New Canaan and New Fairfield girls lacrosse teams prepare for state semifinal showdown
Published 8:46 pm, Tuesday, June 9, 2015
Inclement weather may have forced New Canaan and New Fairfield to wait an extra day, but two of the top girls lacrosse programs in the state will meet in a Class M semifinal on Wednesday at 6 p.m. at Ridgefield High School.
The FCIAC runner-up Rams and the SWC runner-up Rebels both have their sights set on claiming hardware before the season concludes.
"I think they're working that much harder every game and every practice and I think these seniors really want to get it done," New Canaan coach Kristin Woods said. "This is the biggest senior class I've ever had (nine)."
"The team is very excited to be here," New Fairfield coach Karen Nell said. "Going the distance has been a goal all year. Losing your first game of the season in a championship game makes it even tougher, and it is absolutely motivator for states."
New Fairfield's (18-1-1) only defeat of the season occurred in the SWC championship in an 11-7 loss against Barlow.
The Rebels, who were the top seed in the SWC dance as well as the Class M field, have come back strong in state tournament play.
New Fairfield defeated No. 16 Branford 16-6 in the first round before edging No. 8 Farmington 10-8 on Thursday.
"The game (against Farmington) was not very close until the end," Nell said. "Our goalie, Emily Zurzola, made 19 saves in that game and many in the last 10 minutes. I think the Farmington game sent the message to the girls that they cannot let down in states. Regardless of your record, every team is coming to play."
Some of New Fairfield's biggest offensive threats include Bridget Zima, Bridget Morgan and Katie Clark.
"They have a really strong offensive core," Woods said. "Defensively, I know they are very athletic."
The No. 4-seeded Rams have been nearly unstoppable thus far in the state tournament, having picked up a 17-4 win against No. 13 Windsor in the first round and a 20-6 victory over No. 5 Lauralton on June 4.
New Canaan, which fell 8-6 to Wilton in last season's Class M title game, is seeking its fourth state championship in the last six years, while New Fairfield is looking for its first appearance in a state finale since winning the Division-II field in 2005.
"New Canaan has a history of success, and they are a strong program," Nell said. "We will need to bring our A-game to beat them."
"(Goalie) Bailey Pilder is having a year," Woods said. "She's playing phenomenally. She has just gotten better and better. Our supporting defense has done a nice job too. Matty Novick and Emily DeTour have played great."
Although initially disappointed with the postponement, Woods saw the silver lining: One extra day of practice.
"I was upset the game was cancelled, but I felt good about getting one more practice in before this game," Woods said. "(Monday's) practice was a little flat, but the intensity level was much better (Tuesday)."
Nell and company also made the most out of the extra day.
"I think it has been good for our team to get some rest," Nell said. "We practice six days a week all season long. Going into the states, we have four chances to win and it's best to be fresh for those games."
Whoever comes out victorious between the top-seeded Rebels and the No. 4 Rams will face the winner of No. 3 Barlow vs. No. 2 Daniel Hand for the state championship on Saturday at Bunnell High School at a to-be-announced time.
"I think our team is really coming together," Woods said. "Our passing offensively has gotten better and better. Defensively, we're communicating and executing very well."
"I am proud of our team and their ability to pick themselves up after a very difficult loss (in the SWC championship) and get back on track," Nell said.