Greenwich holds off Wilton in FCIAC semis
Shannon Colligan knows what Casey Pearsall is all about.
By now, after butting heads with the talented Wilton junior for the three seasons in both soccer and lacrosse, Colligan knows Pearsall will never give anything less than everything she’s got.
So Greenwich’s senior standout was the least surprised when Pearsall shook off a potential game-ending knee injury and single-handedly willed her team back into what was turning into a lopsided affair, turning on the juice and turning a 10-3 Wilton deficit into a one-goal game with one of the most dominant individual stretches of play you’ll ever see on this level.
“She’s an unbelievable athlete and competitor,” said Colligan, who will play soccer on scholarship at NC State next year. “Playing against her has been fun, but she definitely makes it tough.”
With a berth to the FCIAC championship game on the line, Colligan ended up landing the final punch.
Pearsall had the ball in her webbing with nothing between her and goalie Hannah Jeffrey with 3:08 left in the second half, but Colligan ran her down from behind, stripped the ball with a quick stick check and forced a turnover.
That allowed the third-seeded Cardinals to hang on for a thrilling 11-10 victtory over the second-seeded Warriors Monday in the first game of an FCIAC Semifinal double-header at rainy Dunning Field in New Canaan, ending Wilton’s two-year run as FCIAC champions.
Colligan also had two assists while dominating the faceoff circle in the first half to lead Greenwich (16-2), which will face No. 4 Darien in the FCIAC championship Friday at 4 p.m. at Brien McMahon’s Jack Casagrande field.
Greenwich led 10-3 with 20 minutes left, but Wilton scored seven of the next eight goals to make it 11-10 with 9:57 left.
Once Pearsall (four goals, one assist) got a step on the Greenwich defense in the closing minutes, Colligan knew she had to step up. She knew only one star was going to be able to shine in the end.
“At that point she had the same mindset as I would, that if the ball’s in her stick she wants to score,” Colligan said. “I know playing defense against her that that’s her goal. I knew I couldn’t take a second off or she would blow by me. Since I’ve played against her for four years, I kind of know which way she’s looking to go.”
Wilton (14-4) still had a chance to tie the game in the final minute after the Cardinals threw the ball away on its slow-down offense, but Colligan was there to save the day again, knocking the ball out of the stick of Tegan Helms (three goals) with 6.8 seconds left.
“We like drama,” said Greenwich head coach Caitlin Keane, whose team lost to Wilton 18-8 during the regular season. “They drive me crazy sometimes, but they wanted it. Shannon came up with a big back-check at the end to get the ball back in our sticks. It was a little redemption from the last game with them because we knew this should have been a closer game than that one.”
Pearsall appeared to be seriously injured after colliding with Tori Dunster in front of the cage in the defensive zone, a violent fall that had her clutching her knee in pain and forced her from the game with 19:40 left.
Wilton head coach Meredith Adamicki didn’t want to think about losing Pearsall for the rest of the night.
“I didn’t allow that thought to enter my head because she just never gives up,” she said. “Luckily it worked out.”
Instead, the near-injury seems to fire Pearsall up instead and she unleashed her venom on the Cardinals, scoring three of the next six goals while assisting on another.
Pearsall also won five of the next seven faceoffs after her collision.
“That’s the type of player she is,” Adamicki said. “She’s a big-time player who comes to play in big games. She did a great job for us.”
Colligan also won the early battle with Pearsall in the faceoff circle, winning the first six draws of the game to help Greenwich take a 7-1 lead. The Cardinals scored on their first seven shots of the game.
“This is a game of draws,” Colligan said. “Especially against the four teams that are in the semifinals. Once you get possession, the defense knows it’s hard to get the ball back. So it was crucial that we got the ball in our sticks and got that early lead.”
Wilton started turning the momentum in its favor late in the first half, holding the Cardinals without a goal for 12 minutes. The Warriors were getting shots and keeping Greenwich pinned in its defensive zone, but just couldn’t turn the pressure into goals.
Wilton trailed 8-3 at halftime then saw the deficit grow to 10-3 when Greenwich sernior sniper Claire Feeney (four goals, one assist) scored two unanswered goals to open the second half.
Even a torrid comeback over the next 20 minutes couldn’t save the Warriors from a too-early exit.
“We just dug ourselves too big of a hole. Coming back after that is pretty tough,” Adamicki said. “I’m proud of the way we battled back, but you can’t start a game like that and expect to win.”
Caroline Brennan scored four goals for Greenwich while Emma Christie had two goals and Emily Johnson two assists. Sophie Waine also had one assist to go along with her non-stop hustle.
Shannon Quinlan bolstered Wilton’s offensive attack with three goals. Jeffrey made seven saves while Wilton’sVanessa Pagano stopped two shots. Wilton finished with a 29-17 edge in shots.
Greenwich will be going for its first FCIAC title since 2003.
“We’ve never been to the FCIAC finals or won a semifinal game since I’ve been at Greenwich,” Colligan said. “So it’s pretty exciting.”