New Canaan, Wilton girls lacrosse back in Class M final
WEST HAVEN -- There was neither hubris nor any disingenuousness when Meg Hoffman said the biggest fear of her head coaching debut was getting stuck in traffic.
In a dominant display that was indicative of Hoffman's ease, the New Canaan girls lacrosse team scored 21 seconds apart on its first two possessions and easily rolled to a 15-6 win over Avon in the CIAC Class M semifinals.
"I know they play with such heart, determination and focus that it would not have mattered who we played," said Hoffman, who was the interim coach for Kristin Woods, who gave birth to her first child Sunday night. "We were taking phone calls, text messages, the whole thing. She was really with us the whole time."
Olivia Hompe, in the penultimate game in one of the most storied athletic careers in state history, finished with six goals and three assists for the top-seeded Rams (18-2), who will be playing for their second straight state title and third in four years on Saturday against No. 6 Wilton, a 12-7 winner over East Lyme in the nightcap.
"We wanted to come out strong," Hompe said. "It's been a crazy week for the team. "We wanted to come out big and we wanted to come out loud."
Hompe said Woods' absence served as an added inspiration for the team.
"It was definitely a change up and definitely something we could handle," Hompe said. "We are so excited for her. We knew what we needed to do regardless of whether she was here. We know how she wants us to perform."
Bea Eppler, another of the Rams' nine seniors, opened the game with the first of her three goals.
"We wanted to go up right away and show what we are made of," Eppler said. "We wanted to make a statement. Once we got the momentum going I think it took something out of them."
Avon (14-5), the No. 5 seed, showed some brief life when Ali Condon scored in transition with 16:02 left in the half to cut the deficit to 2-1.
But Hompe set up Isabel Taben for the first of her two goals less than a minute later. The Rams, with Kathleen DiMartino and Elizabeth Miller dominating on draw controls, then erupted for eight goals in just over 11 minutes for a commanding 11-2 halftime lead.
New Canaan held a 19-5 edge in shots and 11-2 in draw controls to that point.
"We really had some people come up big," Hompe said. "We got the emotion running and the cuts going."
The Rams have been toppling opponents on their run to the final. They have outscored their opponents by a 47-14 margin.
"One thing we said at halftime was to play with a lot of spirit and don't let up," Hoffman said.
After Britt Douglas started the second half with a quick goal, the Rams added four straight in just under 10 minutes, including Taben's second score.
Woods will be back on the sideline for Saturday's final, and arriving at the field on time will be the least of the worries against a familiar opponent.
The game is a rematch of last year's final, won by the Rams, 17-9. The teams met back on April 6 -- the second game of the regular season -- a 17-11 New Canaan win.
The Warriors (15-5) withstood an East Lyme comeback and pulled away for victory in Tuesday's second game.
"East Lyme is a really good team, they have really good players and are well-coached," said Tegan Helms, whose two goals and assist made her the Warriors' all-time leading scorer by a midfielder. "I think one of our team's strengths is how we respond to the other team scoring. I think everyone is really hungry and excited to play New Canaan again. It will be a huge test."
Helms was unaware of her record until informed by coach Meredith Meyran after the game. The two shared an embrace.
"I'm really surprised," Helms said. "I don't know what to say. I couldn't have done it without my team."
NEW CANAAN 15, AVON 6
AVON 2 4--6
NEW CANAAN 11 4--15
Records: Avon 14-5; New Canaan 18-2. Scoring: A--Ali Condon 2g; Britt Douglas 1g; Maddie Ade 1g; Kaylan Conrad 2g. NC--Oliva Hompe 6g, 3a; Bea Eppler 3g; Isabel Taben 2g; Elizabeth Miller 1g, 1a; Brianna McEwan 1g, Lily Citrin 1g, Kathleen DiMartino 1g. Goalies: A--Paige Hammick (3 saves); NC--Nathalie Deney (5 saves).