West Hartford’s Hall High School girls lacrosse team was the only CCC team to make it past the first round of the Class L tournament.
By David Heuschkel, West Hartford Press Sports Editor
For head coach Meg Chaplin, there was a lot to like about the overall performance of her Hall High girls lacrosse team in a 10-6 win over host Simsbury in the first round of the Class L state tournament May 28 at rain-soaked Holden Field.
Chaplin loved how junior Lauren Mahler, one of the smallest players on the field, won the vast majority of draws to give the Warriors possession.
Chaplin was especially impressed with the way senior captain Anne Tulikangas stepped up on offense, scoring five goals as Simsbury was focused on not letting junior Chloe Nordyke get any good looks at the net.
Chaplin admired the play of Maggie Grant, another senior team captain, on defense. Simsbury had to work for every goal it scored.
“She is our backer, and you could use our film to teach anyone how to play that position,” Chaplin said. “She was phenomenal.”
Tulikangas scored three times in the first half and twice in the second half. She broke a 5-all tie midway through the second, scoring back-to-back goals to give the Warriors a lead they would not relinquish.
“They were worried about Chloe and they didn’t realize we’re definitely not a team that depends on one player. Whoever’s hot, that’s where we’ll go,” Chaplin said.
“I think we took advantage of matchups. We knew that they play a man-to-man [defense]. So if we can find somebody who can find a step on their defender, that’s going to be the person that’s going to score.”
Hall put the score out of reach on consecutive goals by Emma Keller, Grace Cho and Nordyke to make it 10-5 with 4 minutes left.
Simsbury played the second half without senior Payton Arsenault after she sustained an injury with 2:44 left in the first half.
“I think if we had Payton the whole game, we don’t lose today. That’s the way I feel,” Simsbury coach Sam Zullo said.
“What I’m about to say is not a discredit to [Hall]. I thought they did a great job, made a nice adjustment and had a good plan. But the biggest difference to me was our star player getting hurt in the first half and not playing for the rest of the game. I don’t know if we win with her in there the whole game, but we made a couple mistakes early and that’s a credit to them.”
Hall was the No. 12 seed and Simsbury was No. 5, so on paper this was an upset. But seeds are often misleading in the Class L tournament, especially when more than half of the 20 teams in the field were from the Fairfield County Interscholastic Athletic Conference.
In a matchup between two FCIAC teams, No. 17 Greenwich beat No. 16 McMahon by 12 goals in a play-in game. The Cardinals then nearly knocked out top seed Cheshire, losing to the Rams by two goals in the quarterfinals.
Cheshire, which plays in the Southern Connecticut Conference, had as much chance to beat No. 9 Ridgefield in the May 30 quarterfinals as Hall had to upset No. 4 New Canaan. Ridgefield had no trouble beating Cheshire 13-4, and defending state champion New Canaan predictably took care of business in a 15-2 win over Hall the same day.
When the final eight teams were whittled down to four, it became a foregone conclusion the state champion would once again be from that lacrosse hotbed known as Fairfield County. Few things in Connecticut high school sports are as predictable as an FCIAC lacrosse team – girls or boys – winning a state title.
For the third time in four years, the four teams in the semifinals were from the FCIAC. And for the ninth consecutive year since the CIAC split the fields into three classes – L, M and S – a team from the FCIAC would be crowned Class L state champion. This marked the fifth straight year the L final was between two FCIAC teams.
Glastonbury is the only team from the Central Connecticut Conference to advance to the L final, losing to Darien in 2014 and coming up short against Greenwich in ’11.
Of the six teams from the CCC that participated in this year’s Class L tournament, Hall was the only one to get past the first round. The three highest seeded teams from the CCC in the state tournament – No. 5 Simsbury, No. 8 Glastonbury and No. 10 Conard – all lost in the first round in one-sided contests.
Ridgefield beat Glastonbury 13-5. Fairfield Ludlowe defeated Conard 19-9. Staples of Westport pummeled South Windsor 20-2. If you include New Canaan’s win over Hall in the quarterfinals, the four teams from the FCIAC outscored their CCC opponents by an aggregate 67-18.
Last year was similar. Through the first round, CCC teams went 0-4 against FCIAC opponents and were outscored 62-22.
“For us to have come from where we were on Day 1 and get to the quarterfinals, how can I not be ecstatic?” Chaplin said following the win over Simsbury. “We’ve done a lot of work on playing together, playing as a team and supporting each other. I think in high school lacrosse you get that kind of chemistry, but things are going to happen.”
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