Girls lax falls in final to scorching Wilton
NORWALK -- Fresh off a momentous triple overtime triumph against vaunted Darien, the Wilton girls lacrosse team was red hot and rolling entering Friday's FCIAC championship showdown with New Canaan. Seven straight goals to begin the game paved the way for a Warriors win, as the Rams played with passion but ran out of time in the long run amid a 12-8 championship defeat.
"We had glimpses of potential here and there, but we did not play with consistency or enough composure," Rams head coach Kristin Wood said. "We can't harp on this loss though. I told the girls we have another great opportunity with the upcoming state tournament. I told each one of them that they can be dissappointed with today's outcome until midnight tonight, then all of their focus must turn to preparing for states."
On the blistery Friday afternoon, both teams came out full tilt. Ground balls were battled for, bodies hit the turf on numerous occassions, and plenty of passion was on display. Soon enough, though, No. 2 New Canaan surrendered several quick scoring strikes to No. 4 Wilton.
Rachel Lowrie notched the first two tallies of the game, dancing through traffic before rifling in a pair of precise bounce shots to supply an early 2-0 edge for the Warriors.
Teammate Tessa Howard followed suit, scoring two goals to double the Wilton lead in the first 15 minutes. The deficit would only grow due to a relentless Wilton offense, as Howard struck pay dirt again to notch a quick hat trick on three consecutive shots. Lowrie added another for the matching hat tricks, and New Canaan was clearly in trouble.
"It's very disappointing, because we did not play our style of lacrosse," said Anjalie Christie, who paced the Rams with five goals. "We started slow, we didn't play with enough confidence or composure like we normally do, and when things finally started clicking, it was too little too late."
While the Rams struggled to get things rolling in the right direction for much of first play, Christie began to shoulder the workload. The savvy senior attack went to work, teaming with Sarah Mannelly to find the back of the net on consecutive possessions within 90 seconds to suddenly dash the Wilton lead to 7-2. Erin Fessler got into the scoring foray three possessions later, beating Wilton goalie Maddie Kratz to make it a 7-3 game. Liz Detour produced a determined effort two minutes later in beating a pair of Wilton defenders to notch New Canaan's fourth goal of the afternoon.
Despite the spirited scoring surge by the Rams, Wilton goalie Maddie Kratz remained calm, cool and collected.
"We came in so pumped up and on such a high having just beat Darien," said Kratz, who had several acrobatic stops in the title win. "From the bus ride over here, to our warm up lap, to the opening minutes of this game, we were excited and very confident that we would get the job done. When they got those quick goals, my teammates stayed focused."
That the Warriors did, as Casey Pearsall spun high crease through a pair of Rams before finishing with authority just before the end of first half play. Following the break, Wilton came out strong, as Pearsall once again tickled the twine for the 9-4 Wilton edge. Alexie Farmakis added to the lead, scoring two minutes later to make it a 10-4 game. A New Canaan timeout signaled by Wood seemed to rejuvenate the Rams, but time was of the essence with a six-goal deficit looming over New Canaan.
"The girls responded following the timeout, and looking at the stats, we played them even (4-4) in that second half," said Wood. "We just couldn't win possession when we had to, and by the time things started working for us, it was late in the game."
Christie broke from the huddle and promptly willed her way to another tally despite heavy traffic in front of the Wilton cage, giving her an astounding 74 goals on the season. Mannelly once again made her presence felt, powering her way high side and finishing for another New Canaan goal to cut the deficit to 10-6. However, the Warriors once again rose to the occasion, with Tessa Howard and Tegan Helms pushing the lead back to six and effectively putting the curtains down on the Rams passionate comeback effort.
Two late goals by Christie did indeed prove a bit too little too late, as the Warriors soon reveled in the moment amid a huge FCIAC championship win. For the Rams, there is no time to waste or wallow in. With the state tournament fast approaching, a second chance at triumph awaits.
"We talked right away after this loss about how we have to go into each practice and each state tournament game as if it is our last chance to win," Fessler said. "From this point on, we need to play the way we know how to play. We need to be confident, we need to be composed, and we need to play with a ton of determination."