NEW CANAAN -- Even though her New Canaan High girls lacrosse team easily defeated Warde earlier this season, Rams coach Kristin Woods could easily explain how Friday's FCIAC quarterfinal between the squads turned into a much more competitive contest.
"That (a 16-5 NC win on April 17) was early in the season and I knew they got better and better," Woods said after the Rams advanced to the semifinals with a 13-6 victory at Dunning Field. "I knew they would come out harder tonight. The girls knew it too. They see the scores."
Warde won nine of 10 games before dropping relatively close decisions to the top two seeds, Darien and Wilton, in the last eight days. This was a close game until New Canaan (12-5) scored four times in the span of 1:55 late in the first half. And Warde (11-5-1) was still within six with 12 minutes remaining.
So, Woods was right. She had, however, no explanation for another subject.
Unless the third-seeded Rams defeat No. 2 Wilton in Wednesday's semifinal (5 p.m. at Dunning field), and then knock off either top-seed and defending champ Darien or No. 4 Greenwich in Friday's 4 p.m. final at Brien McMahon, one of the more perplexing streaks in FCIAC sports will continue. New Canaan, a perennial state power, last won the FCIAC title 21 years ago. Since then they have been runner-up nine times, including last year.
"I don't know," Wood said about the frustrating run of near-misses. "We've had a lot of great teams in those 20 years. It's just that a lot of times it didn't go our way. You never know what's going to happen in high school sports."
That thought was probably on Woods' mind in the first half Friday. Warde was trailing just 2-1 and putting pressure on NC goalie Bailey Pilder for an extended stretch of time. But the Mustangs couldn't get the equalizer.
"We hit the post three times," Fairfield coach Tom Davis said of his team's first-half attack. "And then we had a bunch of turnovers. But you can't take anything away from them. New Canaan is a very good team."
Sammy Stewart led the Rams with four goals. Kathleen DeMarino scored three times with Elizabeth Miller, Catherine Granito and Maddie Gertsen each scoring twice.
The win was the Rams' fifth in a row, and oh how they would love to stretch that to seven.
"It's on their minds," Woods said of the 20-year streak. "Winning the FCIAC this year is big for us, bigger than winning the states."
Ending the drought won't be easy. New Canaan lost 9-8 to Wilton earlier this season and 14-6 to arch rival Darien.
New Canaan outshot Warde 20-10. Pilder stopped four of the 10 shots she faced while Warde goalie Rebekah Snitkoff finished with seven saves.
New Canaan 13, Warde 6
WARDE 2 4--6
NEW CANAAN 6 7--13
Records: Warde 11-5-1; New Canaan 12-5.
Goals: FW--Meredith Nerreau 2, Amanda Orvis 2, Caroline Lambert, Sarah Reilly; NC--Sammy Stewart 4, Kathleen DeMarino 3, Elizabeth Miller 2, Catherine Granito 2, Maddie Gertsen 2. Assists: FW--none. NC--Emily Detour, Granito. Goalie saves: FW--Rebekah Snitkoff 7; NC--Bailey Pilder 4.