The Fairfield Warde girls lacrosse team's historic win in the CIAC Class L tournament's first round on Tuesday was surpassed in significance on Thursday in the quarterfinals in West Hartford. After the Mustangs' initial state tournament win, a seven-goal victory over West Haven two days earlier, they have now earned a berth in the Final Four.
Warde's 9-8 win over Hall -- secured in the final six seconds on a Warriors' penalty ensuring Warde possession in midfield -- moved the Mustangs to the semifinals on Tuesday against No. 1 Glastonbury (18-0-0), which advanced with a 19-5 victory over No. 9 Newington, at a site and time to be determined. A win there would send Warde (13-5-1) to the June 14 final at Bunnell against the winner of the Cheshire-Darien semifinal.
Lofty heights for a team that was carrying an all-time 0-fer in the state tournament at the start of the week.
Senior captain Caroline Lambert, who paced the fifth-seeded Mustangs' attack with four points, got her hat-trick goal with 9:29 remaining in the game to give Warde a 9-8 lead. From there, sophomore goalie Rebekah Snitkoff (13 saves) and her defenders protected the slim cushion. The fourth-seeded Warriors (14-4-0), of the CCC, had tied the score four times earlier -- at 1-1, 2-2, 4-4 and 8-8 -- but never had earned a lead.
A Hall shot hit the goalpost two minutes after Lambert's go-ahead goal. A Hall free-position shot was rolled just wide of Snitkoff with 5:36 left to play. A Warriors' free position with 3:50 to go was taken away by the officials from a false start by the would-be shooter.
And with 96 seconds remaining, Hall's career-leader in points, Alannah Boyle, who finished with four goals, had her low shot stopped by Snitkoff. After that, Warde maintained possession, despite Hall's intense pressure to force a turnover. With 23 seconds left, Hall goalie Madison Hooper (8 saves) was well out of her cage covering players and looking for a steal.
"A couple of things didn't go our way down the stretch," said Hall coach Steve Boyle, the father of Alannah Boyle, who ended her career with 298 goals and more than 400 points. "It was a matchup between the Nos. 4 and 5 (seeds), and if we played them 10 times, I think we'd win five games and they'd win five games.
"We just had tired legs. It was an extremely close game," he said.
Sophomore attacker Amanda Orvis joined Lambert with scoring a hat-trick. The Mustangs' most dangerous player, junior midfielder Sarah Reilly, was limited to two goals, the game-opener 58 seconds into the match and the other in the sixth minute of the second half that gave Warde an 8-5 lead, the largest spread of the game.
Warde coach Tom Davis said Hall's defense paid much attention to restricting Reilly from running free. The Mustangs did not mark Boyle one-on-one because they play a zone defense. Warde defenders were conscious of Boyle's positioning at all times. Two of her goals came from circling around the crease, beating a defender before slipping past the helping defenders with a dodge and shooting. With Boyle drawing a lot of attention, Hall junior Mackenzie Molodetz had some looks, and she had three goals and an assist, including the score that made it 8-8.
"Whoever was going to have the ball last was going to win," Davis said. "If they had it last, they could have scored to tie it up. We were fighting to get the ball in the last two minutes, and we were able to run with it.
"We tried to play one goal ahead. We just had possession of the ball and spread it out. We took our time with the ball and we took time off the clock."
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Class L girls lacrosse quarterfinal at Hall
Warde 9, Hall 8
WARDE 5 4--9
HALL 4 4--8
Records: Warde 13-5-1, Hall 14-4-0. Scoring: W--Caroline Lambert 3 goals, 1 assist, Amanda Orvis (3g), Sarah Reilly (2g), Meredith Nerreau (1g), Courtney Scheetz (1a); H--Alannah Boyle (4g, 1a), Mackenzie Molodetz (3g, 1a), Morgan Kennedy (1g). Goalies: W--Rebecca Snitkoff (13 saves); H--Madison Hooper (8). Shots: W--14; H--18. Highlights: W--Three of the Mustangs' goals came either in the first or last minute of a half. H--Boyle finished her career with 298 goals and more than 400 points.