There is nothing quite like a stinging defeat down the stretch to motivate a team through its final games.
For the New Canaan and Wilton girls lacrosse teams, that hunger has led them to the same exact place -- a meeting at Bunnell High School in the Class M championship game.
"The kids have worked hard all year to get to this point and they are excited to be there," New Canaan coach Kristin Woods said. "Its going to be a great game."
"It's exciting," Warriors coach Meredith Adamicki said. "Obviously we are very excited to be still playing this far this season; we are looking forward to playing one of the best teams in the state."
Both sides were eliminated in the FCIAC semifinals to teams they defeated in the regular season, but have rebounded quite nicely.
"We came together and were resilient after the loss," Woods said. "The kids worked hard the last two weeks in practice and still to this day they have not forgotten about that loss. They're not going to let it happen again."
But the Rams' defeat to Darien and Wilton's loss to Greenwich has only brought out the best in both teams.
New Canaan (19-1) not only avenged its lone defeat of the season by defeating the Blue Wave in the state quarterfinals, but the Warriors trounced non-FCIAC competition en route to their first final appearance since 2008.
"I know its going to be a close game," Adamicki said. "I like our chances going in, but it can obviously go either way. We are two evenly matched teams that are similar in a lot of ways; it could come down to the end."
The Warriors (17-4) are led by a pair of outstanding juniors in Casey Pearsall and Tegan Helms. The midfielders have tormented opposing defenses all season and will likely be the reason why Wilton will or won't raise the trophy on Saturday afternoon.
"(Wilton has) tons of good players," said New Canaan's Olivia Hompe, a dangerous attacker in her own right. They are really strong in the midfield, we have to match their good players and stop their fast break. Other than that it's going to be about heart and hustle and who wants it, because we know they are a great team."
Likewise, Hompe and Sarah Mannelly have combined to form a nearly unstoppable tandem for the Rams. The duo leads a deep group that has steadily progressed throughout the season.
"Our attackers have stepped up a lot in the last few games," Hompe said. "Also our low defenders have been playing the best they have all season. Our depth is spread out and that's something a lot of teams have trouble handling."
It could also come down to who makes more stops, as Saturday's contest will also feature two of the best goalies in the state. Wilton's Vanessa Pagano and New Canaan's Liz O'Sullivan have been solid in net all season, providing a lift whenever called upon.
"Pagano has been huge for us this year," Adamicki said. "She has the ability to be a game changer; she has steadily improved and is one of the main reasons why we are here."
Regardless of how the stars perform, it will require a full team effort to claim the title of state champions. The two sides met during the regular season, with New Canaan prevailing 13-10. The Rams also eliminated Wilton from the state tournament a year ago.