girls lacrosse Sacred Heart upends GFA for third straight FAA title
The FAA Girls Lacrosse Tournament final has become an annual day of celebration for Sacred Heart Greenwich, which once again, had their way in the FAA.
Scoring early and often during Friday’s FAA Tournament championship game, top-seeded Sacred Heart left no doubt it was going to add another league trophy it the school’s display case.
Senior midfielder Ryan Smith scored a game-high four goals, including the 200th of her esteemed career for the Tigers, who toppled second-seeded Greens Farms Academy, 13-1, in the title game. The triumph gave the Tigers a sweet three-peat, as they also claimed the championship in 2017 and 2018.
One of the best teams in the nation, Sacred Heart Greenwich stormed to a 12-1 halftime lead, behind four goals from Smith and two apiece from junior attack Katie Keller, freshman midfielder Franny O’Brien and junior midfielder Ameila Sheehan.
Smith’s 200th career goal came with 17:05 left in the first half, giving the home team a commanding 10-0 advantage.
“I remember my first goal here very vividly and I could only have reached it with this team not any other team,” said Smith, who will take her lacrosse skills to Boston College. “They are always supporting me and I could have never done it without them.”
The Tigers, who clinched the FAA regular-season title with an 18-7 win against Greens Farms two weeks ago, also beat the Dragons in the 2018 FAA finals.
“This team is amazing, I am just so happy and lucky to be a part of it,” said SHG senior defender/tri-captain Athena Corroon, who helped spearhead the squad’s defensive effort. “I wouldn’t want to do it with any other team. We really work together and mesh well and our team chemistry on and off the field is great.”
The resounding win upped Sacred Heart’s record to 17-1, heading into its regular-season finale — a road game against Loomis Chaffee School on Saturday.
“This team has been working hard all season, so to have another win today is just awesome,” said Tigers senior defender/tri-captain Hilary Hoover, also a fixture on defense. “Our success on the field comes from off the field. Because we are so close off the field, that carries over onto the field and on defense, we know we can trust each other and we were able to do the more risky moves.”
Greens Farms Academy’s goal came from junior attack Meg Nesi — a tally that occurred with 12:57 remaining in the second half.
“They are one of the best teams in the country, with some of the top players in the country,” GFA coach Ciara Thurlow said. “Mentally and physically, it’s challenging to be prepared for them and very intimidating. Our team knew it was going to be an uphill battle, sort of a ‘miracle-on-ice’ matchup.”
The goals came quickly in the opening half for Sacred Heart. Smith began the scoring 17 seconds into the game, tallying in transition. Sheehan put a free-position shot past GFA senior goalie Kelly Van Hoesen (10 saves) and junior Lillian DeConcini scored off a dodge from behind the net, making it 3-0 at the 21:43 mark.
Nine seconds later, Smith scored off the ensuing draw and Sheehan converted another 8-meter shot, putting the home team ahead, 5-0. Keller tallied off a feed from Sheehan at the 19:22 mark, then Keller scored 15 seconds later off the ensuing draw, putting the Dragons in a 7-0 hole.
A goal from sophomore Mia Cesare and two from Smith, the second of which was her 200th career tally, brought the Tigers’ advantage up to 10-0.
“Speed is our strength and we looked to set the pace off the first whistle,” Tigers coach Tara Clough said. “We had a lot of success on draw possessions and pushed it early. Their goalie is one of the best athletes in the league and can be a game-changer.”
In the second half, SHG was content to spread the field and patiently move the ball around the perimeter, as the Dragons worked to create turnovers and gain possession. Rachel Keefe and Laura O’Connor combined for three saves in the winning effort.
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Ryan Smith helped set the tone with her four first-half goals and outstanding midfield play.
“Ryan Smith is one of the best high school players I have ever coached,” Clough said. “She is a true team player. I expect Ryan to follow suit with a lot of success at Boston College. The 200-career goal mark is an incredible accomplishment.”
“Getting three championships in a row is awesome, especially doing it for our seniors,” said Sacred Heart junior midfielder Morgan Smith, who will be relied upon for leadership next season. “We want to carry on the tradition of our program, for sure, next season. Today, we really started out strong, which was key.”
VAN HOESEN CAPS CAREER
The game marked the final matchup for GFA’s Van Hoesen, a Greenwich resident. She will play lacrosse at the University of Pennsylvania next season.
“This was definitely our best season yet,” Van Hoesen said. “Aside from Sacred Heart, we went 7-1 in the FAA and we have never done that before. I am so proud of this team. It was a group effort.”
SEASON OF DOMINANCE
Most of the Tigers’ victories were of the double-digit variety, including Friday’s triumph.
“Looking at the growth of the program and each one of us as individuals — that’s something that I want to leave as a legacy that I can look back and be proud of. The coaches here and the athletic programs here offer so much support, there’s no way you can fail.”