It was pretty unusual for the New Canaan girls lacrosse team to open a season with a loss, let alone two in a row. In fact, Rams coach Kristin Woods doesn't even know if that has ever happened before.
So, when the Rams dropped two straight against FCIAC rival Wilton and Loomis Chaffee to open their defense of the Class M state championship, no one really knew how to react.
Then, the Rams got angry. They got focused. And the next three opponents paid the price.
New Canaan put a hurting on Brien McMahon, scoring five goals in the first five minutes of a 20-1 victory under threatening skies Tuesday afternoon at Dunning Field.
Junior captain Elizabeth Miller and sophomore Kathleen DeMarino scored three goals each, while junior Grace Freyre, sophomore Samantha Stewart and Erica Smith -- a late addition to the varsity lineup -- each recorded two goals and one assist.
The Rams (3-2, 3-1 FCIAC) are now, at last, over the .500 mark having won three straight by a combined score of 56-11.
"It was tough facing Wilton and Loomis right out of the gate," Woods said. "But I think we made quite a few adjustments. I told the kids, we're no longer a young team. We've got some wins under our belt, so we should be ready to go."
New Canaan controlled possession for all but a few brief moments against winless McMahon (0-5), allowing just a single a goal to Molly Hussey and finishing with a 33-5 advantage in shots. Junior Annie Cuoco, who missed the first few games due to injury, played a big part in the New Canaan's possession edge and may have solved the team's need for a faceoff specialist.
With early help from sophomore Kathleen DeMarino, Cuoco made sure the Rams continually kept the ball with great work on draw controls. New Canaan won 16 of 22 faceoffs, and Cuoco won nine of those all by herself, pushing the Rams to take a 13-1 lead at halftime.
When asked if her team had a regular faceoff artist, Woods said, "We do now."
Even with most of the starters standing on the sideline for the second half, the Rams still dominated, out-scoring McMahon 7-0 over the final 25 minutes.
Woods had never been 0-2 before this season, but believes the losses against Wilton (9-8) and Loomis Chaffee (10-7) was the best thing that could have happened to a young team looking for a quick growth spurt.
"It was good for us," Woods said. "We made some adjustments with people recognizing their strengths and weaknesses. And they did a great job today."
New Canaan also shot well, something Woods has been waiting for all season, as the Rams opened the season shooting under 50-percent during the first two games. McMahon goalie Stephanie Escobar made things tough on the Rams at times, making 11 saves. But, for the most part, the Rams put the ball between the pipes almost every time they got within striking distance.
Captain Isabel Taben and sophomore Catherine Granito had a goal and one assist each while Abigail Geanakos, Devin Selvala and Annie Cuoco all scored one goal each. Riley Reid, Cassie Miller and Kendall Genzburg kept the pressure on late in the second half, collecting a goal and one assist each.
"We shot the ball much better," Woods said. "We've really been working on that, and we're getting better and better."
New Canaan will get a good feel for just how much they've grown over the last three games when it faces Mt. Sinai of Long Island Saturday at noon at Eastport-South Manor High School. Mt. Sinai was ranked 17th in the nation last season. The Rams finished at No. 19 after winning their second straight Class M title.
"We graduated a lot," said Woods, whose team will look to continue its winning streak Thursday against Fairfield Ludlowe. "I don't know if they graduated anyone. So we'll see."
Backup goalie Bailey Pilder made three saves during the second half in relief of starter Nathalie Deney, who was supported by strong defense from Emily DeTour, Elizabeth Burke, Matty Novick and Amelia Carroll.