Greenwich High girls lacrosse advances to class L semis with 13-5 victory over Simsbury

The good news for Simsbury High School was that it made it back to the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference class L quarterfinals for the first time in 17 years.

However, with their 15-8 victory over Fairfield Ludlowe High School in the opening round, that meant yeaterday afternoon they had game against defending class L champion and No. 3 seeded Greenwich High School.

Using a high-powered defense and an unselfish offense, the Cardinals overpowered the Trojans, building a 9-3 halftime lead and cruising to a 13-5 victory at Cardinal Stadium.

 

“We knew that Simsbury had a couple of really fast girls on the team that could run, get the ball, win it and get the ball up the field,” Greenwich High head coach Caitlin Keane said. “They were one of the faster teams that we’ve seen. The key for us was winning that draw from the start and we did a great job of that. Shannon [Colligan] did a great job getting the ball for us and her receivers did a great job picking up the ball.”

With the victory, Greenwich advanced to the class L semifinal round, where they battled second-seeded Newtown High School Wednesday afternoon at Bunnell High School. If Greenwich pulls out the victory, it’s a return trip to the class L finals against either top-seeded Cheshire High School or No. 5 seeded Hall High School. Results of Wednesday’s contest were unavailable at press time.

“We’re a one-game-at-a-time team,” Keane said. “With this victory, the girls earned themselves one more practice and they want it. We like to have fun and this winning stuff is fun. Hopefully we’ll keep it on this path.”

During last year’s championship run, Greenwich got familiar with both Cheshire and Hall high schools. In the second round of last year’s class L tourney, Big Red traveled up to Hall and came away with the 13-11 victory to advance to the semis and battle Cheshire High. The Cardinals advanced to the finals with an 11-6 victory over the Rams.

Against Simsbury, Big Red was led by Carolyn Paletta and Emma Christie, who each scored four goals. Tori Dunster added a hat trick and both Claire Feeney and Sophie Waine each added one goal. Waine led Greenwich in assists, tallying two, while Feeney, Emily Johnson and Natalie Paletta each finished with one assist.

“Our offense was totally unselfish today,” Keane said. “Claire was being pressured really hard and everybody else stepped up. Emma Christie was huge for us and so was Carolyn Paletta. They all refocused themselves and the passes were so unselfish. It was beautiful lacrosse to watch today.”

For the Trojans, Tess MacKay scored the team’s first three goals and finished with the hat trick. Emily Downs and Jess Werle each pitched in with one goal.

Despite the loss, Simsbury head coach Kim Rabbitt couldn’t be more proud of her team.

“They gave their all and everything that they had today,” Rabbitt said. “We are a fairly young team, so if I had to hone in on something that we had against us today was our experience. This was the furthest we’ve made it in 17 years. I know Greenwich is the defending champs and they got a lot of practice playing against some really elite teams. We don’t have that experience and that showed a little bit in the game, but our players gave it everything they had.”

With 21:53 to play in the opening half, Greenwich got the ball rolling when Johnson got the ball to Christie, who was in front of the net for the 1-0 lead. From there, the flood gates opened, as Feeney and Waine and Carolyn Paletta each found the back of the net to make the score 4-0 with 9:12 to play in the first half.

“This is really exciting because we are all really excited about states,” Paletta said. “We won states last year and want to defend our title. We played really well today and had a lot of chances in transition. I’m really impressed with the way we played today. We’ve never played them before, so we didn’t know what they were about, but we were able to read their offense and that made them have to adjust their strategy, so that was great.”

The Trojans finally broke through with 8:20 to play in the first half, as MacKay beat GHS goalie Hannah Jeffrey. She struck again with 6:25 to play and cut the lead to 5-1, however it didn’t last long.

On the ensuing faceoff, Colligan got the victory and Feeney gained control of the ball. Dunster bolted into the Simsbury defense and fired a rocket to Dunster, who darted in front of the net and blasted the shot home nine seconds after Simsbury tallied a goal.

Although Greenwich’s Christie and Simsbury’s MacKay exchanged goals with under 3:30 to play in the half, Greenwich tallied two quick goals in the final minute to extend the lead at half to 9-3. With 54.1 seconds to play, Carolyn Paletta was awarded a free opportunity and was able to beat the SHS goalie. Colligan again was able to win the ensuing faceoff and Big Red pushed the ball deep in the Simsbury zone. Christie finally got possession and uncorked a shot that bounced in the net for the 9-3 score.

“I am really impressed with the depth of their team,” Rabbitt said. “They don’t really have one superstar. We knew they had a field of players that at any time could put the ball in the net. That is something that we are building on right now. We got a lot of sophomores and a few freshmen on our team”

From there, Greenwich’s defense took over. Playing a suffocating midfield defense, the Trojans were unable to get any momentum going, which forced them to change up their strategy.

“We tried to concede the midfield on the defensive end,” Rabbitt said. “We tried to do a drop-back ride, where we just got back and recognized that we probably weren’t going to beat them defensively in the midfield. We decided to cut our losses and get back as quickly as possible and let them come to us.”

“Defense in the midfield was really tight, but I also thought our defense all the way down the field was really tight the whole game,” Keane said. “Liz Robben and Izzy Mackell had some great stops and Hannah played great in goal. It was a great group effort by our entire defense and they did a great job.”

Greenwich’s Dunster got the score to double-digits when she found the back of the net to make the score 10-3 with 20:10 to play, but the Trojan attempted a comeback, as the duo of Downs and Werle capitalized off Greenwich miscues and cut the lead to 10-5 with 15:39 to play in the game.

“I am very proud of this team.” Rabbitt said. “We practice really hard all the time. My girls are competitive and like to show what they have, even if they know the odds are against them. They did what they could do to come back.”

Simsbury’s comeback fell short the remainder of the way, as Carolyn Paletta scored two of the final three goals of the game to stretch the lead back to 13-5 with 4:33 to play in the game.

“For me it was really fun out there,” Carolyn Paletta said. “Usually I don’t get to play along side my sister and we got to do that today, so I stepped it up. We all stepped it up. I thought we all had a team aspect and everybody was positive. We were focusing on the good things that we were doing and that got the energy up for every one.”

In net, Jeffrey was stellar, making 14 saves and knocking several point-blank shots out of harm’s way. On the other side of the ball, Simsbury’s Grace McCann finished with seven saves.

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