Greenwich High

Greenwich High girls lacrosse team eliminated from Class L state tournament with loss to top-seeded powerhouse Darien in the quarterfinal-round

Greenwich’s Cece Tauber defends near the sideline against Darien in the CIAC Class L quarterfinals on June 3, 2022 in Darien.

Greenwich High School’s girls lacrosse team faced numerous formidable foes this season, yet Friday marked the first time the Cardinals played a two-time defending state champion Darien squad that’s ranked No. 5 in the country.

And the Blue Wave quickly showed why they’re one of the premier teams in the state, and nation.

Playing lock-down defense, while effectively and efficiently moving the ball on offense, top-seeded Darien advanced to the semifinal-round of the CIAC Class L Tournament with a highly impressive 15-2 win over ninth-seeded Greenwich in Friday’s quarterfinals.

The host Blue Wave (19-1) will play fourth-seeded Wilton at Greenwich in Tuesday’s Class L semifinals. Greenwich, which defeated eighth-seeded Newington, 17-1, in the Class L Tournament’s opening round, finished its season with a record of 10-4.

Junior Chloe Humphrey scored a game-high five goals, while junior teammate Ryan Hapgood recorded a hat trick for Darien, which entered halftime with a 9-1 lead.

“I think that we definitely were a little slow at first coming out of the locker room,” said Humphrey, who has committed to play lacrosse at the University of North Carolina. “We had a short warm-up, so we had to get all the rust out and I think we had a nice start in the second half and that enabled us to play Darien lacrosse. In the second half, we were able to show what we’re made of.”

Photo by David Fierro: Darien moved on to the CIAC Class L Tournament semifinals by defeating visiting Greenwich.

Senior Ceci Stein and sophomore Sadie Stafford each tallied twice for the Blue Wave, who played stronger and stronger offensively, as the game progressed. Defensively, Darien was on point throughout. Host Darien made Greenwich work extremely hard to get shots on goal and execute its settled offense.

“I thought we played great on defense,” said Darien coach Lisa Lindley, whose squad has won the Class L Tournament two years in a row. “I’m still looking for the right combination on offense. In the second half, we started burying our shots and playing a little less sloppy and committing less turnovers.”

Senior midfielder Noey Johnson scored both of Greenwich’s goals – one in the first half and one in the second. Johnson, a captain, Annabel Koven, also a captain and Megan Young, were the only three seniors on a young, improving Cardinals’ team.

“Greenwich lacrosse has been one of the best experiences of my entire high school career at Greenwich High School,” said Johnson, one of the Cardinals’ four captains. “I’m so happy that I continued to play when I transferred and it’s been a great experience. I’ve gained a family from this team and learned so much.”

Johnson transferred to Greenwich High after attending Greenwich Academy her freshman year and became one of the Cardinals’ main midfielders.

Greenwich huddles up prior to the second half of its game against Darien in the Class LL Tournament quarterfinals.

Stein, who will play lacrosse at Michigan next season, gave the Blue Wave a 3-0 lead when she tallied with 15:25 remaining in the opening half. Johnson provided Greenwich’s first goal at the 6:46 mark of the first half, dodging past a defender on her way to burying a shot from close in.

The home team began extending its lead late in the first half. Goals from Hapgood (Dartmouth College commit), sophomore Kelly Holmes and Humphrey gave Darien a commanding 9-1 halftime advantage.

“They have lots of talent and depth, they’re an amazingly athletic team,” Greenwich coach Tara Clough said. “I think we had some great defensive sets and caused some turnovers. Today, we really struggled keeping our head up and moving the ball. They were very strong defensively and communicated really well.”

Greenwich was defeated by Darien in the CIAC Class L Tournament quarterfinals.

Holmes, junior Collette Quinn (Princeton University commit) and junior Jacqueline Callahan (Davidson University commit) added one goal apiece for the Blue Wave, who were ranked No. 5 in the latest Inside Lacrosse Top 25 High School Power Rankings.

Sophomore Emma Abbazia, who recently reached the 100 career-goal plateau, had four draw controls, while junior captain/midfielder Sophia Neitzell and junior defender Kaitlin Kelly each had one draw control for the Cardinals.

“I am very proud of my team and all the progress and improvement we made this season,” Clough said. “We had strong team chemistry and a lot of fun together. Our players and staff were incredibly dedicated to our program. While the game didn’t reflect what we are capable of, Darien is a top team in the country with a lot of experience and depth. I wish them the best in the state tournament and look forward to another great season with Greenwich in 2023.”

Kaitlin Kelly of Greenwich looks to move the ball during a CIAC Class LL quarterfinal-round game vs. Darien.

Stein had seven draw controls, while Stafford had three for Darien, which received six saves from Boston College-bound goalie Shea Dolce.

“They were shut out in the first few minutes of the half, so that definitely motivates us on offense,” Humphrey said. “Our defensive unit is amazing.”

“Right now, we need to take it game-by-game and day-by-day, we can’t look too far ahead, but also we keep in mind that the state championship motivates us,” Humphrey continued.

Greenwich’s Emma Abbazia sprints down field after intercepting a pass against Darien.

Sophomore MK Savio assisted on one of Johnson’s goals, while junior defender Keira Young gathered three ground balls and juniors MK Savio and Kelsey Roth had a couple of ground balls each for the Cards.

“I thought we played amazing defensively, honestly,” Kelly said. “Especially in the first half, we stepped it up. We let our guard down toward the end, but this season was amazing, we are growing and we are going to be even better next year. We are going to have eight seniors starting and the rest are juniors, we are going to be so much more experienced. With that experience, we are going to use our skill and play confidently and I’m sure that will make us better.”

Indeed, Johnson leaves the team with plenty of fond memories.

“Our second year together has made such a difference,” Johnson said. “Even though the score didn’t show it, we showed so much improvement from last year. I’m going to miss this team so much. I’ve gained so many best friends and I hope they visit me next year.”

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