— Tim Murphy (@TimMurph27) June 3, 2019
STRATFORD — Sometimes it’s how you start and how you finish.
Top-seed New Fairfield scored five of the game’s first six goals and three of the last four to get past No. 13 Weston 9-6 in a Class S semifinal Monday at Bunnell High School.
The Rebels will play for their third-straight state championship (and fourth overall) on Saturday when they play third-seed Stonington in the final at Law in Milford. Times have yet to be announced.
For New Fairfield coach Karen Nell, the victory felt more like survival.
“I don’t know what happened today,” Nell said. “They were pumped up and excited and we just seemed pretty flat. It was a tough win, but I’m relieved that we got it.”
New Fairfield had beaten Weston 14-4 during the regular season, and Monday’s state tournament game looked as though it was headed in the same one-sided direction. After each team got a goal in the opening three minutes, the Rebels scored the next four to take a 5-1 lead that led Weston coach Kyra Ochwat to call a timeout with 6:52 left.
“We challenged them to work together and make sure that their slides were there,” said Ochwat when asked what her message was during the timeout. “We told them to battle; to look each other in the eyes and say that we were not going down without a fight.”
— CT Sports Now (@CT_Sports_Now) June 4, 2019
The pep talk worked: Unanswered goals from Becca Strouch, Madison Wilson, and Emma Nelson pulled Weston within 5-4 with 2:15 remaining before the break.
New Fairfield goalie Rachel Mikolay then denied Wilson’s shot from right in front of the net, and Katelyn Sousa drew a foul and converted the free-position attempt to give the Rebels a 6-4 halftime lead.
More Mikolay moments kept New Fairfield in front early in the second half, as she made three impressive saves (two on free positions) to keep Weston at bay. But when the Rebels regained possession they committed a turnover and Nelson broke in on a breakaway and scored to make it 6-5.
Berry responded with a goal for New Fairfield, but Wilson answered less than two minutes later, getting the Trojans back within one at 7-6 with 13:04 left.
That, however, was the end of Weston’s offensive production.
Katelyn Nieves scooped up the rebound of a shot that Weston goalie Carina Giordano had saved and scored to put the Rebels ahead 8-6. Forty-nine seconds later, Nieves converted off a free position to make it a three-goal advantage with 10:55 remaining.
Mikolay stopped Wilson on a free position, and New Fairfield was able to maintain long stretches of possession and secure a return trip to the state finals.