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Featuring athletes from Connecticut and New York, the CONNY Command Girls lacrosse team proved they were the best squad in the region in their age group by going undefeated in the East Super Regional Championship at the Under Armour All-America Lacrosse Games recently.

Now the CONNY Command group is determined to show they are the top team in the nation.

Under the leadership of coach Tara Clough, CONNY — which stands for Connecticut and New York — registered a record of 5-0 in the Command division to win the tourney on Aug. 28 at Maplezone Sports Village in Boothwyn, Pa.

Capturing the Under Armour regional title earned the CONNY Command team, which includes high school players who are graduating in either 2023 or 2024, the right to play at the Under Armour All-America Lacrosse National Championship tournament. The event, which is scheduled to take place Oct. 17-18 in Virginia Beach, Va., also features the winners of the Under Armour South, East and West Regions in the Command division.

“Coaching this team has been an incredible experience,” said Clough, who is the varsity girls lacrosse coach at Greenwich High School. “They are one of the most focused, hard working and dedicated teams I have ever coached.”

The CONNY squad of 23 players who are either high school freshmen or sophomores, features seven athletes from Darien High School, three from Greenwich Academy, two who attend Sacred Heart Greenwich, one Greenwich High School student, three players who go to New Canaan High, two from Wilton and one from Fairfield Ludlowe. The team also includes two Ridgefield residents who attend Taft School and Canterbury School, respectively, and two athletes from New York-based schools — Masters School and Yorktown High.

Ellie Johnson, a Riverside resident and Greenwich Academy sophomore, was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player for the excellence she displayed as a defender.

“It was a surprise to me when I heard my name being called, especially since defense is not a position of glory on the field,” Johnson said. “It was nice to be one of the defenders honored. Defense is a team position and I couldn’t have been successful without them.”

Clough appreciated Johnson’s play throughout the five-game regional tournament.

“Ellie Johnson was an amazing leader and was very vocal, consistent and reliable on transition,” Clough said.

Joining Johnson on the 2020 All-America Girls East Super Regional Command Division All-Tournament Team were teammates Rebecca Arpano (goalie, Greenwich Academy, class of 2023), Chloe Humphrey (attack, Darien, 2023), Colette Quinn (midfield, 2023, Darien and Sadie Stafford (midfield, Darien, 2024).

“Overall, I had an amazing time at the tournament,” said Arpano, who along with Laura O’Connor of Sacred Heart Greenwich, plays in goal for the team. “We have a lot of strong players from Fairfield County and beyond and besides having an amazing time competing with each other, it was a bonus that we won all of our games.”

Corrigan Sports Enterprises held what Clough said, was a “fiercely competitive tryout” for the Under Armour regional tournament teams. The CONNY team, was open to players from Connecticut and Westchester County (N.Y.).

In a year in which the players on the CONNY squad saw their high school seasons get cancelled, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, having the opportunity to compete in the tournament was a blessing.

“It was nice to get out and play again and it was nice to have competition,” Johnson said. “This summer, we had a lot less tournaments, so for someone who loves lacrosse as much as I do, it means a lot.”

Added Clough: “During a time of uncertainty, my hope was the girls would have the opportunity to participate in high-level competition and play the game they love in Pennsylvania. They lost their spring season programming and had a limited club season, with many opportunities taken away from them with COVID restrictions. I wanted them to take away something special from this experience.”

The opening day of the Under Armour East Region Championships saw CONNY play four games, two each against the Philadelphia and New Jersey Command division teams. They posted 11-3 and 9-4 wins over New Jersey and 9-4 and 11-4 victories against Philadelphia.

“We did a lot of scoring and we did a good job of keeping the goals against us really low, which helped a lot,” said Arpano, who made a clutch save toward the end of the title game. “Our defense did really well throughout the tournament.”

In the finals of the East Region Championships, CONNY played its third game against Philadelphia, this time edging its foe, 13-12.

“Going into the final game, we knew it was going to be a closer game,” said Arpano, who shared the goalkeeping duties with O’Connor. “During the second half, they went on a quick, little run, but it was a very exciting game.”

Added Johnson: “It was a very nerve-wracking game. Our team worked really hard and we dug in and wanted it during that game.”

Quinn tallied twice, while Humphrey, Alex Scialdone (Yorktown) and Truus van Wees (Ridgefield, Taft student) also had goals in the first half for CONNY in the title game.

“All I kept hearing was the ref saying, “it’s really hard to beat a team three times,” Clough said. “I will never forget it, because it challenged me and after the first day, motivated me even more to win. From that moment on, we were there to not only execute everything we worked on, but win the championship for these players.”

While Humphrey helped spark the team’s offensive output, Ellie Burdick (Greenwich Academy), Kaci Benoit (Darien), Kaleigh Sommers (Fairfield Ludlowe), Quinn, Ryan Hapgood (Darien), Sophia Neitzell and Stafford paced the squad’s midfield play.

“It was one of the most exciting and inspiring tournaments I have ever coached in,” said Clough, who was assisted by coaches Michelle Mason and Ashley Humphrey. “The final game was a battle, but the players stepped up and came up with a few key possessions and conversions to finish on top.”

Numerous CONNY players have competed with each other on club teams such as the Connecticut Grizzlies, which has aided the team’s chemistry.

“It helps the attack work really well and on defense, you have to communicate a lot, so knowing what each other’s strengths and weaknesses are is important,” said Arpano, who also plays for the Connecticut Grizzlies and learned her goalie skills as a youngster competing for Greenwich Youth Lacrosse.

Johnson takes great pride in being a defender.

“One of the main things I like about defense is that it’s not a position of glory, but if you focus on the details, how you play on defense can be the deciding factor of games,” Johnson said. “Communication is key on defense, which is an integral part of the game.”

The championship team includes: Arpano, Kaci Benoit (Darien), Burdick, Paige Flanagan (Darien), Sabine Godwin (Croton on Hudson, N.Y., Masters), Hapgood, Humphrey, Johnson, Morgan Massey (Darien), Neitzell, Kathryn Norton (New Canaan), O’Connor, Ella Patterson (New Canaan), Emerson Pattillo (Wilton), Quinn, Devon Russell (New Canaan), Scialdone, Molly Snow (Wilton), Sommers, Stafford, Maggie Sullivan (Sacred Heart Greenwich), Caroline Trinkaus (Ridgefield, Canterbury), Truus van Wees (Ridgefield, Taft School)

dfierro@greenwichtime.com