Crusaders’ rally for the 19-15 final.
“The Cheshire loss did motivate us for this game,” Scully said. “Coach told us in practice to be more aggressive and we worked on our playmaking. I’ve had a few games where I had a lot of goals and assists. But this is one of my best games because of the tough team we played and level of play you go against in the postseason.”
Siedlecki wouldn’t bite when asked if he would prefer to play Cheshire in the final after losing to the Rams. But Scully didn’t hold back.
“We wouldn’t mind playing Cheshire to get some revenge,” Scully said.
Scully will get her wish.
In the other semifinal, the Rams scored the first six goals of the game capped by a Vicki Palmer goal with 11:37 to go in the half as Cheshire dominated nearly every phase of the game.
Meghan Dutchyshyn had four goals and Colleen Carroll, Brooke Jackson and Colleen Carroll added three goals each to lead Cheshire to its win over Branford. The Rams win avenged an 8-5 regular-season loss to the Hornets on April 16.
“The difference between playing Branford in April and today is we have grown since then and showed confidence,” Cheshire coach Dan Warburton said. “We had 10 unforced errors against them, we threw away a lot of passes and we’ve just recently started to step up our defense.
“But offense is the biggest improvement. We made few errors on offense today. Meghan Dutchyshyn has been a top scorer for us all season. But now we have balanced scoring. If you focus on Meghan someone else will be there to score for us.”
Dutchyshyn said the Rams at this stage have got it all together on offense and defense.
“We maintained possession and won the draws today and that was the key to our success,” Dutchyshyn said. “We were also patient on offense and waited for our opportunities. We’re all excited about playing Hand in the final. They are really good and they make us better. It’s always fun when we play them.”
Branford coach Jackie Ceccolini said, “We didn’t show our best today. They were more hungry and hopefully we can learn from this as we head to the state tournament (CIAC Class M).”
Cheshire 14, Branford 4
Branford 2 2 — 4
Cheshire 8 6 — 14
Goals: (CH) Meghan Dutchyshyn 4; Brooke Jackson 3; Colleen Carroll 3; Vicki Palmer 3; Mia Pulisciano 1; (BR) Autumn McHenry 1; Carolyn Caminear 1; Sophie Spencer 1; Ashlee Smestad 1; Assists: (CH) Mia Pulisciano 2; Brooke Jackson 1; (BR) LanLe Crotty 1; Autumn McHenry 1; Saves: (CH) Carolynn Pechmann 5; (BR) Sydnie Smith 9;
Shots—BR: 9; CH: 23;
Team records—Cheshire 13-4; Branford 14-3.
Hand 19, Lauralton Hall 15
Lauralton 9 6 — 15
Hand 12 7 — 19
Goals: (HD) Cameron Ruberti 5; Taylor Scully 4; Amanda Gentile 2; Glenna-Kate Gies 2; Riley Kokoruda 2; Emma Sullivan 2; Dory Howard 1; Katharine Garnett 1; (LHA) Nikki Zaccaro 5; Leah Cogguillo 3; Kerry Ullman 3; Julia Rachel 2; Olivia Prescott 2;
Assists: (HD) Taylor Scully 7; Amanda Gentile 1; Glenna-Kate Gies 1; (LHA) Nikki Zaccaro 4; Kerry Ullman 3;
Saves: (HD) Catie Harvey 12; (LHA) Elyse Darcy 7;
Shots—LHA: 0; HD: 0;
Team records—Hand 15-2, Lauralton Hall 12-5.