TRUMBULL, June 6 – Playing shorthanded was nothing new to the Canton High girls lacrosse team in this year’s CIAC Class S tournament.
In the quarterfinals against North Branford, No. 3 seeded Canton had to play the entire second half without their leading scorer All-State forward Grace Giancola, who received her second yellow cards late in the first half. But despite playing one player short, the Warriors preserved in a three-goal victory over the Thunderbirds.
Freshmen Abby Charron, Ashley Huff and Julianne Iovine combined to score nine goals as Canton beat No. 6 North Branford in an exciting 16-13 victory. Sophomore goalie Courtney LeFave made 15 saves in net.
In the semifinals on Tuesday against No. 10 New Fairfield, the defending state champion Warriors faced yet another challenging situation. This time, there were five senior players missing from the Canton lineup.
“It’s unfortunate but we had five of our senior lacrosse players suspended,” Canton High coach Sean Cole said. He had no further information on the situation.
Canton High athletic director Craig DeAngelis referred all questions about the suspension of the players to Canton Superintendent Kevin Case, who did not respond to several calls.
Yet, there was Canton with opportunities against the Rebels. The Warriors raced out to an early two-goal lead. Charron had a goal with 55 seconds left in the first half to tie the game at halftime. Charron’s goal with 18:54 remaining in the game gave Canton a one-goal lead.
But over the next eight minutes, New Fairfield outscored Canton, 7-1 to take control of the game that the Rebels went onto win, 16-13 and move into Saturday’s Class S championship game against No. 5 Weston. It’s New Fairfield’s first trip to the final since winning the Division II title in 2005.
Canton (17-3) started eight freshmen, three sophomores and a junior on early Tuesday evening. Charron, the freshman who was the starting point guard on Canton’s state championship girls basketball team, had career-high seven goals and two assists. Iovine and Huff had two goals each while freshman Fiona McNally and sophomore Zoe Bates had one goal each.
“Every kids that played in that game gave everything they had to give,” Cole said. “They played their (tails) off and gave a nice (Canton) following a pretty exciting game (to watch).”
Cole is not one to make excuses. But even he had to admit that the Warriors got tired in the later stages of the second half. The Warriors had a dominant season running the table in winning their second straight NCCC championship and going 14-2 in the regular season.
There was plenty of playing time for everyone but it’s a big change to go from being a substitute playing a few minutes a game to playing a majority of the game as a starter – especially in the state semifinals.
Canton got off to a good start, scoring three of the first four goals of the game (Charron, Iovine, Huff) to take a 3-1 lead. Charron’s second goal of the game with 10:02 left in the first half gave Canton a 4-2 lead.
The Rebels got goals from Katelyn Sousa, Daria Bock and Katelyn Nieves to take a 5-4 lead with 4:02 left in the half before Charron scored with 55 seconds left in the first half to leave the game tied at 5-5 at halftime.
To start the second half, Canton got early goals from McNally and Charron to take a 7-5 lead. The Rebels tied the game with two goals but Bates scored with 19:48 remaining in the game for an 8-7 lead. After another Rebel goal to tie the game, Charron scored off an assist from Maeve Balavander for a 9-8 advantage with 18:54 left in the game.
“Abby Charron dictated the flow offensively and defensively (for Canton),” Cole said. “She took 98 percent of the (center) draws. She did great.”
But New Fairfield made a move that Canton couldn’t counter. The Rebels inserted Alexa Meres to take faceoffs against Charron and it helped New Fairfield score four straight goals to take control of the contest.
“That was the big turning point,” New Fairfield head coach Karen Neil told the Danbury News Times.
In a span of a little over eight minutes, the Rebels scored seven goals – two each from Dominique DeMarsico, Keri Ford and Katelyn Sousa to a take a 15-10 lead with 7:09 remaining.
Canton got two more goals from Charron and a goal from Iovine in the final five minutes to close the gap but it wasn’t enough.
“They all played great,” Cole said. “Juliana (Iovine), Ashley (Huff) and Abby (Charron) had outstanding games. Madi Bahre and Katahdin Whitney played exceptional defensive games.”
LeFave made 15 saves in goal for the second straight game for Canton, including several outstanding stops in the first half.
In the quarterfinal win over North Branford, Huff had a career-high four goals while Iovine and Bates had three each. For Bates, it was a career-high in goals, too.
Canton won their opening round game in the Class S tournament at home with an 18-6 win over Immaculate-Danbury. Giancola scored seven goals while Charron had four and Huff scored three. LeFave had 14 stops in net to earn the victory.
New Fairfield 16, Canton 13
New Fairfield (15-6) 5 11 – 16
Canton (17-3) 5 8 — 13
Goals: Abby Charron (C) 7, Julianna Iovine (C) 2, Ashley Huff (C) 2, Zoe Bates (C), Fiona McNally (C), Dominique DeMarsico (NF) 3, Katelyn Nieves (NF) 3, Katelyn Sousa (NF) 3, Daria Bock (NF) 3, Keri Ford (NF) 2, Alexa Meres (NF), Shannon Broderick (NF); Assists: Charron (C) 2, Iovine (C), Bates (C), Maeve Balavender (C); DeMarsico (NF) 2, Nieves (NF) 2, Sousa (NF), Bock (NF), Ford (NF), Meres (NF) 2, Broderick (NF); Saves: Courtney LeFave (C) 15; Rachel Mikolay (NF) 12
Canton 16, North Branford 13
North Branford (14-4) 6 7 – 13
Canton (16-2) 8 8 — 16
Goals: NB: Sydney Hogan (5), Tara Lauro (3), Emilie Wilkinson (2), Jessie Kilburn (2), Emmy Norton; Canton: Ashley Huff (4), Julianna Iovine (3), Zoe Bates (3), Abby Charron (2), Grace Giancola (2), Anna Holland, Jess Rogowski; Saves: Elissa Nuzzo (NB), 6; Courtney LeFave (C), 15
Canton 18, Immaculate 6
Goals: Immaculate: Caroline Wax (2), Adrianna Chamberlain, Fiona Henderson, Madison Halas, Bonnie Voswinkel; Canton: Grace Giancola (7), Abby Charron (4), Ashley Huff (3), Julianna Iovine, Zoe Bates, Anna Holland, Laura DiMartino; Saves: Isabella Cipollone (Imm), 7; Courtney LeFave (C), 14