New Canaan edges Greenwich in key girls lacrosse matchup

Olivia Hompe (#22) of New Canaan runs toward the goal while being defended by Emma Christie of Greenwich

Watching the New Canaan and Greenwich High School girls lacrosse teams fiercely compete against each other on Tuesday, it was apparent why these rivals are ranked first and second, respectively, in the state. Both squads executed well throughout in inclement weather, showing their strength and depth at each position.

In a back-and-forth battle of unbeaten teams, New Canaan exited the game with its perfect record intact, posting a 12-10 win at Dunning Field. Here’s my thoughts on what I thought, were some of the key points of the big game.

Mannelly/Hompe combination strikes again: A lot of teams have tried, but few have succeeded in slowing down New Canaan’s prolific scoring duo of senior Sarah Mannelly and junior Olivia Hompe. Greenwich defended the tandem as well as it could, but Mannelly scored a game-high five goals, including the last two goals of the game, and Hompe had four goals and one assist. Hompe told me following the game that shot selection was one of the keys to the Rams’ improvement offensively in the second half.

“We were taking shots from a little bit too far out in the first half,” Hompe said. “Once we started running in and focused on taking better shots we scored more.”

Winning the draw: New Canaan coach Kristin Woods told me that Greenwich finished with an 11-10 edge on the draw controls, but the Rams won more of the draws in the second half, especially during the final 10 minutes of play.

Carolyn Paletta injury: A sophomore attack/midfielder who has already committed to the University of North Carolina, Paletta has enjoyed a strong first season for the Cardinals. Paletta scored the game’s first goal, but unfortunately left the field with 5:11 left in the first half with what looked to be an ankle injury, and did not return. She sat on the artificial turf field on the sideline watching the rest of the game with her left ankle wrapped up.

Rams start second half strong: New Canaan 13-0)trailed 6-5 at halftime, but got out of the gates quickly once the second half began. The Rams turned a one-goal deficit into an 8-6 lead, getting goals from Bea Eppler, Olivia Hompe and Lily Citrin during a five-minute span. The Cardinals called a timeout and regrouped, eventually tying the game at 8-8, but those three early goals were crucial for the Rams.

Stepping up: Senior Claire Feeney scored four goals, while juniors Emily Johnson and Sophie Waine tallied twice for the Cardinals. Defenders on lacrosse teams are often the unsung heroes, so let’s credit the defensive effort of both teams. The Rams and Cardinals entered Tuesday’s game averaging around 16/17 goals per game and were both held well under their scoring average. Supported by the strong defensive play of Liz Robben, Izzy Mackell and Megan O’Leary, Hannah Jeffrey made 12 saves. Liz O’Sullivan was a force in goal for the Rams, making nine saves.

“Liz stepped up and made some phenomenal saves,” Woods said. “She’s always very aggressive to the ball.”

Shannon Colligan had two assists and played well throughout, as did Tori Dunster for Greenwich

See ya later?: The Rams and Cardinals both admitted that Tuesday’s game may be a preview of the FCIAC final. If the season ended today, they would be the No. 1 and 2 seeds, respectively in the FCIAC Tournament.

“We can’t wait to see them again,” Citrin said. “I’m sure we’ll see them in FCIACs.”

“I think we’ll play them again in the FCIAC Tournament and hopefully, we’ll beat them next time,” Jeffrey said.

Dave Fierro