Facing a daunting, six-goal, second-half deficit against Ridgefield in the FCIAC Girls Lacrosse Tournament quarterfinals, Greenwich knew it had to stage a comeback quickly, or its goal of playing in the semifinal-round at Cardinal Stadium wouldn’t be met.
Producing clutch goals in crunch time, Emma Abbazia and Cece Tauber made sure that goal was, indeed, met.
Abbazia, a junior midfielder scored a game-high six goals, while Tauber, a senior attack, tallied five times to help power fourth-seeded Greenwich to a dramatic 13-12 win over fifth-seeded Ridgefield in the FCIAC Tournament quarterfinals at Cardinal Stadium on Thursday.
The comeback win propelled the Cardinals into the FCIAC semifinals, where they will host top-seeded Darien on Monday at 6 p.m. This year’s FCIAC semifinals and finals will be held at Cardinal Stadium for the first time in recent memory, so Greenwich (10-4) has the benefit of competing at home.
“The semifinals are here, so the pressure was on,” Greenwich coach Tara Clough said. “We have been talking about it for a while and we just wanted to make it. We had a great crowd today and some of their friends were there, so to hear the cheering in that second half – it added to the energy and momentum.”
Greenwich, which registered an 11-4 regular-season victory against Ridgefield, trailed the Tigers, 7-5 at halftime, before falling behind, 11-5, with just under 19 minutes remaining in the second half. The Cardinals dropped a heartbreaking 12-11 decision to the Tigers in the 2022 FCIAC quarterfinals at Ridgefield, so they share a history of close games against their FCIAC rival.
“Ridgefield is always a tough battle,” Clough noted. “They had a great game. Their shot conversion and shot selection was great. When they had possession, they capitalized on their opportunities. We were not surprised, coming in, we knew they were going to have some highs and and we were going to have some lows and I credit our seniors for digging us out of that hole with patience and playing smart, along with great teamwork.”
Tauber and Abbazia, both of whom once again, turned in sensational performances, collaborated on the game-winning goal. Abbazia sent a pass to Tauber, who ran in from behind the net, caught the pass, quickly got an angle to shoot and put a low shot from close range past Ridgefield senior goalie Isabella Crowley with under one minute left to play, making it 13-12.
The Cardinals’ defense held strong from there and the home team held on for the exciting victory.
“It feels great, we came into it knowing we wanted to be there in the semifinals,” Abbazia said. “We haven’t gotten there since I have been on the team and that’s what we’ve been dreaming of, to get to that game. So, we’re really excited.”
Sophomore attack Aubrey Roth scored a key second-half goal and sophomore attack MK Frey had one goal for Greenwich, which withstood a huge run of goals by Ridgefield.
“It was a total team effort in the second half,” said Tauber, one of the Cardinals’ captains. “Coming into the huddle from the first half we were a little bit down, we were not ourselves. We just wanted to work on giving a team effort and I think we completely executed that.”
Ridgefield received a team-best five goals from sophomore midfielder Grace Winkler and a hat trick from junior midfielder Caroline Trinkaus. The duo enabled the visitors to build up their lead on the Cards.
Still, the Cardinals kept the faith and were able to seize the momentum with just under 18 minutes to go in the second half. They did so by gaining possession, delivering crisp passes and finding the openings for their shots.
“I really believe in these kids and I believe in these seniors and I knew deep down they wanted this game so badly,” Clough said. “I know how much it meant to them and I know that they want to be here in the semifinals representing Greenwich.”
Down 11-5, GHS scored two goals in less than a minute, the second of which came from Abbazia, to close to within 11-7. The Tigers scored off a free position attempt, making it 12-7 with just over 15 minutes left to play. That proved to be Ridgefield’s final goal, as Greenwich tallied the matchup’s final six goals.
Tauber scored off a pass from freshman attack Giselle DiPietro with 14:10 remaining, then after Ridgefield received a yellow card, Abbazia converted a shot, after catching a pass from Tauber, cutting the Cards’ deficit to 12-9 with 12:04 left. A goal by Aubrey Roth off an 8-meter shot drew Greenwich to within 12-10 at the 5:56 mark of the second half.
“Our offense was firing on all cylinders,” Tauber said. “That was a great goal by Aubrey Roth, that put us back into it and gave us the momentum that we needed. Also there was a solid push from Giselle – everyone on offense put in the work and emptied the tank during that last few minutes.”
Tauber’s goal with 2:15 to go made it 12-11, then Abbazia tallied the equalizer with 1:16 remaining, setting up the dramatic finish.
“We knew we had it in us and we all wanted it that much and this proves how much we wanted it,” Abbazia said.
The semifinal showdown at Cardinal Stadium began with Frey scoring 3:43 into the opening half. Ridgefield tied the score at 1-1 when Winkler scored from inside at the 20:10 mark. The Cards went ahead, 2-1, on a goal from Abbazia and eventually took a 5-3 lead. However, the Tigers went on an 8-0 run, seizing what seemed to be, a comfortable, 11-5 advantage. Yet GHS had other ideas.
“Self-confidence, positivity in ourselves and resiliency – being able to bounce back from any situation – that’s what helped us come back,” Greenwich senior goalie Daryl Furno said. “It feels so good, we worked so hard for that win. We gave it our all and left everything out on the field.”
Furno made five saves for Greenwich, which was paced defensively by senior Sophie Roth, Lacey Warwick (senior), senior captain Kiera Young, senior captain MK Savio and senior Kaitlin Kelly.
“The defense was phenomenal, we held really strong,” Furno noted. “Every single girl was so exhausted, we were going for every single ball, it was amazing to watch.”
Clough credited the squad’s seniors and returning/experienced varsity players for pulling the team through the adversity it faced against the tough Tigers.
“Having the intelligence to make good decisions under pressure and play with your team, for your team, makes the difference in close games,” she said. “I’m really proud of our offensive group, they’ve worked really hard this season and it was nice to see things come together. They played great together as a group.”
Abbazia had eight draw controls, freshman Leighton Collier had two draw controls, Kelly won a pair of draws and Savio had one draw control for the victors. Trinkaus had six draw controls and sophomore attack Gabriella Laurentani had four for Ridgefield.
Tauber appreciated how Greenwich’s defenders rose to the occasion in the second half.
“We call our defense the usually suspects, because they are horrifying,” a smiling Tauber said. “They did exactly what they should do. They worked out some kinks and it was an unbelievable effort from all of them.”
Darien advanced to the FCIAC semifinals by defeating No. 8 Stamford, 19-1, in the quarterfinals. The Blue Wave has lost to New Canaan in the FCIAC Tournament’s title game the past two seasons. Second-seeded New Canaan plays third-seeded Wilton in Monday’s 4 p.m. semifinals, also at Cardinal Stadium. Darien sports a record of 16-0.
“Knowing they’re the best team in the country, we have a lot to work up to, but we’re definitely excited to get another chance,” Abbazia said of playing Darien, the No. 1-ranked girls high school team in the nation.
“We’re super pumped, we had a good first half against Darien, so we’re excited to play them again and we’re up for the challenge,” Clough said.
Categories: Greenwich High, Spring sports
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