It's that time of year again.
But you can cancel the"Pomp and Circumstance". And leave the caps and gowns at home.
For come Saturday, just get yourself ready for yet another New Canaan-Wilton girls lacrosse Class M championship.
Following New Canaan's 16-7 rout of No. 1 Avon Tuesday, the Rams and Warriors will clash for the third consecutive season with a state title on the line. Since the CIAC changed its postseason format from two divisions to three classes in 2011, New Canaan has taken two Class M championships from Wilton, both by sizable margins.
However, ask around the FCIAC and you'll find that few around believe this season's finale will be the same. After all, the Warriors have beaten the Rams twice in as many tries this season, including an 11-5 victory a couple of weeks ago. Furthermore, Wilton's only slip ups over the last two months have come in close games against FCIAC champion Darien and a New York lacrosse power.
Yet whether Wilton can win its first title since 2006 and come through for those who believe that third occurences are in some way charming is still a another story. Even within these past two weeks, much has happened to set up a close contest Saturday and perhaps even a Rams title "three-peat", starting with a late-season growth spurt.
After New Canaan had five days to sit on its FCIAC semifinal defeat at home, the team came out and blasted first-round opponent Branford 14-2 in a resounding, all-around performance. Later in the week, the Rams took to the road and were forced to keep composed in an 11-7 comeback victory over Daniel Hand. Then, they battered Avon to advance to another championship game.
"I'm so happy for these girls. The 2013 team won its title. But this 2014 squad has built its own identity," New Canaan coach Kristin Woods said Tuesday. "They play hard. They play together. This has been my most improved team from Day 1 to the final day in my eight seasons coaching."
Avon coach Sean Cole acknowleged the Rams' second half surge as the biggest key behind their victory, which also seemed to serve as a microcosm of the entire season.
"New Canaan was so much better in the second half. Their depth showed. The best team won. We didn't maximize our full potential. We had just one goal in the second half," Avon coach Sean Cole said. "New Canaan is a great team. They're so young, they will be great next year as well."
Looking ahead, we must fall back on the old mantra that coaches like Woods and Cole continually throw out when not busy breaking down a remarkable post-halftime performance: One game at a time.
Now that one game stands as all the time remaining, it's important to remember nearly anything could take place in Act III of New Canaan-Wilton on Saturday, including a repeat of Act II.
After taking a two-goal lead at intermission, the Warriors squished the Rams out of the FCIAC tournament by claiming all but two draw controls.
Earlier, New Canaan had jumped out to multople two-goals before halftime, largely thanks to senior Elizabeth Miller, who finished with three goals.
Miller pushed across a free position score before five minutes had elapsed for a 3-1 lead and then put the Rams on top 5-3.
Then, Wilton benefited from four goals before the half ended, each courtesy of different scorers. The quick offensive outburst set the tone for the second half, when New Canaan would barely get a sniff of the ball and suffer the consequences.
For lacrosse, even with all its complexities, can always be boiled down into a simple truth: When you don't have the ball, it is impossible to score.
Should the Warriors dominate draws once again on Saturday, it won't matter who's on the opposite sideline because when they get ahold of the ball, it doesn't let go for a long, long time.
"That's something we try to do," Warriors coach Meredith Meyran said of her team's offensive patience.
"We practice a lot with the clock so that we don't just take the first option, we're patient and we're smart. We know that if we force it, we'll get into trouble."
Thus, the most important step New Canaan can take in defending its state championship is to attack draw circle successfully.
And if the Rams can do this, while repeating a second half performance reminiscent of their last two tournament games, there's little reason to believe history can't repeat itself fully Saturday for another New Canaan championship win.