NEW CANAAN — Effective defensive play has been one of the New Canaan girls lacrosse team’s trademarks this season and it once again surfaced when the postseason commenced on Thursday night.
Holding another opponent to single digits in scoring, while being efficient on the offensive end, the Rams moved closer to reaching one of its season-long goals.
Senior Lauren Bisceglia scored a game-high four goals, freshman Kaleigh Harden recorded a hat trick and sophomore McKenna Harden tallied twice for second-seeded New Canaan in its 10-5 triumph over seventh-seeded Greenwich in the quarterfinal round of the FCIAC Tournament. New Canaan advanced to the FCIAC Tournament semifinals, where it will play either Staples or Fairfield Ludlowe.
“Winning the FCIAC Tournament is always one of our big goals of the season,” Rams coach Kristin Woods said. “Winning FCIACs and states is what we set out to do each season.”
Goalie Caroline O’Dea made seven saves for New Canaan, which entered halftime with a 6-1 lead. New Canaan (14-3) has yielded double digit goals in just three of its games this season.
“We really wanted to stay focused for this game,” said New Canaan defender Natalie Lopez, who helped spark her squad’s stellar defensive effort. “Sometimes we start off slow and then build up, so we wanted to focus on playing well the full 50 minutes of this game. We played Greenwich Saturday, so we knew they were ran a motion offense, so on defense, we wanted to play aggressive and get out on the ball.”
Greenwich, which will next play in the CIAC Class L Tournament, received two goals from senior attack Jennifer Kelly and one tally apiece from seniors Grace Fahey, and Paige Finneran and junior Leah Caputo.
The Rams, who defeated Greenwich last week, 10-2, won the time of possession battle in the first half as they built their lead. When Greenwich did have possession, the Rams were solid defensively, with junior Elizabeth Demarino, senior Caroline Shuh, Lopez and senior Katelyn Sparks leading the cause.
“We definitely had to work on our fastbreak defense and making sure we were all sliding up on ball,” Demarino said. “The players in the back and on the backside were working hard on that. Once we started getting the draw and fastbreaks it started to work for us.”
Leading 2-0 early in the first half, the Rams extended their lead when McKenna Harden tallied in transition at the 11:25 mark. Bisceglia, an attack, snapped a free position shot past GHS senior goalie Sloane Loveless, making it 5-0. Patiently moving the ball, the Rams added another tally, before Caputo notched Greenwich’s lone first-half goal, converting a free position attempt.
Kaleigh Harden dodged from behind the net and tallied 1:28 into the second half, then scored directly off the ensuing draw, giving the home team an 8-1 advantage.
“Our fast start, started with the warm-up we had,” New Canaan junior midfielder Quincy Connell said. “We had a really composed warm-up and the energy was always up on and off the field. Our captains pumped us up and everyone wanted it. We really want to get to the finals this year.”
Cutting to the goal, Bisceglia snatched a pass and scored from close in, putting the Cardinals in a 9-1 second-half hole. Greenwich drew closer in the second half and gained some momentum, behind goals from Finneran, Fahey and a pair of tallies from Kelly. The Cardinals also improved their passing game as the half progressed. Yet as they have done all season, New Canaan stood strong defensively, while being pressured. O’Dea made seven saves in the winning effort. Loveless made six saves for the Cardinals.
“If we played the way we did in the second half in the first half it would have been a different score,” Kelly said. Hopefully, we can carry that through the state tournament. We have some time to practice before states, so we need to come out firing in practice. The seniors want to keep it rolling as long as we can.”
New Canaan, which lost to Wilton in the FCIAC semifinals, also received an assist apiece from Hollis Mulry and Jane Charlton. Greenwich’s defense was paced by seniors Olivia Caan and Olivia Hoekman
“It was a really great game for both teams,” GHS coach Rachel Vallarelli said. “They have an extremely effective defense and executed very well. On the flip side, so did we. It was a battle of the clock in the second half.”
Woods left the game highly impressed with her squad’s defensive performance.
“Caroline O’Dea in goal, Sparks, Schuh, Natalie and Lizzie, they are our main core set of defenders who day in and day out, have been working so hard,” Woods said. “Our defense has been the core during these tough games the past few weeks.”
NEW CANAAN 10, GREENWICH 5
GREENWICH 1 4 – 5
NEW CANAAN 6 4 – 10
Scoring: G – Jennifer Kelly 2 g; Paige Finneran 1 g, 1 a; Grace Fahey 1 g; Leah Caputo 1 g; NC – Lauren Bisceglia 4 g; Kaleigh Harden 3 g; McKenna Harden 2 g; Quincy Connel 1 g; Hollis Mulry 1 a; Jane Charlton; Goalies: G – Sloane Loveless (6 saves); NC – Caroline O’Dea (7 saves). Records: New Canaan 14-3; Greenwich 8-9.