Greenwich field hockey advances to class L semis with 1-0 win over New Canaan

Greenwich High School junior Maddy Graves gets control of the ball in the CIAC class L tourney. — John Ferris Robben photo

Greenwich High School junior Maddy Graves gets control of the ball in the CIAC class L tourney. — John Ferris Robben photo

It’s on to the the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference semifinals for the Greenwich High School field hockey team.

Facing fellow FCIAC foe New Canaan High School earlier today at Cardinal Stadium, Big Red netted its lone goal in the second half courtesy of  sophomore Jessica Lagano. Led by Greenwich’s stellar defense and standout goaltending from senior Freddie Bancroft, the goal was good enough to help Greenwich win its quarterfinal game with the Rams 1-0.

“The girls saved their best game for today and that was important because it is really hard to beat any team in the FCIAC one time, but to be able to beat a team as good as New Canaan twice in the same season is an incredible accomplishment,” GHS head coach Allyn Orrico said. “I am so proud of my girls because it took our entire team to do it. They deserve this win because they’ve had great practices all week and they are bringing what they are doing in practice in the game.”

Off a great insertion from junior Tania Iskandar, Lagano gained possession of the ball with plenty of open space in front of the NCHS goal. Lagano remained calm and fired a shot low that found the back corner of the net for the 1-0 lead with 21:48 to play in the second half.

“It was a hard shot and I am happy that it went in,” Lagano said. “It definitely paid off getting the first goal, especially because our team could stay calm the rest of the game, knowing that we were in the lead and not playing from behind. It was great that I could help my team relax a bit.”

New Canaan head coach Erin Gildea said that her team had a plethora of chances at taking the lead early or knotting the game in the second half.

“We had a lot of opportunities and we talked about the need to finish coming into this game,” Gildea said. “We just didn’t finish today. We got some really good first looks, but again the Greenwich goalie, we had to capitalize on our second and third opportunities. We weren’t able to do that today.”

Although Greenwich came away with the 1-0 lead, the play of Bancroft in net for GHS and the defense, led by seniors Nicole Graham, Lizzy Trotta and juniors Sarah Cicchetti, Anne Dunster, Meghan Collins and Iskandar in front of her, were keys to advancing to the CIAC class L semis.

“Freddie was phenomenal today and there was no hesitation from her,” Orrico said. “She took control of the circle and I am really proud of her. I am also proud of the defense as a hole because we played great today. They shut a very talented New Canaan team down and that is not easy to do. You can pick any player on defense and I could say that I have never seen them play a better game. They played together.”

Bancroft finished with three saves on the day but also was able to stick aside numerous other opportunities and not give the Rams quality looks at the cage.

“It’s a great win today and took everybody on the team,” Bancroft said. “We are really good to go into the semifinals and I know we are going to give it our best shot. We really had to stay calm today and not get frantic, especially in the second half when we were up.”

Greenwich finished the day with eight shots on goal, while New Canaan had four shots and five corner opportunities.

With the victory, Greenwich advances to the CIAC class L semifinals, where they will face off against No. 2 seeded Cheshire High School. The game will be played either Tuesday or Wednesday at a site still to be determined.

Just getting to the state semis after losing a tough game in the opening round of the FCIAC tournament is a thrill for Lagano and the rest of the Cardinals.

“It feels great, especially because of how we lost in FCIACs,” Lagano said. “I know this team has a lot of talent and a lot of skill. I think we could go all the way. We have improved so much as a team. We know where everybody is and we have confidence in each other.”

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