Field hockey: Lauralton loses to New Canaan in semifinals

After having the better of the play in the scoreless first half of Tuesday’s Class M state tournament semifinal game, Lauralton Hall’s field hockey team saw New Canaan turn the tables in the second half. The difference in this contest was capitalization, as the seventh-seeded Rams knocked off the No. 3 Crusaders 2-0 at neutral site Weston High.

The Crusaders had a 4-0 advantage in penalty corners in the opening half — all just a few minutes before the break — and nearly converted. In what was perhaps Lauralton’s best chance of the game, Michaela O’Donnell’s in-close rebound off Madelyn Monahan’s lob on goal was stopped by New Canaan goaltender Emily Conley late in the opening half.

“We had tons of pressure in the circle in the first half. That was lacking in the second,” Lauralton coach Kati Cavanagh said.

Lauralton generated the first corner of the second half, about ten minutes in, but the Rams escaped and then cashed in on the second of successive penalty corners when Tigger Nesbett connected with 15:53 remaining.

The Rams added a goal just 2:13 later, as Mariana Ferreira scored on a rebound.

“They capitalized and we didn’t. I think that was pretty much the story of the game today,” said Cavanagh, whose team went 13-3-0-1. The Rams (13-3-1-0) advance to face top-ranked Joel Barlow of Redding in the championship game.

Both teams had five penalty corners and New Canaan finished with an 11-5 shots advantage, although most of those New Canaan chances came in the last 15 minutes or so.

Lauralton goalie Mary-Beth Rudolfh made six saves, all in the second half, and Conley stopped two shots, both in the first half.

“We just settled in and started to work as a team,” said New Canaan coach Erin Gildea, adding that her squad’s nerves got the best of them early on.

The talk at halftime for the Crusaders was that they’d have to step up their game to continue to compete with the Rams. “We knew that they were going to be a very tough team,” said Cavanagh, adding that the Rams proved to be “one of the toughest we faced all year.”

Gildea, meanwhile, had plenty of praise for her opponent.

“Lauralton Hall’s a fantastic program. They’re in the semifinals or finals it seems like every year,” she said.

The Crusaders, in fact have gotten to at least the semis three years in a row, reaching the pinnacle game the first in that stretch.

“These kids fight so hard day in and day out, and have really established themselves as one of the top teams in the state,” Cavanagh said.