NEW CANAAN -- The Wilton girls lacrosse team needed nothing more than a simple truth to beat New Canaan Wednesday and return to its first FCIAC title in three years.
When you don't have the ball, it's tough to score.
Through more than 20 minutes of second-half possession, the Warriors shut out the Rams after halftime in their 11-5 FCIAC semifinal win at Dunning Field. Makenna Pearsall collected a game-high four goals for Wilton, which improved to 15-3 prior to its championship tilt with Darien Friday. New Canaan (12-6) saw its a six-game win streak snapped and now must await its first-round state tournament opponent next week.
"They did a great job possessing and they did a great job finishing their shots," Rams coach Kristin Woods said. "Our defense, I thought, played well for what we could do. But when you turn the ball over that many times, you can't win a game."
Backed by a two-goal lead at intermission, the Warriors took full control thanks to three consecutive draw wins that led to a trio of goals midway through the second half.
Working from free position, Pearsall secured a hat trick at 15:03 remaining, immediately drawing a New Canaan timeout. Next, senior Wilton attack Shannon Quinlan took a feed from Cecily Freilich, dodged laterally and fired on-target to extend the Warriors' lead to 9-5. Quinlan then struck again to double up the Rams less than one minute later.
Following three additional minutes of Wilton offensive play, New Canaan goalie Bailey Pilder secured one of her nine saves to end a six-minute possession drought for the Rams.
"That's something we try to do," Wilton coach Meredith Meyran said of her team's offensive patience. "We practice a lot with the clock so that we don't just take the first option, we're patient and we're smart. We know that if we force it, we'll get into trouble."
Back on attack, New Canaan struggled to produce a quality look and trim its new five-goal deficit. Senior netminder Hannah Wiltshire snagged her ninth save with 8:05 to go, denying the final Ram threat of the night.
"I think the last 10 minutes they were forcing it," Woods said. "Even when we got the draw, we made bad decisions. And Wilton played well. You have to give it to them. They really are a great team this year, and they deserved to win that one."
Early on, New Canaan raced out to multiple two-goal leads on the back of junior captain Elizabeth Miller, who finished with three goals. Before five minutes had elapsed, Miller pushed the Rams ahead 3-1 on a free position score. The veteran attack then pushed through a myriad of traffic in front with just over six minutes remaining to hand New Canaan a 5-3 edge.
Wilton went on to produce four goals from four different players prior to halftime and pin the Rams from there on out. Meymar believed the Warriors' estimated 38 minutes of total possession time was the most they had ever accrued in a single game during her three years as coach.
WILTON 11, NEW CANAAN 5
NEW CANAAN 5 0 --5
WILTON 7 4 --11
Records: New Canaan 12-6, Wilton 15-3. Scoring: NC-- Elizabeth Miller 3 goals, Sami Stewart 1g, Isabel Taben 1g, Kathleen DeMarino 1 assist, Catherine Granito 1a; W-- Makenna Pearsall 4g, Shannon Quinlan 2g, Annie Cornbrooks 2g, Laine Parsons 1g, 1a, Sara Dickinson 1g, Charlotte Noels 1g, Cecily Freilich 1a; Goalies: NC-- Bailey Pilder (9 saves) W--Hannah Wiltshire (9).
Highlights: NC--Elizabeth Miller notched a hat track in the game's opening 20 minutes. W--The Warriors held New Canaan scoreless over the final 31 minutes of play. Makenaa Pearsall tallied a game-high four goals.