New Canaan tops Greenwich in early FCIAC girls lacrosse battle

The FCIAC girls lacrosse season is still in its early stages, but there was a bit of a playoff feeling in the air on Tuesday as the Greenwich Cardinals and New Canaan Rams squared off at Dunning Field.

The two perennial contenders lived up to the billing.

In the end, the home team Rams scored the final four goals, including three with an advantage, to capture 14-10 victory and remain unbeaten at 5-0. For Greenwich, which rallied from a 9-5 halftime deficit to tie the game with 15 minutes to play, the result was the first loss of the season and the Cards are now 2-1.

For both teams, it was a big challenge, and one which will hopefully pay dividends down the road.

“It was a huge test,” New Canaan head coach Kristin Woods said. “It was really great to see them bounce back after Greenwich scored three after the half. We took advantage of the yellow card and I think we had four goals in a minute. That was the game-changer. The kids were aggressive on the draws and came up with the ball when we needed them to.”

“We have a really tough schedule this year,” Greenwich head coach Caitlin Young said. “We play a lot of good out-of-conference games. But I like to see where we are at the beginning of the season. They learn a lot more, quicker, and it makes us stronger at the end of the season because we’re not seeing these competitive games for the first time.”

New Canaan senior co-captain Catherine Granito had a huge day on offense, scoring three goals and assisting on three more. Senior co-captains Sami Stewart and Kylie Murphy each had a hat trick, and midfielder Campbell Armstrong, a junior, scored once and had two assists.

The Ram sophomores also figured heavily in the attack, as Gianna Bruno scored twice, Karlie Bucci scored once and won five draw controls, and Braeden Dial had a goal and an assist.

Junior Ellery Baran had a huge day on defense with several caused turnovers, and senior co-captain Mia Carroll helped anchor the backfield.

“Defensively, Ellery Baran was spectacular,” Woods said. “She was pressing out and her and Mia Carroll really lead things back there. I really stressed before the game that our defensive had to be strong and aggressive and they were.”

Goalie Caroline O’Dea, a freshman, made 10 saves, including a few big stops down the stretch, and sophomore Cameron Blair collected six saves.

“We go back and forth between Cameron Blair and Caroline O’Dea and they’ve both had great moments and halves,” Woods said. “We just go with whoever is feeling good that day. Caroline made some huge saves at the end. She really stepped up and had three or four at crucial times when we were a man down.”

For the Cards, junior attacker Paige Mautner led the offense with four goals and was instrumental during Greenwich’s second-half run with two goals and one assist.

Junior Erika Boes scored twice, and juniors Romy Villemure and Elizabeth Lufkin, and sophomores Genevieve DeWinter and Maggie O’Gorman each scored once.

Senior Caroline Schultz collected 10 saves with a solid game between the pipes, while senior co-captains Clare Loughran and Sloane Caan led defensively.

The turning point of the game came after Greenwich had rallied to tie the game in the second half. Bucci put New Canaan back in front at 11-10 and a Cardinal yellow card quickly followed. That gave the Rams a player advantage and they cashed in for three goals in a span of 34 seconds.

Murphy netted the first goal for a 12-10 lead and the Rams won the ensuing draw. They moved it quickly upfield to Granito, who scored near the right pipe, and Murphy then capped the run with her third goal of the game.

Schultz made a great save on the final goal, but Murphy picked the rebound out of the air and scored on a put-back with 10:58 remaining.

Neither team scored the rest of the way as the Rams nailed down the win.

“We went man-down a couple of times and that really hurt us at the end of the game,” Young said. “I told the girls that I feel like the game was a lot closer than the score. They went on a big run when we were a man down and that was the deciding factor.

Greenwich came out of the gates and grabbed a 3-1 lead in a little more than seven minutes. Mautner, DeWinter and Villemure had those goals.

The Rams, however, turned up the heat on the draw and did a great job possessing the ball over the next 10 minutes — the result being a five-goal run which put them ahead, 6-3.

Granito started that burst when she scored past Schultz on a sharp angle at 8:02. Armstrong tied it 18 seconds later with an assist from Granito, and Stewart scored the next three goals, all on free positions.

“It’s crucial to get the draws and control the momentum,” Woods said. “Offensively, we’ve grown a lot in the last four games. Glastonbury (a 16-12 win on Saturday) was a really great test, and Greenwich was spectacular as well.”

Greenwich and New Canaan then traded goals before Dial and Bruno picked up the final two tallies of the half to make it 9-5.

The Cardinals answered the bell in the second half, and were outstanding during the first 10 minutes, scoring four straight goals to tie the game with 15:05 to play.

“We put it in their hands,” Young said. “It was a good test to see how mentally tough they are this early in the season and they responded really well. It’s good to see that they are that mentally tough, but it needs to be for the full 25 minutes. We’ll get there.”

The game was knotted at 10-10 when Bucci caught a pass inside from Granito and went to the top right corner to put New Canaan ahead at 11-10. That began a 4-0 run which secured the win for the Rams.

“The good thing is a lot of the things that dictated this game were in our control in terms of some of our decision-making, stick-work and composure on attack and some of the fouls,” Young said. “We’re going to take it and learn from it. We kind of have to have a short memory because we’ve got Wilton on Saturday, so it’s another big game.”

Greenwich's Maggie O'Gorman (1) and New Canaan's Ellery Baran (12) battle for the ball during Tuesday's girls lacrosse game at Dunning Field. — Dave Stewart photo

Greenwich’s Maggie O’Gorman (1) and New Canaan’s Ellery Baran (12) battle for the ball during Tuesday’s girls lacrosse game at Dunning Field. — Dave Stewart photo

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