STRATFORD -- For most of the week leading up to the Class M state championship game the Wilton girls lacrosse team talked about grit and the type of toughness it would take to get past FCIAC rival New Canaan -- a team which has dominated the Warriors during recent playoff history.
Looks like senior goalie Hannah Wiltshire got the message, loud and clear.
Wiltshire made 18 saves, including four 1-on-1 stops over the final three minutes of regulation, allowing the third-seeded Warriors to pull away for a thrilling 8-6 overtime victory over No. 5 New Canaan to capture the program's first Class M title Saturday morning at Bunnell High School.
After letting an early 3-1 lead slip away, New Canaan (15-6) tied it 5-5 with 3:31 left in the second half on sophomore Catherine Granito's second goal of the game. The Rams appeared as if they would notch the go-ahead score with continuous possession time for the remainder of regulation, but Wiltshire denied every New Canaan opportunity, making two brilliant kick saves on free-position shots and a stop on Elizabeth Miller with 25 seconds left.
"I gave up the lead with about five minutes left and after that I knew I had to come up with some defensive stops just so we could get the ball back on offense," said Wiltshire, who stopped nine shots in the second half and three more in overtime. "My defense did an awesome job forcing bad shots from the outside. It really could have gone either way today."
Wiltshire's heroics late in regulation allowed the Warriors to take control during overtime. Annie Cornbrooks made it 6-5 with 1:48 left in the first of two three-minute overtimes and senior Shannon Quinlan completed her hat trick with two straight goals to make it 8-5.
It wouldn't have happened without Wiltshire.
"We've talked a lot about grit lately, and this was just a gritty performance from end-to-end," Wilton head coach Meredith Adamicki said. "Hannah just maintained her composure. We've seen New Canaan so many times, I think she just gained confidence as the game went on."
New Canaan out-shot Wilton 26-14, but just couldn't find the net when it needed one late.
"Hannah played great," New Canaan head coach Kristin Woods said. "They don't give out MVPs in the states, but she's definitely MVP in my book."
The championship was especially sweet for Wilton, which lost to New Canaan in the state playoffs in each of the last three seasons. That included two straight losses against the Rams in the Class M finals.
Wilton has now won three state titles. It's last one came in 2006 under the old Division I and Division II format.
"This is awesome, especially for the seniors because this was our last time to go at (New Canaan)," Wiltshire said. "After three losses in a row, we really had to come back and show we were the best team in the state."
New Canaan, which reached its third straight Class M championship despite losing all but one starter from last year's team, had control of the game early. The Rams led 3-1 with 3:43 left in the first half, and despite getting beaten consistently on draw controls, held Wilton junior Makenna Pearsall in check and forced the Warriors into a ton of mistakes. Read Full Article
Pearsall, a 35-goal scorer who has committed to Notre Dame, had just one shot and one goal in the first half and two tallies in the game. Wilton turned the ball over 15 times.
But things were not destined to go New Canaan's way. The Rams had two goals called back on charging fouls and also hit two posts in the first half, including a shot by Granito that appeared to go in under the left post and crossbar.
Most importantly, New Canaan was hit with four yellow cards, leading to three man-power goals by Wilton. Wilton had one goal called back on a charge and was given one yellow card.
"The yellow cards killed us. We had our opportunities. We were coming back, but those cards stopped our momentum," Woods said. "But I'm really proud of the way this team came together after bringing back no starters from last year. It was a great season."
Wilton 8, New Canaan 6
New Canaan 3 2 0 1 - 6
Wilton 2 3 2 1 - 8
Goals: NC-Catherine Granito 2, Katherine DeMarino, Elizabeth Miller, Samantha Stewart, Isabel Taben; W-Shannon Quinlan 3, Makenna Pearsall 2, Charlotte Noels, Annie Cornbrooks, Sara Dickinson.
Assists: NC-DeMarino, Taben; W-Cornbrooks.
Saves: NC-Bailey Pilder 2; W-Hannah Wiltshire 18.
Shots: NC-26, W-14.
Faceoff wins: NC-7, W-11.
Turnovers: NC-9, W-15.