Fairfield Ludlowe's girls lacrosse team withstood multiple rallies by a resilient Ridgefield squad. In the end, the host Falcons displayed enough mettle to prevail 15-14 in an FCIAC game at Taft Field on Tuesday night.
This was an important game in the eyes of the Falcons as they chase a playoff spot. With the win, Ludlowe improved to 5-6-1, ensuring a good enough winning percentage (40) to qualify for state tournament play, although the team is looking for more success in its final three games to avoid a possible play-in round scenario. The Falcons bolstered their state and FCIAC chances and the Tigers dropped to 5-8-0 overall.
Ludlowe got four goals from Bryce McClure, although one of the senior's most notable plays was coming up with a ground ball during a scramble off the draw after Ridgefield had pulled to within a goal on one of Shannon Walsh's six goals with 53 seconds remaining.
"This was a really big win. We knew we needed it for states," said McClure, adding that the team came together and clicked at times, taking advantage of Ridgefield turnovers, to pull through.
Walsh's final goal, which turned out to be the game's last scoring play, came on a free position one possession after Ludlowe goaltender Sarah Chapdelaine smothered a loose ball in the goal mouth to temporarily keep a lock on the two-goal edge. Chapdelaine made 10 saves. Her counterpart, Madeline Burns, stopped six shots.
The Falcons grabbed an 8-4 lead by the late stages of the opening half, only to see the Tigers scratch and claw back to draw even. It was 8-7 Falcons at the half and Ridgefield got the equalizer fewer than three minutes into the second half to deadlock the score.
Ludlowe answered on a goal by McClure, set up by Ali Gorab, just 19 seconds after Ridgefield's game-tying tally. That was the first of four straight Ludlowe goals as the home team regained a four-goal cushion.
Hardly a cushion as the Tigers again mounted a comeback, netting six of the next nine goals, but never getting over the hump.
"I wish we didn't have to make it interesting like that at the end but I'm still really proud of the girls," Ludlowe coach Heather Lewsey said.
The coach was particularly pleased with her team's resiliency.
"We've had that quality and I'm proud of that," said Lewsey, adding that her team's ability to withstand an opponent's wave also gives the Falcons confidence to overcome deficits.
The Falcons ensured there were no late-game deficits thanks to some key answer-back goals. After Ludlowe reeled off those four straight tallies in the second half, and Ridgefield ended the run with a goal of its own, it took the Falcons a dozen seconds to reclaim the four-goal advantage when Miranda Rosenfeld scored on a breakaway for a 13-9 lead with 14:49 to play.
The Tigers got the next goal, but Ludlowe again responded as Gorab made it 14-10 with 10:10 to go. Ridgefield scored the next two, with Walsh scoring twice in a span of 37 seconds to make it 14-12 with 8:07 left. Ludlowe's Emily Demaso scored on a free position for a 15-12 lead with 3:43 to go. Ridgefield's Kim Weinstock scored 22 seconds later to pull the Tigers to within 15-13.
Lewsey was pleased with how the Falcons adjusted to coaching strategies during the game.
"I liked, in pressure situations, us being able to execute the game plan," said Lewsey, mentioning, for example, the ability to pull back and move the ball around to settle things down and chew time off the clock while protecting the lead.
The Falcons got three goals apiece from Rosenfeld and Gorab.