By Hayley Tafuro
STRATFORD—Four teams came to play in the two top classes on championship Saturday at Bunnell High School, hoping to earn the title of state champion. In the end, it was Wilton and Darien that both came out on top as the CIAC Class M and Class L champions, respectively, one in a nailbiter and the other in a high-scoring affair.
The day opened with a thriller between FCIAC rivals Wilton and New Canaan in their third straight meeting in the CIAC Class M championship. This time, they played extended minutes after ending regulation with a tie score, and Wilton ended it with an 8-6 win.
The Rams took home the win in the previous two finals, however the Warriors took those experiences and made it click to get the win this time around.
“Honestly I feel like it was a lot of will power and it was a lot of heart,” Wilton coach Meredith Meyran said. “We’ve been here before, we were able to draw off that experience, and we just weren’t going to go home in second place today.”
It was a physical battle on the field that remained close, never seeing a lead of more than two goals in regulation. Despite the Warriors controlling most of the possession time, the Rams were the ones to score the first goal of the game with a shot from captain Elizabeth Mills six minutes in. Wilton would not be down for long, and a goal from Charlotte Noels ensured that after she capitalized on a play following a yellow card call on the Rams.
From there, the two teams traded goals. New Canaan looked comfortable after goals from Catherine Granito and Katie DeMarino, and a favorable call that waved off Wilton senior Shannon Quinlan’s goal on the other end. However, junior Makenna Pearsall ended the half with a Wilton goal, cutting the lead to one.
Out of halftime, the Warriors came out completely energized, led by an inspired effort from Quinlan. She opened the half with a game-tying goal.
“I was frustrated,” Quinlan said, referring to the previous play in the first half that turned into a New Canaan possession. “But my teammates were there to pump me up afterward.”
Goals came from New Canaan’s Samantha Stewart as well as Granito, her second of the game, but Pearsall was there to keep the score even with her second goal of the game. It wasn’t until another yellow card call on New Canaan that Wilton’s Sara Dickinson ran down the field to score, putting the Warriors ahead, 5-4.
Up by one, Wilton took their time on the offense, however a play by Granito and a converted shot on goal with under a minute remaining forced overtime, an appropriate ending for the rivals.
Wilton kicked it into gear, starting with a goal by senior captain Annie Cornbrooks, and then icing the game with two goals by Quinlan putting the Warriors ahead, 8-5. A goal in the last minute by Rams senior captain Isabel Taben cut the lead to two, but the Warriors held on thanks to key saves by senior goalie Hannah Wiltshire and stormed the field at the end of the second overtime period.
Wiltshire finished the game with 22 saves.
“She was amazing,” Meyran said. “She played fantastic, she kept us in this game and I’m so proud of her.”
The Rams stayed in the game all the way down to the wire until Wilton’s power surge, but coach Kristen Woods could not have been more proud of her team.
“It’s definitely, in my eight years of coaching, been the most improved team,” Woods said. “Coming in we were really young. It was work, and that’s the best part, working towards toward the end and playing your best game in the championship game.”
Eagerly waiting to start after the Class M championship ceremony was the Class L championship matchup between the Darien Blue Wave and the undefeated Glastonbury Tomahawks. Darien came away with a 13-9 win, led by four goals apiece from senior co-captains Dillon Schoen and Hollis Perticone.
Darien’s Emily Stein recorded the first goal of the game off of an assist from Perticone, and from there it maintained the lead the rest of the way, never letting Glastonbury get ahead.
The Tomahawks tied it up three times in the first half after trading goals with the Blue Wave, but Perticone’s third goal as well as a goal from Mariah Matheis extended the lead to 6-3. Darien went into halftime with a 7-4 lead after an energetic defensive performance.
In the second half, the Blue Wave never let the Tomahawks get back in it. A save by Kyra Gardner and goal by Katie Cronin shortly after the clock started put Darien in control with a comfortable 8-4 lead.
“That was huge,” Darien coach Lisa Lindley said. “I think we got burned in the second half defensively, I think we were tired. But fortunately we had enough of the lead.”
On the offensive end, Darien took its time to set up shop, leading to another goal, this time from Kaeleigh Morrill. Then it was Glastonbury’s turn to make a run, sparked by two goals from Madeline Norman, which cut the Blue Wave lead to three goals.
However, Schoen came back with a run of her own, scoring Darien’s next two goals.
“I think I was in the right place at the right time,” Schoen said. “It was about finishing my shot and making sure I shot around the goalie.”
Perticone and Morill scored the last two goals for the Blue Wave, and Glastonbury made a two-goal run with minutes remaining on the clock. Darien’s 13 goals proved too much for the Tomahawks, ensuring the victory.
“It’s awesome,” Schoen said. “We’ve accomplished so much this season and we knew that to finish off this way would be the best way to finish this season.”
Schoen and the three other senior captains — Perticone, Stein and Ellie Bennett — have left their mark on the program after starting all four years of their careers.
“I’ve always had amazing belief in them,” said Lindley. “All of them have been a significant part of our program for four years, and every one of them played well today.”