STAMFORD — The FCIAC isn’t the easiest league in the state to build a girls lacrosse program.
But Stamford and coach Steve Paletta have accepted the challenge.
In season three of the grand experiment, the Black Knights are beginning to see some silver linings.
Stamford earned its second straight non-league home triumph Tuesday by posting a 13-9 victory over Hamden at Boyle Stadium
“We really came together in the second half. We really wanted to win,” said Stamford junior Melanny Sanchez Alvarez, who led the Black Knights’ attack with four goals and two assists. “Things started to flow and we fed off the energy.”
Stamford led 6-4 at halftime and controlled the second half as Olivia LaBella won seven of 10 faceoffs after intermission.
Labella is one of three seniors in the Stamford lineup.
“Winning faceoffs is about blocking out the opponent. Effort also wins faceoffs,” LaBella said. “Because we’re such a young team getting back-to-back wins (11-6 over New Milford on April 17) means so much. Our hard work is paying off.
“We graduated a lot of seniors from last year’s squad,” LaBella continued. “Our new group is pushing each other to be better.”
In the past, Stamford was a team of athletes first and lacrosse players second. This season, the lacrosse IQ of the entire Black Knights’ roster is much higher.
“My post-game message focused on how proud I was of the way we played,” Paletta said. “We’re learning the nuances of girls lacrosse. We’re playing smarter at both ends of the field. We were able to make adjustments in the second half to what we saw from Hamden early.”
Stamford freshman goalie Rylie Walker collected six saves including four key stops in the second half. The game was tied 8-8 with 19:00 to play when Stamford reeled off five straight goals for a 13-8 edge with 5:25 to go.
For Stamford, Alana Goldhaber scored three goals while seniors Julia Chapell, Tamia James and Labella all tallied twice.
“Beating New Milford last week gave the group confidence and they carried it forward to today. It’s exciting to watch,” Paletta said. “We have depth this year. Last year, we had two or three really good kids. This year, we have 10 kids contributing. We can wear opponents down. We’re taking things one step at a time.”
Stamford (2-6) has been able to build a 2019 schedule that doesn’t include FCIAC powerhouses Darien, New Canaan or Wilton. The Black Knights will face Ridgefield and Staples in May. SHS has six non-league contests this season with home games left with Immaculate and Lauralton Hall.
INJURIES HURTING HAMDEN
The Green Dragons fell to 3-5 overall with Tuesday’s defeat. Hamden had just four substitutes listed on the varsity lineup Tuesday as four players are currently out injured. Hamden is 2-2 in contests decided by two goals or less.
Keegan Bailey scored four of her five goals in the second half while Cassidy O’Connor tallied twice for Hamden. Junior goalie Emmalee Ianniello registered 10 saves in net.
“The injuries have hurt our depth,” said Hamden’s third-year coach Lauren Anderson. “We’re a growing program. But we still need to work on some basics.”