Wilton fends off New Canaan to reach FCIAC final
The Warriors accepted the trade.
Losing its undefeated season at the hand of New Canaan 10 days ago, the third-seeded Wilton girls lacrosse team knew another encounter with the No. 2 Rams was more than likely, finishing the regular season with only the one blemish on its mind.
After both squads made quick work of their opponents in the opening round of the FCIAC tournament, the rematch became imminent, and the two squared off Monday night on a wet Dunning Field for the chance at a return trip to the league championship.
The Warriors struck first and led the entire semifinal, while New Canaan, which had three gaping holes at key positions due to CIAC ineligibility, kept it within reach before falling 14-11 to the defending champion.
"It's definitely a better time to win I think," said Wilton first-year coach Caitlin Jackson, who, unrelated, was also missing a star midfielder due to a family obligation. "It's really on them. They do all the work, they're the ones leading each other, so I'm just kind of giving them the knowledge to get there."
A pair of sophomores -- Casey Pearsall and Tegan Helms -- led the offensive charge with four goals apiece, advancing Wilton (16-1, 11-1 FCIAC) to the finals against the winner the nightcap between No. 1 Staples and No. 4 Darien.
For New Canaan coach Kristin Wood, the focus shifts towards states, where she is unsure if the three players will be able to return in time. The school is appealing the ruling, which prohibits athletes from trying out for other programs during the lacrosse season. Wood does not know a timetable.
"I've never experienced anything quite like this in my life," said Wood, who could not comment any further.
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Missing one of her best offensive threats, Wood, who heard the official stance an hour before the faceoff, also had to fill the goalie position. Wood turned New Canaan's three-sport standout, senior Jana Persky.
Persky, who hadn't played in the cage since middle school, filled in admirably, making 10 saves, including five-straight to begin the second half where the Rams (12-6, 10-2), surprising to some, trailed by only two goals.
"I went to her because I knew she had played goalie back in the day like in eighth grade, and she's a great athlete," Wood said. "So I knew she'd be the one for the job. She played spectacular, couldn't have asked for more."
However, Wilton's Maddie McClintock scored eight minutes into the first half to grab a three-goal lead and Christie Huidekoper scored later after a pair from Helms, giving the Warriors a 12-7 advantage -- their largest of the night.
The Rams refused to go down without a final stand, though, and scored three times in less than a minute, including two-straight from Sarah Mannelly (three goals, two assists) to cut it to 12-10. However, Wilton squashed any chances for a historic comeback given the circumstances, putting the game out of reach by scoring twice for a four-goal lead with less than a minute remaining.