New Canaan looks to sustain success after last season's state tournament run
The New Canaan girls' soccer team fell two wins shy of making it two-for-two for the Rams in the soccer state tournaments. A 3-0 defeat at the hands of eventual state champion RHAM in the Class L semifinals put an end to an otherwise very successful season for the Rams.
New Canaan's impressive showing in the 2010 state championship tournament as the No. 11 seed included wins over No. 22 Bethel (3-1), No. 6 Bristol Eastern (2-0) and No. 14 Masuk (2-0).
"I think the girls were performing very well. I think we started to galvanize in terms of our performance. We became very hard to break down and beat," New Canaan coach Kirk Bamford said. "It was just a shame in the semi-final. We got a couple breaks that didn't go our way early on in the game. But the girls did fantastic; it was a great season."
According to senior captain and defender Sarah Mannelly, the team's lengthy run in the state tournament was still a positive experience and one to build on for the 2011 campaign.
"It was a tough loss [against RHAM]. I think we went into it a little nervous and didn't play our best," Mannelly said. "I think our team chemistry is still really good this year, so I think that's going to play a big role this season. Everyone getting along brings the chemistry together on the field and that makes the team play better."
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Despite the tough nature of coming within two victories of a state championship, the girls don't sound as if they're dwelling on the past. Rather, they're learning from last year's experiences in the hopes of enjoying more success in 2011.
"I think we'll work hard in the regular season and hopefully be able to carry that over into FCIAC's and state's," New Canaan senior captain and defender Julia Tuttle said.
New Canaan's successful 2010 campaign, which also included an FCIAC tournament appearance and a record of 13-5-2 (including state playoff games), was made possible by a torrid 9-1-2 start to the season, in which the Rams yielded just two goals, both in their lone loss to that point. The Rams' run of dominance faded later in the season, though that was likely caused by a significantly more difficult schedule.
In 2011, the team will be charged with the task of replacing eight seniors. Turnover is inevitable for any high school program, but Bamford believes that a nice mix of seniors and underclassmen will be beneficial for his squad.
"We're very fortunate in the fact that we had a nice blend of seniors, juniors and sophomores last year," Bamford said. "Obviously, like any game, you lose players, but the show goes on. Hopefully, with the returning players we've got and the strong athletes and players we've got coming [to the varsity team] we can put together a very competitive team again."
Several of Bamford's captains have identified the matchups against some of the tougher teams in the FCIAC as the marquee games of the 2011 season.
"We want to have a successful season and hopefully get far or win FCIAC's and state's," senior captain and goalie Holly Burwick said. "We always look forward to playing Darien and probably Greenwich too. We had a close game with Greenwich last year that we ended up losing 2-1, so it would be nice to beat them too."
New Canaan's season starts on the road against Norwalk on Tuesday at 7 p.m.