New Canaan rides early lead to second straight Class M field hockey title
WETHERSFIELD — In its path to the Class M title game it was defense that was key for the New Canaan field hockey team.
In the title game however, it was the offense that would make its mark early.
The No. 7 Rams scored three first-half goals and the defense made them stick en route to a 3-1 victory over fourth-ranked Guilford.
It’s the Rams second straight Class M title.
“It takes a lot of pressure off,” Ram senior Ellery Baran said of the early tallies. “Especially Meghan (Mitchell’s) first goal, it got the rest of the team motivated to keep dominating.”
Just 15 minutes into the game New Canaan already found itself up 2-0. Meghan Mitchell got the scoring started when she smashed in a shot from the top of the circle and Baran followed by converting a beautiful cross from Lauren Sturm on a penalty-corner.
Exactly 10 minutes later it would be Baran again on a penalty-corner chance, perfectly bouncing in a long shot from the left side.
“The first goal the corner did not go how it was supposed to but it ended how we wanted it,” Baran said. “Lauren was supposed to pass right away but instead she went around and had a shot to the middle so I just got my stick down and got it in. The second one came to me and I shot it to the bottom left corner and it went in.”
As time expired in the first half Guilford got its only score, a penalty-corner goal from Olivia Clarke seconds after the halftime horn rang.
That goal ignited the Indian offense as it dominated play in the second half, registering nine of its 14 total penalty-corner opportunities.
“(The momentum) was definitely to us,” Guilford coach Kitty Palmer said of the second half. “We had a great second half, we just couldn’t convert; New Canaan scored on their corners and we just got one on ours—that was the difference. (Mariana Ferreira) was fantastic for New Canaan, she stopped all of our shots.”
Mariana Ferreira led a Ram defense that lived up to its billing, stopping chance after chance in a relentless second-half onslaught by the Guilford offense.
The signature play of the contest came with 17:30 left when a shot squeaked behind the New Canaan defense and goalie Emily Gaeta (6 saves) but a diving Grace Manges was able to get the very end of her stick on the ball and knock it harmlessly away.
“They’re resilient for sure,” New Canaan coach Alyssa Havens said of her defense. “There were so many corners and they were strong and they kept up and didn’t let that goal in and I’m so proud.”
Resiliency was the key to the season in Havens’ eyes. After falling to 3-3 in late September, the captains rallied the troops of New Canaan and won nine of its final 10 games before the state tourney run.
“The seniors and the captains really wanted it,” Havens said. “And when that group of girls wants something they’re going to make it happen.”
NEW CANAAN 3, GUILFORD 1
NEW CANAAN 3 0—3
GUILFORD 1 0—1
Goals: NC—Meghan Mitchell, Ellery Baran 2; G—Olivia Clarke. Goalies: NC—Emily Gaeta (6 saves); G—Cami Makula (4). Shots: NC—7; G—9.