By David Fierro

Winning the FCIAC Tournament championship was obviously extremely exciting for the New Canaan High School varsity girls lacrosse team, but it wasn’t completely satisfying.

At the conclusion of the CIAC Class LL Tournament’s championship game, the Rams were indeed, completely satisfied.

Second-seeded New Canaan became two times a champion this season, capturing the CIAC Class LL Lacrosse Tournament title with a decisive 10-5 victory over top-seeded Darien in the state final before a big, bipartisan crowd at Sacred Heart University.

Four players scored two goals apiece for New Canaan on its way to recording the impressive victory, its second postseason win against rival Darien. The Rams posted a 7-2 triumph against Darien in the championship game of the FCIAC Tournament recently.

The Rams (21-1-1) held a 3-2 edge after the first quarter, entered halftime with a 5-2 lead and went into the fourth quarter ahead, 7-2.

Lexie Tully, a midfielder, recorded two goals and one assist, her sister Maddie Tully, a junior attack, scored twice, senior midfielder Devon Russell had two goals and junior midfielder Emma Row tallied two times to power New Canaan’s offense.

“It feels awesome, I know just how hard my team worked for this,” said Russell, also a captain. “We were obviously excited with the FCIAC championship win, but we knew we weren’t done yet and we all wanted this so badly. I’m so proud of everyone and how everyone played today.”

Darien, which edged Greenwich in the Class LL Tournament semifinals, 7-6, got a hat trick from sophomore Anna Von Kennel and one goal apiece from junior Annabell Adams and senior Sadie Stafford. The Rams had the possession advantage in this much-anticipated championship matchup, using long possessions to take time off the clock, while scoring several goals. The Blue Wave (16-5-1) meanwhile, were held scoreless during the second and third quarters of action.

“It was tough when we had our first series on offense, I think we hit the pipe,” said Darien coach Lisa Lindley, whose Blue Wave squad edged New Canaan, 14-13, in the 2023 CIAC Class L final. “In games like this, that could be the momentum. And then New Canaan came down and they scored on their first possession.”

 “I think we got in a hole when we weren’t winning the draws and we weren’t burying our shots when we had the shots, so you’re not going to win games like that when you can’t score,” Lindley continued.

The Rams, who made it to the title game by defeating third-seeded Wilton, 13-8, in the tournament’s semifinal-round, were sparked by another sensational effort by goalie Ceci Patterson. New Canaan’s junior goaltender registered eight saves, while being supported well by the squad’s defenders, including senior captain Isabel Appelt.

“I think defensively, we were so solid, we were playing as a unit and that’s huge,” Patterson said. “We did really well talking and playing as a unit.”

New Canaan scored on its first possession of the title game, with Row converting a free position attempt, making it 1-0 with 8:55 remaining in the first quarter. On the Rams’ third possession of the day, Row went top shelf with her shot from approximately 5-yards out, snapping her attempt past Blue Wave senior goalie Hope Schoudel to put her team on top, 2-0, at the 4:39 mark of the opening quarter.

A goal by Maddie Tully with 2:33 to go in the opening quarter made it 3-0 in favor of the Rams, who displayed efficiency on offense the majority of the game.

“I told them we have to really execute and create good opportunities for each other and they did,” said New Canaan coach Kristin Woods, who has guided the Rams to two state championships in three seasons.

Darien mustered some momentum toward the end of the first quarter. Stafford scored with 52 seconds left in the opening quarter, then after Darien won the ensuing draw, Adams tallied, cutting the Rams’ advantage to 3-2 heading into the second quarter. 

Yet the Blue Wave were forced to play a lot of defense in the second quarter since the Rams had the ball the majority of the period. Maddie Tully made a nifty catch between defenders off a pass from Lexie Tully and converted a shot from close in, putting New Canaan on top, 4-2, with 5:18 to go in the second quarter. The goal concluded a five-minute plus possession for the Rams.

“Possession was really important,” Russell noted. “I think just taking our time on offense – in the second quarter we probably had a six-minute possession. That just shows how patient we were. Being patient and working together as a defensive unit was really important today.”

Another New Canaan time-consuming possession occurred later in the second quarter. This time, Russell dodged from behind the goal before scoring from close range, making it 5-2 at the 2:23 mark of the second quarter.

“We practiced that in practice, keeping the ball keeping possession under pressure,” Lexie Tully said. “We know if they have the ball, they’re dangerous, so we were really practicing that in practice and we were able to take that into the game today.”

Lexie Tully tallied on an 8-meter shot 1:48 into the third quarter, then junior midfielder Sydney Patten scored with the Rams in a man-up advantage, giving New Canaan an 7-2 lead heading into the final quarter.

As always, New Canaan’s defense was sound, with Patterson and Appelt helping to lead the way.

“She was focused, at the beginning of the game she was getting into the zone,” Woods said of Patterson. “Our defense helped her out a lot. That defense unit is a strong group of seniors who we’re going to miss next year. But we have other kids that will step right in and help her out and she will be another brick wall next year. She’s outstanding, she’s a phenomenal goalie.”

Schoudel made seven saves for Darien, which was 0-1-1 versus New Canaan this season.

“I just think as an offensive unit didn’t move the ball quick enough,” Lindley noted. “Also, we had to come out in a more aggressive defense, which I didn’t really want to do, but we needed the ball. We got caught on a couple of those, because they converted, but we had to do it, because we had to get the ball back.”

New Canaan allowed only 22 goals in its five CIAC Class LL Tournament victories, while scoring 56.

“I think defensively, we were so solid, we were playing as a unit and that’s huge,” Patterson said. “We did really well talking and playing as a unit. I made sure that I prepared for this game beforehand and was locked in.”

Indeed, this was a championship season the Rams won’t forget. 

“It’s a dream year,” Patterson said. “We have an amazing senior class – such great girls. We are so close and it’s so great for the seniors.”

Said Maddie Tully: “We’ve been working for this for so long and it feels so amazing, because we knew we could do it and we got it done.”

Woods knows her group of senior athletes were truly special, providing the team with production, leadership and great spirit.

“This group of seniors have left such a mark on this program and they’ve made this a competitive and driven group,” she said. “Our practices we’re always harder than every single game. I kept telling the underclassmen, because they struggled at points. But the seniors kept pushing them and by the end of the season they were working hard and making each other better.”

Related Posts