Friday’s game against Hamden marked the first state tournament game for most of the members of the Greenwich High School girls lacrosse team.
And they certainly began their state tournament experience in impressive fashion.
Scoring 12 goals in the first half, 15th-seeded Greenwich posted a convincing 19-4 win over No. 18 Hamden in a CIAC Class L Tournament qualifier at rainy Cardinal Stadium.
Greenwich, which put the brakes on a three-game losing streak, improved its record to 9-6 with the victory and advanced to the first round of the Class L Tournament. The Cardinals will travel to Newtown on Tuesday for a 5 p.m. matchup against the second-seeded Nighthawks (13-1).
“It was exciting and a challenge, because we’ve never seen Hamden and we didn’t know much about their team,” Greenwich coach Tara Clough said. “As we know, the tournament is anybody’s game. So we came out here to play today and I think we had a strong start.”
Sophomore attack Cece Tauber registered four goals and one assist, as did freshman midfielder Emma Abbazia to help pace the Cardinals. Junior attack Noey Johnson and senior midfielder/captain Grace Collier each recorded hat tricks for Greenwich, which scored the game’s first four goals.
With Greenwich holding a 3-0 lead, Abbazia tallied at the 19:33 mark of the first half, putting the Cards on top, 4-0. Hamden scored the next two goals, the second of which came from freshman midfielder Rylan Twohill with her team in a man-up situation. Senior attack Kaitlyn Nutcher scored the visitors’ first goal ofo the game. After Hamden closed to within 4-2, it was all Cardinals the rest of the opening half.
Collier tallied off a nifty dodge from behind the net, junior Kayla Kitselman converted a free position shot and Collier eluded defenders again on her way to scoring another goal, making it 7-2 with 10:11 to go in the opening half. Abbazia’s scored off a free position shot, putting the home team ahead, 8-2.
Completing her first-half hat trick, Collier tallied on a free position attempt and Johnson scored off a strong move to the goal, extending Greenwich’s lead to 10-2. Tauber and senior captain/attack Delaney Roth each added goals in the opening half.
“We focused on moving the ball, using the width of the field and being thoughtful about our shot placement, taking an extra second to see the back of the cage,” Clough said. “We had some strategies that we worked on today, so I’m pleased with that.”
Sophomore midfielder Sophia Neitzell had one goal, while Kitselman added one goal and one assist in the winning effort. Roth and junior midfielder Annabel Koven each had a goal for the Cards.
Tauber helped power Greenwich’s attack in the second half, scoring several goals.
“The team definitely picked it up, we scored the first goal right out of the gate,” Tauber said. “We had some mishaps, but after the huddle, we definitely picked it up and we really wanted this win for our team. I’m super excited about advancing to the next round, this is my first season. I’m excited for my team, myself, my attack, for our middies, our draw, everyone.”
MK Savio, a sophomore, helped lead Greenwich’s stellar defensive effort. Savio returned to action recently, after missing a couple of games with an injury.
“It feels amazing to be back with everyone,” Savio said. “It was a little bit of a setback to be on the sideline, but I’m really happy to be back. The defense has been struggling a little bit, so we wanted to get back into it and get super unified and I think we came together and executed that very well today. We made some nice stops.”
Sophomore Daryl Furno made five saves in goal for Greenwich, which once again, received a lift offensively from Abbazia.
“It was really important for us to start off strong, because in the past, we haven’t been starting off fast, so we’ve really been working on that,” Abbazia. “We’re really excited about going into the next round and if we start off strong again, we’ll be fine. We’re taking it one game at a time.”
Said Clough: “We’re excited to play Newtown. I’m sure they’re very athletic, so I’m expecting it to be a very competitive game and we’re excited about it.”