Facing just a two-goal deficit at halftime of its CIAC Class L Tournament quarterfinal-round game against Fairfield Ludlowe, Greenwich was in prime position to stage a second-half comeback and continue its spirited postseason journey.
Yet, possessions and ultimately, goals, were tough to come by for the Cardinals in the second half of Friday’s showdown, as Ludlowe forced them to play a lot of defense, while limiting them to only one goal the final 25 minutes of action.
Using an effective defensive effort and extending its lead in the second half, seventh-seeded Ludlowe posted a 10-5 win over No. 15 Greenwich in the Class L quarterfinals. Ludlowe (16-4) advanced to Tuesday’s Class L Tournament semifinals, where it will sixth-seeded Simsbury.
Greenwich, which defeated Hamden in the qualifying round and Newtown in the first round, finished its season with a record of 10-7.
“They’re a very strong team and they played great defense today,” Greenwich coach Tara Clough said of Ludlowe. “Unfortunately, some turnovers and not so great decisions hurt us. It was close and it came down to draw possession and then being able to see the back of the cage, convert on our opportunities and find the openings.”
Junior Campbell Eckert recorded a hat trick, senior Anna Paulmann tallied two goals and one assist and sophomore Kaleigh Sommers had two goals, while totaling eight draw controls.
Greenwich received two goals from senior midfielder/captain Grace Collier, one goal and two assists from sophomore attack Emma Abbazia and one goal apiece from senior attack/captain Delaney Roth and sophomore attack Sophie Roth. The Cardinals entered halftime trailing 6-4.
“We battled, we got nervous and frantic, it’s a state quarterfinal game, so that got to us a little bit,” said Collier, who will continue her lacrosse career at Williams College next season. Just taking care of the ball, taking care of possessions, looking for the best looks on offense were key today. This team played really well today and played hard today, which is all you really ask for.”
The Falcons, who beat the Cardinals during the regular season, 14-9, outscored Greenwich, 4-1, in the second half.
“It’s such a good feeling to be advancing to the semifinals,” Sommers said. “We worked hard this entire season and from start to finish we showed so much progress. This one, which was especially such a good team win, which makes it all that much more special.”
Eckert scored the team’s first goal, tallying on a quick catch-and-shoot off a pass from behind the net 39 seconds into the opening half. She scored again at the 21:18 mark, giving the home team a 2-0 edge. Sophie Roth’s goal from close in, brought Greenwich to within 2-1 with 16:27 to go in the first half. Sommers converted a free position shot, extending the Falcons’ lead to 3-1 with 15:22 remaining in the first half. Just 13 seconds later, Sommers scored again, as she won the ensuing draw, sprinted down the field and put a shot from close range past GHS sophomore goalie Daryl Furno, making it 4-1.
“We knew from the beginning, we said get off the draw,” Sommers said. “We knew that we had to possess the ball as much as possible, Greenwich is a really strong team and we did a good job of that.”
Collier cut Ludlowe’s lead to 4-2 with a goal at the 13:06 mark of the opening half, then Delaney Roth scored off a pass from Abbazia, bringing the Cards to with 4-3 with 7:47 to go. Sophomore Coco Norman gave Ludlowe a 5-3 lead by scoring with 6:56 left in the first half and senior Callie Cirilli shot low and scored, putting the Falcons on top, 6-4, late in the opening half. Abbazia made it a two goal game at 6-4, by making a snapping her free position shot past Ludlowe sophomore goalie Kennedy Carr with 31 seconds to go before halftime. Only one shot got past Carr in the second half, as she finished the matchup with seven saves.
“We adjusted tremendously from the first half and Kennedy, our goalie, made some great saves and our defense worked as a unit and played their role,” Sommers said.
Paulmann’s free position goal put Ludlowe in front, 7-4, with 19:91 remaining in the second half, then Collier tallied off an 8-meter shot, making it 7-5 at the 18:51 mark. That marked Greenwich’s last goal of the game.
“Their defensive team played very strong as a team unit,” Clough said. “We were having a hard time threading the needle and finishing. We were playing a little tight – it was tough.”
Norman scored on a bouncer with 15:20 left to play, then Eckert completed her hat trick with 13:43 remaining, making it 9-5. Paulmann sealed the game’s scoring with 9:09 remaining. Greenwich sophomore midfielder Kaitlin Kelly sustained a leg injury on a collision near the right sideline with 13:15 left in the second half. She was helped off the field and was attended to by a trainer on site. Kelly did not return to action.
“It was a great team win, we had incredible balance,” Ludlowe coach Jay Fellows said. Our defense played amazing. It was great, I’m really proud of the girls. They are the strength of our team and we get better every single game and today is no exception.”
Sommers took the majority of the faceoffs for Ludlowe, winning eight.
“Possession is key,” Fellows said. “Possession is going to win than loses games more often than not and she did a great job all day.”
Collier had three draw controls, junior attack Noey Johnson totaled two draw controls and Abbazia had three for Greenwich. Furno registered seven saves in goal for the Cardinals, who had 20 shots for the game.
“We fought to the last whistle, a lot of things didn’t go our way,” Delaney Roth said. “But we kept fighting and at the end of the day we left it all out there and that’s all we can do. They are a very deep and athletic team and today was their day. We wish them the best of luck the rest of the way.”
Said Cardinals senior captain/midfielder Emma Norton: “We gave our all the whole time, we never gave up, we never stopped and even at end, the trying to get the ball back.”
Norton will play lacrosse at Dickinson College next season.
“All the players on the field, that’s what we are thankful for,” Norton said. “The captains and I thank everyone for making it such a memorable season. We are so excited for them for what they can do in the future and we can’t wait to visit and come watch them play.”
Collier was especially impressed with the squad’s perseverance.
“This is a really, really tough group of girls and we battled through a lot of adversity,” Collier said. “The two-week quarantine, being a young team, not really knowing what to expect, a new coaching staff and they all really did a good job of stepping up and playing for each other and really growing as a family this year.”
Clough appreciated her captains and seniors and is looking forward to seeing the what the team can accomplish in future seasons.
“I’ve got a yioung team and we got some great senior leadership this spring with Grace Collier, Delaney Roth and Emma Norton as our captains,” she said. “We had primarily a sophomore defensive unit, so overall, we had a great season and I think we’ve improved a lot and learned a lot. I think that experience will elevate our lacrosse IQ and help us perform in these state championship tournaments.”
Like Collier and Norton, Delaney Roth will play lacrosse at the collegiate level next season. She will take her lacrosse skills to William & Mary.
“My past four years of Greenwich lacrosse have been one for the books,” Roth said. “I had great teams all four years and such awesome leadership. This is such a young team, I can’t wait to see what they will do in the future and I will be rooting them on for many years to come. I’m very excited to start my next chapter of lacrosse about that, but I’ll always have this team in my heart.”