Ridgefield girls lax beats Cheshire in OT to earn spot in state finals (updated)

For the first time in program history, the Ridgefield High girls lacrosse team will play for a state championship.

Caroline Curnal's goal at the 1:01 mark of the first overtime period gave the sixth-seeded Tigers an exhilarating 14-13 win over second-seed Cheshire in the Class L semifinals Tuesday evening at Brien McMahon in Norwalk.

Ridgefield now faces fourth-seed New Canaan in the Class L finals on Saturday at Jonathan Law High School in Milford (time TBA). New Canaan upset top-seed Darien, 12-11, in the second semifinal Tuesday, ending the Blue Wave's 107-game winning streak against in-state opponents.

With less than 30 seconds remaining in Tuesday's game, Cheshire looked to be the team headed to the state finals. Annie Acquavita's goal off a free position put the Rams in front, 13-12, with 29 seconds left. But off the ensuing face-off, Ridgefield's Caitlin Slaminko did well to send a pass to Maeve Tobin, who quickly moved the ball to Aly Gagnon. Gagnon found a seam in the Cheshire defense and scored to tie the game with 4.9 seconds to play.

Cheshire won the opening draw in overtime, but Ridgefield goalie Lexi Held made a nice save and Curnal followed with the game-winner off an assist from Tobin.

"Their will to play gave us the best game of our season," said Ridgefield head coach Cece Berger about her players. "I am so proud of my team and can not say enough about the way they want to play [and] compete and how they care and look out for each other."

The game was tight throughout, as neither team could go on a decisive scoring run. Ridgefield led 7-6 at halftime, but Cheshire began the second half with three straight goals to go ahead, 9-7.

The Rams had a 10-8 lead before goals from Ridgefield's Hannah Boylan and Erika Linke tied the game with under 14 minutes to go.

Cheshire went ahead 12-11 with 4:37 remaining, but Curnal got the equalizer off a free position with 1:32 left.

That set up the entertaining final minute, with Acquavita putting Cheshire in front and then Gagnon answering right before time expired to force overtime.

Notes: Briody finished with three goals and three assists for Ridgefield. Curnal and Tobin each added two goals and two assists and Slaminko had four goals (all in the first half).

Boylan (goal, assist), Gagnon (goal, assist) and Linke (goal) also had points for the Tigers.

Held made eight saves (three in the first half, four in the second, and one in overtime) and Linke forced four Cheshire turnovers.