WINDSOR—The Stratford High girls lacrosse team had a big opportunity to make a statement on Friday in a Class M preliminary state tournament game at Windsor.
Instead, a slow start snowballed, and the Red Devils couldn’t overcome the adversity of losing two key starters and fell by a 19-12 score at O’Brien Field.
“You know, I think we were a little bit off our game,” said Stratford coach Sarah Stevens, whose 18th-seeded team finished 7-11 overall this season. “I think we came in a little too slow. It had been a while since we played a game and our minds just weren’t ready to play.”
The Red Devils couldn’t win a draw in the early going, losing six in a row after winning the opener and taking a 1-0 lead on Edie Threshie’s goal.
The host Warriors, however, rattled off five straight goals to take a 5-1 lead while setting the tone for the game.
“We weren’t clicking in the first half,” Stevens said. “We started to pick it up in the second half and we played in spurts, but you have to play the whole game.”
Trailing 9-3 entering the final five minutes of the first half, the Red Devils made sure it took some momentum into halftime as Elle Moshier and Amanda Ogrodowicz scored just 26 seconds apart to make it 9-5.
Stratford goalie Helen Lefever then came up with a huge-point blank save on Windsor’s Olympa Desarmes with 3:34 left, adding to that advantage.
While Stratford didn’t score again in the first half, the Red Devils opened the second half with three scoring chances, including a free-position shot that sailed high, but were unable to tally again.
A goal by Windsor’s Shelby Finlay started a 7-1 run by the Warriors that blew the game open and gave the hosts a 10-goal (16-6) lead.
“They play a strong defense and it was a bit of a defense we hadn’t seen before,” Stevens said. “We planned for a different game and we just didn’t adjust fast enough.”
The Red Devils refused to give up, though.
Stratford scored six of its goals in the final 13:51 of the game, but it was from enough as Windsor was simply unstoppable on this day.
Every time the Red Devils would string together a couple of goals, the Warriors found an answer.
“We were lucky to build that lead up, we knew that,” Windsor coach Lindsey Jardine said. “They got it to four (in the first half) and we knew it wasn’t a big lead. That’s not a safe lead at all, but we played well.”
Kaitlyn Kijak led Windsor’s efforts with nine goals—four in the first half and five in the second half.
“(Kijak) was on fire today,” Jardine said. “She never scores that many.”
Six of Kijak’s goals came when Stratford’s under-manned defense surrendered free-position shots to the senior midfielder.
All told in the game, Stratford gave up 11 free-position goals.
“It was just simple fouls,” Steven said. “We needed to be more calm with our sticks, keep our elbows tighter, make sure we’re not extending. We just needed to play smarter and use our feet. Our feet weren’t moving enough. We were too flat.”
The Red Devils were playing without senior defender Amelia Overby and sophomore attacker Kassidy Murtha, both of who are vital to the team’s game plan on each end of the field.
Both are All-SWC honorable mentions. Murtha missed the game due to her sister’s college graduation while Overby’s absence was a coaching staff decision.
“They are very strong, solid players for us and huge, drastic parts of our game plan,” Stevens said. “We have girls who filled those spots, but the difference was just experience in a varsity game.”
Threshie led Stratford with four goals while Moshier had three. Ogrodowicz added two more while Julia Mahoney had a goal and an assist. Kelly Goddard and Diana Derosa added single tallies for Stratford.
Lefever made 10 saves in the game—eight in the second half.
Emily Kijak added five goals for Windsor, who advances to take on second-seeded Tolland next week.
Morgan Finlay added a trio of goals while Brianna McCarthy and Shelby Finlay added a goal each.
The Windsor goalie only stopped five shots.
Despite the disappointing playoff loss, Stevens said she is pleased with how far the team—which made its second straight state tournament appearance—has come in her four years.
“We lost some major players from last year and we did a great job stepping up in those roles,” she said. “We have 14 sophomores on our team and with the progression we made this year, I have high expectations for them. Hopefully this (loss) will reside in them.”
The Stratford bids goodbye to seniors Mahoney, Overby, Faye Rooney and Rassatou Karim.
Editor’s Note: Due to internal server problems at Flickr, the posting of this game’s photo album is delayed.