Wilton girls lax team edges Ridgefield, 10-9

The Wilton High girls lacrosse team used a late 3-0 run to take the lead and then held off Ridgefield for a thrilling 10-9 win on Tuesday at Tiger Hollow.

The Warriors (3-1), who avenged their first-ever loss to Ridgefield (by one goal) last season, were led by Ellie Armstrong with four goals. Rebecca Wistreich had two goals and two assists, with other goals by Margaret Smith, Julia Bonnist, Julia Skillin and Sydney Brant.

The Tigers (1-2) were led by Kaitlyn McMullan with four goals and Caroline Curnal with three goals, with the other goals coming from Lucie Picard and Annie Hage.

Ridgefield head coach Cece Berger said that after a strong start her team let the game slip away.

“We were in the lead a couple of times early on and kind of got away from what was working," said Berger. "So we need to get back to the drawing board and figure out how to not let those get away. You give a team like Wilton the chance, they’re going to take it. They’re a good team. They hung in and they came back hard.”

It was the second straight one-goal loss for Ridgefield (1-2), which fell to Staples last week in overtime, 12-11.

The Tigers grabbed the early momentum, using a 4-0 run to take a 4-1 lead seven minutes into the game after Curnal scored a transition goal.

Wilton answered with goals by Armstrong, who came from behind the cage to score, and Brant, who found space inside the Ridgefield defense and scored off a nice feed by Wistreich, to make it 4-3.

Ridgefield's Caitlin Slaminko came up with the ensuing draw control, ran the ball to the cage and fed a wide-open McMullan for a goal to extend the Tigers' lead to 5-3. Picard then fired in a free-position shot to up the Ridgefield advantage to 6-3 with 6:59 left in the first half.

Wilton closed the first half with a 3-0 run. Armstrong scored off a beautifully executed give-and-go with Eva Greco at 6:04, and Julia Skillin finished off a break with a high shot from seven yards out, on a play set up by Delia Freliech, to cut the gap to 6-5 at the 4:29 mark.

The Warriors finally pulled even with 3:58 left in the half, off a free position, as Wistreich dumped a pass to Armstrong, all alone to the side of the cage for the goal.

Paige Brown had a great first half in goal for Wilton with six saves, including a pair of point-blank stops in the final minute to keep the game tied.

Ridgefield freshman goalie Lexi Held was the story of the second half, as she repeatedly thwarted Wilton on excellent scoring opportunities, making 11 saves — almost all of them on shots from close range.

Held made four tough saves in the first six minutes of the half to keep the game tied, and the Tigers eventually got the ball down to the other end and converted when Hage scored on a eight-yard shot after a nice spin move, putting Ridgefield back on top, 7-6.

Both goalies came up big in the following minutes, and Ridgefield’s Alyssa Bonanno made a timely check to prevent a wide-open shot in front. But Armstrong was able to come out from behind cage again and scored to tie things up with 14:17 left.

Curnal was able to curl around a defender and into the front of the goal to score, putting Ridgefield ahead, 8-7, with 13:30 to go.

With 12 minutes left, Wilton’s Taylor Lamantia made a great move to burst to the goal, only to be stopped by Held, who then made a save on Smith right in front about a minute later.

The Tigers had several possessions to extend their lead to two goals but suffered a rash of turnovers, and with 8:18 left to play Smith scored off a spin move and high shot tie the game at 8-8.

Held came up with three more point-blank saves in the next two minutes to keep the game tied before Wistreich put the Warriors up for good, 9-8, when she came out from behind the net and rolled a low shot into the goal with 6:09 left.

Wilton then slowed the pace and took about four minutes off the clock, before Wistreich scored on a free-position shot with 2:31 left to put the Warriors in front, 10-8.

The Tigers lost the draw control but were able to force a turnover, leading to a shot by Picard that was stopped by Brown. But McMullan scored on a free position with 1:56 left, making it a one-goal game at 10-9.

The Tigers were right back in business when Maeve Tobin came up with the ball off the draw. But a free-position shot by McMullan was blocked in front, and another shot by Picard was stopped by Brown. With under a minute left, Brant’s check denied a Ridgefield shot from right in front of the goal. The Warriors were then able to run off the final 45 seconds for the win.

“We won the draw controls and started making better decisions. Early in the season it’s hard to get them to do that, and I was happy with the maturity they showed today,” said Wilton coach Meredith Meyran.

“We had a lot of turnovers and a lot of missed shots,” said Berger. “The momentum was there for us to go up two [goals] if we didn’t have an untimely turnover. We have a young team so we’re working on that.”

Brown finished with eight saves for Wilton, while Held had 14 saves for the Tigers.

“She kept us in it in the second half. She definitely was the key reason it was only a one-goal game,” said Berger about Held. “I was very impressed with her play today and how she stepped it up.”

Notes: Finishing with one assist each for Wilton were Greco, Smith and Freliech. Slaminko had one assist for the Tigers.