Girls lacrosse: Ridgefield shocks Warriors, 8-7

The Ridgefield High girls lacrosse team notched one of the biggest wins in program history on Tuesday, edging Wilton 8-7 in a prize fight of a game in Wilton.

The two teams traded blows, punch for punch, the whole game, which was tied five times. The Tigers (2-0) finally used a 3-0 run just past the midway point of the second half to turn a one-goal deficit into a two-goal lead with about 10 minutes left.

With Ridgefield trying to nurse a one-goal lead and milk the clock, the Warriors (1-1) worked hard defensively and created several turnovers down the stretch, but weren’t able to convert on their possessions.

Ridgefield head coach Cece Berger was elated by the win, and how the Tigers maintained their composure in those final, hectic eight minutes of the game — which was played in near-freezing temperatures.

“It was huge. We saw them in the states last year and we lost 20-5. It wasn’t our best game,” said Berger, noting that last year's season-ending loss to Wilton was a motivating factor for the Tigers in the off-season.

“To see all their hard work over the offseason pay off, it felt great,” she said. “I couldn’t name one kid. My entire team, including the girls on the sideline, contributed to the win.”

“I thought Ridgefield played a great game. They were disciplined, and their goalie made some great saves in crucial moments,” said Wilton head coach Meredith Meyran. “Defensively, I thought we played well. We just didn't finish our opportunities on the attacking end.”

The Tigers had trailed 6-5 after Eva Greco scored for the Warriors with 15:23 left to play. Ridgefield answered with a pair goals by Kaitlyn McMullen, who blew by a single defender on both plays, to grab the lead, 7-6, with 10:20 left.

The Tigers made it 8-6 with 8:48 to go on a goal by Caroline Curnel, who made a move to the middle, switched hands and scored left-handed with a shot under the crossbar.

Wilton answered right back on a goal by Margaret Smith with 7:57 left, as she wiggled into the front of the goal from the side, making it 8-7.

The final eight minutes saw the teams trade turnovers, with the Warriors making four costly turnovers before the Tigers were able to run out the clock. Ann Hage had an interception and key ground ball in front of the Ridgefield goal during the stretch, while Sarah Strange also collected an important groundball in the final minutes.

One of the keys to the win was play of Curnal, a sophomore who was thrust into the role at the faceoff X and helped Ridgefield win eight draw controls to Wilton’s nine. In last year’s playoff game, Wilton’s domination on the draws had been decisive.

“The draws were pretty even. Caroline Curnal stepped in and did well. She won four of seven draws,” said the coach.

Lucie Picard led Ridgefield with three goals, while McMullen and Curnal each had two goals. Julia Realander also scored, while Kimmy Weinstock had an assist.

Maddie Burns came up big in goal, especially in the first half, and finished the game with 10 saves.

For the Warriors, Paisley Eagan was a force all over the field and had two goals and an assist. Greco also scored twice, with other goals by Smith, Rebecca Wistreich and Sydney Brant. Julia Bonnist, Ellie Armstrong and Julia Skillin each had one assist.

Paige Brown made five saves in goal, as the Warriors had a 17-13 edge in shots on goal.

Ridgefield had jumped out to a 2-0 lead about eight minutes into the game on goals by Picard and Curnal, before Wilton answered with two goals by Eagan in a span of a minute — the second after she had forced a turnover to get Wilton the ball — to tie the score at 2-2.

Picard scored on another great individual move to make it 3-2 with 10:19 left in the half. After Brown stopped a free-position shot, and Ella Mannix created a turnover, Greco tied things up again, 3-3, with 7:07 left.

The Wilton defense, anchored by Maddie Duffy, Campbell Gulbin, Mannix and Zoe Lash, held Ridgefield scoreless over the final 10 minutes of the half. Both goalies played strong down the stretch of the half, with Burns making a pair of tough saves, including a point-blank stop on Eagan, and Brown stopping Picard after she had made a strong run to the goal.

Wilton finally took its first lead of the game with 1:52 left in the first half, when Brant scored with a high shot off an excellent feed by Skillen to make it 4-3. The Tigers nearly tied things before the half, when Weinstock made a great run to the goal, only to be denied by Brown.

The Tigers quickly tied the game in the first minute of the second half, when Realander caught a pass from Weinstock in front of the goal and maneuvered in a crowd of players to get off a shot and score.

Wistreich put Wilton back on top with 20:31 left when she burst past a defender and put a shot inside the post. She nearly scored again less than two minutes later, but was stopped from right in front on another great save by Burns.

Picard then tied things up, 6-6, with 17:07 left to play, again on a great individual move, ending with a shot just inside the post. The Tigers almost scored again a short time later, but Brown stopped Curnal after she won the draw and took the ball to the goal.

Some nice teamwork by Greco and Julia Bonnist resulted in an open shot by Greco right in front, making it 6-5 Wilton with 15:23 left.

The Ridgefield defense — anchored by Sterling Walkup, Courtney Carbone, Emma Zachary, Ann Hage, Erika Linke, Sarah Strange, Weinstock and Curnal — held Wilton to only one goal, and two shots, over the final 15 minutes, allowing the Tigers to reel off the three goals the proved the difference.

Notes: Eagan led the Warriors in draw controls (four) and caused turnovers (two), and also took two charges. Wistreich and Skillen each had two draw controls.

Brant led Wilton in ground balls with three. Campbell Gulbin, Mannix and Greco each had one caused turnover, and

For Ridgefield, Curnal had four draw controls and Picard, Zachary and Hage had one each.

Strange and Picard each finished with three ground balls, while Hage won two, and Realander and Curnal had one groundball each.

Hage also had two interceptions, and Cate Costigan had one.