Greenwich High School’s girls lacrosse team’s season ended last spring in the CIAC Class L Tournament quarterfinals, courtesy of Fairfield Ludlowe, so with the playoffs rapidly approaching, the Cardinals were wishing for a win against a quality squad like the Falcons heading into the postseason.
The Cardinals’ wish was granted, thanks to an outstanding overall team performance and a clutch goal by Cece Tauber.
A junior attack, Tauber scored a goal late in the second three-minute overtime session, propelling Greenwich to a dramatic 12-11 win over Fairfield Ludlowe at rainy Cardinal Stadium on Saturday.
Greenwich, which celebrated its Senior Day, received two goals and four assists from Tauber, a hat trick from freshman attack Emma Abbazia, three goals from sophomore attack MK Frey and two tallies from junior midfielder Sophia Neitzell.
“It felt really good, it felt very reminiscent of Staples last year, coming up with a big team win,” Tauber said. “We really needed that as a team after losing to high caliber teams like Wilton and Staples this year.”
The come-from-behind triumph lifted Greenwich’s record up to 8-2 overall and 7-1 in FCIAC play. The Cards have two regular season games remaining – road matchups next week against Ridgefield and Danbury. Fairfield Ludlowe, which defeated Greenwich in the regular season and in the CIAC Class L Tournament a season ago, is 6-6 overall and 4-4 in the FCIAC.
“It was a great game and nice to win against a high level FCIAC team that we lost to twice last year,” Greenwich coach Tara Clough said. “Our team defensive unit was outstanding today. They worked so hard to come up with key defensive stops and create opportunities for our offense.”
The Falcons held an early 3-0 lead, before heading into halftime with a 7-5 advantage. The visitors’ biggest lead was 7-3 in the opening half.
Freshman attack Aubrey Roth had one goal, while Abbazia helped GHS gain key possession with 10 draw controls. Neitzell also gathered four ground balls for the Cardinals.
“Abbazia and Sophia Neitzell were instrumental in 50/50 possessions,” Clough said. “Sophia had her best game of the season.”
Facing a four-goal first-half deficit, the Cards kept their composure and raised their level of play.
“We’ve been talking this entire team working more as a team and less as individuals and we definitely stepped up on defense,” said Neitzell, one of the team’s captains. We created so many turnovers, I don’t think we ever played better before.”
Overtime consists of two three minute periods and if no one scores, a second overtime is played. The first three minute period saw both teams have opportunities to tally, but the score remained tied at 11-11. In the second three-minute overtime session, Greenwich had a man-up advantage and was passing the ball around the perimeter looking for a shot with less than two minutes remaining. Just a Ludlowe player was released from a penalty, making it even, Tauber sprinted toward the goal, made a move and converted a shot from close in, giving GHS the exciting victory.
“One of the girls started going at my teammate adjacent to me, so I felt that it was better to go into space and I felt my girl at my backside and I decided to take it,” Tauber said of her game-winning goal.
Junior Kaleigh Sommers recorded a game-high five goals, while senior Claire Davenport and sophomore Taylor Wolf each tallied twice for Ludlowe, which was in the lead the majority of regulation.
The Falcons held a 10-8 lead, but the Cardinals made it a one-goal game when Frey scored with 9:55 remaining in the second half. Dodging toward the goal, Abbazia then tallied, evening the score at 10-10 at the 8:33 mark of the second half.
Making a strong move off a dodge, Neitzell converted a shot from close range, putting Greenwich on top, 11-10, with 7:05 left to play. The Cardinals held onto their one goal lead for a while, taking time off the clock by effectively passing the ball around the perimeter. Yet the Falcons forced a late turnover and Sommers, Ludlowe’s dynamic playmaker and leading scorer, forced overtime by scoring with just 23 seconds remaining in regulation.
“Kaleigh Sommers is absolutely one of the best athletes playing the game in this state,” Clough noted. “We have worked hard to improve our transition game. We cleaned things up in the second half, trusted each other and demonstrated our teamwork.”
Said Noey Johnson, one of the Cardinals’ senior captains: “Today was one of the most exciting games I’ve ever played here. It was super back and forth and that’s why you play lacrosse for games like those. It was an awesome feeling to be playing in such a tough game like that. I think we wanted to win for our seniors and that’s exactly what we ended up pulling off.”
Sommers’ goal off a dodge gave the Falcons a 7-3 advantage with 6:09 to go in the opening half. Greenwich cut its deficit to 7-5 going into halftime behind a free position goal from Neitzell and a clutch tally from Frey.
“MK Frey, Sophia Neitzell and Cece Tauber worked together offensively, and finished against a very athletic goalie,” Clough said.
Junior goalie Daryl Furno registered six saves in goal and made several stops off free position attempts for the Cardinals. Junior MK Savio, junior Kaitlyn Kelly, junior Keira Young and Sophie Roth (junior) helped pace Greenwich’s solid defensive effort.
Kelly took a number of the Cards’ draws in the second half, Young gathered key ground balls and forced a turnover and Savio and Roth were aggressive defensively.
Junior Rylan Sepot assisted on one goal for the victors.
“I’m most proud of how many assists we had to goals,” Tauber said. “In the beginning of the year, we struggled with taking a top side drive and I think we did that once or twice today, but it was really working down low and cutting off of the elbows and working together. I’m really proud of my team.”
On Senior Day, the Cardinals paid tribute to Johnson, captain Annabel Koven and Megan Young.
“I was also playing for the seniors, so that was something that was very important to me,” Neitzell noted.
Greenwich visits Ridgefield on Tuesday, then travels to Danbury Thursday for its regular season finale. The FCIAC Tournament will commence soon after.
“This is what we intended to do for the entire season,” Johnson said. “We’re getting better every day that comes and today, we really showed it, because last year we lost to them twice and this year we just beat them.”