Every Greenwich High School girls lacrosse game in the state tournament seems to be an adventure, a roller coaster ride filled with ups and downs, twists and turns.
Capturing the state title wasn't easy last year, and defending it this season turned out to be just as challenging.
But when this 50-minute nailbiter was over, the Cardinals had once again soared to the top of Class L and Bunnell High School in Stratford was once again their stage to celebrate.
Third-seeded Greenwich was held to just two second-half goals, but one off the stick of North Carolina-bound sophomore Carolyn Paletta with 7:18 remaining turned out to be the difference as the Cardinals went on to defeat top-seeded Cheshire 9-8 Saturday morning.
Paletta and senior All-American Claire Feeney, who assisted on thegame-winner, each had a hat trick for Greenwich, which survived an 11-10 semifinal contest against second-seeded Newtown Wednesday before going on to collect its third state crown on Saturday,
"We kind of like to give the rest of the state a heart attack," Feeney said jokingly. "These games have so many momentum swings, but it just seems our team has a way of coming together in the final 10 minutes. We wanted this since day one, so this feels unbelievable to go out with a bang."
The most valuable player was Greenwich senior goalie Hannah Jeffrey, and deservedly so. Jeffrey made 10 saves, including a stop on Lauren Anderson with 12 seconds left before holding the ball and running out the clock just outside the crease.
"I was a little nervous because time was winding down and they were coming in but my defense did an awesome job of forcing an outside shot to make it easier for me," Jeffrey said. "There are 12 seniors on this team, so we wanted this really bad. To win two straight state title feels great."
This result was nothing like Greenwich's 17-6 rout in Cheshire on April 14.
The Cardinals (20-3) actually appeared to be ready to break it open again when they scored four consecutive goals to take a 7-3 lead late in the first half.
But this time the Rams (20-3) wouldn't go away.
In a span of 8:10, senior Maria Blois netted a hat trick as Cheshire pulled to within 8-7 at the 14-minute mark. The Rams finally got even on a goal from Nicole Stauffer to Alison Hoynes with 10:08 remaining.
After a much-needed timeout, Greenwich would get the go-ahead goal when Feeney found a streaking Paletta cutting to the net.
Both coaches were emotional during their post-game interviews, and both had every reason to be proud of their team.
"As far as I'm concerned we're walking away as winners no matter what the scoreboard says," Rams coach Dan Warburton said. "We improved as a team since the last time we played and the girls executed the gameplan beautifully today. We had a good shot, but their goalie stepped up. It was an exciting game, a worthy state final."
Junior Sophie Waine added two goals for Greenwich, while senior Tori Dunster also scored in the win. Dunster, Emma Christie and Shannon Colligan each had an assist.
Holding back tears in the midst of the postgame celebration, Caitlin Keane tried her best to soak in one of the special moments of her Cardinals' coaching career.
"It's an awesome feeling but bittersweet at the same time," Keane said. "You kind of raise these girls in the program, and then to lose them to graduation isn't easy. This is a a special group, the girls next year really have some big shoes to fill."