New Canaan beats Avon to reach second straight state final
By Rich DePreta
WALLINGFORD — The Avon High School girls lacrosse team kept the floodgates closed as long as they could.
But ultimately, the power of the FCIAC ruled as No. 5 New Canaan High overcame No. 1 Avon, 16-7 Tuesday night in the Class M semifinals at Sheehan High School.
“We played a good 25 minutes. We weren’t able to play 50 good minutes,” Avon High coach Sean Cole said. “We have five All-State caliber players on our roster. New Canaan players 1 thru 12 are pretty fantastic. There aren’t a lot of holes on their side. As a girls lacrosse team from the north end of the state, we did our best to try to keep up.”
And so, the top-seeded Falcons take their 18-3 overall record and NCCC playoff title and ride off into the sunset.
The Rams (15-5), meanwhile, have one more hill to climb.
New Canaan will defend its 2013 Class M championship against No. 3-seed and FCIAC-rival Wilton Saturday at Bunnell High at a time to be determined. Wilton ousted No. 7 New Fairfield, 10-5 in Tuesday’s other semifinal.
“I’m so happy for these girls. The 2013 team won its title. But this 2014 squad has built its own identity,” said veteran New Canaan coach Kristin Woods. “They play hard. They play together. This has been my most improved team from Day 1 to the final day in my eight seasons coaching.”
New Canaan graduated eight seniors from 2013. There are only three seniors and just one senior starter — defender and quad-captain Elizabeth Burke on the 2014 Rams.
Although the stage of the Class M semifinals wasn’t too big for the Rams, New Canaan did start slowly against Avon.
Avon senior Britt Douglass (one goal, five assists) dominated the first half faceoffs.
As a result, Avon led 6-5 just 4:30 before halftime. However, Elizabeth Miller (five goals, two assists) scored off a pair of isolation play goals and Sam Stewart (five goals) tallied in the closing minute to give New Canaan an 8-6 intermission edge.
“Avon came out aggressive. We spent the first half waiting for the ball to come to us,” Woods said. “My halftime message was simple. If we don’t step up, this WILL be our last game.”
The Rams took the words to heart as Stewart and Miller tallied in the opening 4:26 for a 10-6 edge.
NC’s Miller was also dominating on the faceoffs.
Avon then took back-to-back two-minute penalties for sticks to the head.
The Rams’ power play took advantage on the second penalty as Stewart and Catherine Granito (three second-half goals) tallied for 12-7.
Miller made it 13-7 with 10:19 to go and the writing was on the wall for Avon.
“New Canaan was so much better in the second half. Their depth showed. The best team won. We didn’t maximize our full potential. We had just one goal in the second half,” Cole said. “New Canaan is a great team. They’re so young they will be great next year as well.”
The challenge right now for New Canaan is to conquer Wilton, which beat the Rams 9-8 on opening day and 11-5 in the FCIAC playoffs.
New Canaan 16, Avon 7
NEW CANAAN8 8—16
Records: New Canaan 15-5; Avon 18-3
Scoring: NC—Madeleine Gersten 2 goals; Samantha Stewart 5g; Isabel Taben 1g; Elizabeth Miller 5g, 2 assists; Catherine Granito 3g. A—Julia Cohen 1g; Britt Douglass 1g, 5a; Sammie Maniatty 4g; Hannah Davey 1g. Goalie Saves: NC—Bailey Pilder (1 save). A—Paige Hammick(3 saves).
Highlights: NC—The Rams advance to Saturday’s Class M final at Bunnell High against Wilton High.