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Greenwich High Girls Lax Falls to Cheshire in CIAC Opener

Greenwich High School’s Olivia Hoekman applies the heavy defense on her Cheshire High School opponent during Tuesday afternoon’s game.

By Paul Silverfarb
Sentinel Editor

Although the Greenwich High School girls’ lacrosse team was trailing by four to start the second half and by five goals with less than 20 minutes to play, they were able to mount a furious comeback late in the game on Tuesday afternoon.

However, they ended up being one goal short. After trailing 8-7 with less than two minutes to play and having possession of the ball, CIAC class L top seed Cheshire High School regained control off a turnover and was able to keep possession the rest of the way. The Rams scored with one second to play to ice and game and upend the Cards 9-7.

“At the end of the day, it’s a game of bounces and a couple more went Cheshire’s way today,” said Greenwich head coach Rachel Vallarelli. “It’s really hard when you have a group of girls that fight every single day, both in games and in practices, and leave it out all on the field. This one hurts a lot.”

The GHS duo of seniors Paige Finneran and Grace Fahey each scored two goals, while the trio of seniors Olivia Caan and Katie Large and junior Kate Loughran each found the back of the net once.

Greenwich High School junior attacker Leah Caputo fires the ball off to a teammate during Tuesday afternoon’s contest against top-seeded Cheshire High School.

“I think we came out here wanting it more than anything,” Caan said. “We put in a lot of work during practice, and I think we translated it into the game. We started out a little too frantic and we came out a little nervous. But, the second half we brought it out and kept on fighting harder and harder. We got more confident after every goal and every defensive turnover and every save from Sloane [Lovelace].”

Large and Fahey each netted an assist in the game, as did fellow senior Jennifer Kelly.

“The message at halftime was to calm down,” Vallarelli said. “I told them that they all know how to play lacrosse and have played for a very long time. Some have played together for a while now. So I told them to calm down and that we have this. All they needed was confidence in themselves and each other. Unfortunately the clock expired.”

With the score 8-4 and Cheshire in control, Big Red was able to take advantage of a free position shot when Fahey fired to the far corner of the net to make the score 8-5. Large gained control of the ball off a Cheshire turnover and capitalized by beating CHS junior goalie Sophie Kurtz and cut the deficit to 8-6.

With 3:02 to play in the contest, Caan took matters into her own hands, gaining possession of the ball deep in the Greenwich zone and darted down to the field for the coast-to-coast goal.

“I think we were able to gain momentum because we just really wanted this game,” Caan said. “We have been working on playing on a specific condition. We can be down a lot, and we capitalize on never feeling down, no matter what the score is. You play 100% and keep pushing, and we did that today in the second half.”

Greenwich High senior Paige Finneran looks to keep control of the ball during Tuesday afternoon’s state playoff game against Cheshire High School. (Paul Silverfarb photo)

When it came to goaltending, Big Red senior Sloane Loveless was lights out. She finished the game with 11 saves, including a few that had members of the Rams baffled.

“Sloane did great out there and defensively we shut down a lot of Cheshire’s offense,” Vallarelli said. “It’s tough, but overall the girls fought. At the end of the day, they fought until the end and never gave up.”

With the Cardinals finishing the season with a 9-9 record, it would appear that Big Red wasn’t as competitive as usual. However, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Greenwich did not hide from competing against some of the best competition they were able to find. In addition to playing powerhouses like New Canaan, Darien and Wilton, the Lady Cardinals battled two teams from New Jerseys (Oak Knoll and Ridgewood), two from New York (Massapequa and Bronxville) and another from Longmeadow, Mass.

“We have a lot of girls on this team that are going to play lacrosse at the next level,” Caan said. “I think that everybody put in their work on this team and everybody wanted it.”

Big Red also battled against local perennial elite squads like FAA champions Sacred Heart Greenwich and NEPSAC powers Greenwich Academy.

“One of my biggest philosophies is that in order to be great, you have to play great teams. That was the motto coming into this season,” Vallarelli said. “When I was looking at our schedule, I wanted to make sure we were playing the best talent in order to be the best at the end of the season. With the loss today, it leaves the season very sour, but the girls were playing really well as a unit. They were playing together and playing for each other. There’s nothing more a coach could ask for.”

While being the head coach for a perennial power like Greenwich can be a challenge for Vallarelli, she said one of the easiest aspects was working with the group of girls on the roster.

“They were a great group of girls,” Vallarelli said. “Despite whatever challenge it may be, they didn’t back down and made sure they took it head on. That’s not just a lacrosse skill or a sports skill. That’s life and that is what makes me so proud of each and every one of them. They were a great group of girls to coach.”

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