Centaurs season comes to close
The most successful season in the history of the girls lacrosse program at Woodstock Academy came to a close on Tuesday.
The fourth-seeded Centaurs battled against No. 13 St. Joseph, but lost to the Fairfield County Interscholastic Athletic Conference program, 17-11, in a Class M state tournament first-round match.
Woodstock Academy fell behind early in the match played at the Bentley Athletic Complex.
St. Joe's scored four goals in the first five minutes of the game.
“Some of the girls just weren’t ready for the pace of the play,” Woodstock Academy coach Kathleen Johnson said. “We talked about it, but to see if first hand was a little different.”
The Woodstock Academy coach said the difference between an FCIAC team and an Eastern Connecticut Conference school is pretty pronounced.
“It’s drastic,” Kathleen Johnson said. “I’m well aware of how good they were and the talent they had and the conference they play in. They play Darien, they’re like a college team.”
Kathleen Johnson tried to get her team ready for better opponents earlier in the season when she took them to watch a Boston College women’s lacrosse match.
But watching and playing against are two different things entirely.
It took a while for Woodstock Academy to adjust to St. Joseph’s style and talent.
The Cadets (10-7) extended the lead to 6-1.
It was then that Kathleen Johnson made an adjustment of her own.
“We struggled with the draw at first, not with just their speed, but also their height. They towered over us,” Kathleen Johnson said.
She experimented with different personnel and finally put Eliza Dutson in the draw circle.
“She’s super-fast and can jump. She was able to tire (the St. Joseph’s) player out. We went with A(rielle) J(ohnson), Emma C(iquera) and Eliza in the circle and we were winning,” Kathleen Johnson. “It was a huge adjustment and turning point.”
Ciquera, a senior, responded with one of her own goals early and then added three more to make it a 9-4 game with 10:34 left in the first half.
The problem for the Centaurs was that they could not get over the hump.
The Centaurs could score on their opponents.
Woodstock Academy could not stop the Cadets from scoring on them as well.
Senior Arielle Johnson got into the scoring column with a pair of tallies before the half, but the Centaurs trailed at the break, 11-6.
The two teams continued to exchange goals in the second half, but the closest Woodstock Academy could get was a four-goal deficit.
“We were pushing, had some bad turnovers and could never get closer than four goals. (Goalie) Kileigh (Gagnon) played phenomenal, made some fabulous saves. We put up a great fight,” Kathleen Johnson said.
Ciquera finished with six goals and had two assists.
Arielle Johnson added four goals in the loss for Woodstock Academy while junior Emma Redfield had the only other tally.
“They are the only three girls who have played club (lacrosse) and that’s interesting,” Kathleen Johnson said. “I think they have seen a faster pace and have participated in a lot of tournaments so the pace of the game definitely set us back. They were fast passers and scorers, different than we’ve seen so far.”
The loss ended the season for the Centaurs with a 15-4 record.
It will be a season to remember for Woodstock Academy.
It captured its first-ever ECC tournament championship last week.
“We were sorry to see the season come to an end because we were still improving. The girls still want to play,” Kathleen Johnson said. “It was a fantastic season with fantastic memories for everyone. I’m proud of the hard work and dedication they put in.”
The team will lose 11 seniors from this year’s team.
“I’m going to miss all of them, but at the same time, we have great girls ready to fill their shoes. They have been waiting for their turn,” Kathleen Johnson said.
The Woodstock Academy coach pointed to sophomore Brynn Kusnarowis, who saw a lot of time against St. Joe’s, as one of the new keys on defense for the Centaurs next season. She will play alongside the likes of Hallie Saracina, Mia Edwards and Caroline Frost in front of Gagnon who is just a sophomore.
Peyton Saracina and Redfield will have to anchor the midfield along with Dutson. Julia Schad will return on attack and is experienced at the X position which is being vacated by Arielle Johnson.
“There is a lot of talent coming back and that’s great to see,” Kathleen Johnson said.
Centaurs win ECC girls lacrosse championship
It’s the best way to describe Woodstock Academy goalie Kileigh Gagnon on Thursday afternoon.
Stonington’s Kate Johnson, who had 104 points coming into the Eastern Connecticut Conference tournament championship match, had several free position shots in the closing minutes of the game.
Only one got through.
Gagnon’s excellent work helped the fourth-seeded Centaurs capture their first-ever ECC title with an 11-9 win over No. 3 Stonington at East Lyme High School.
“I just kept telling myself, ‘Watch the ball’ and I wasn’t going to let her intimidate me. She is an amazing player. I just moved to the ball, moved as quick as I could, and everything worked out,” Gagnon said.
The Bears got close in the second half, but were never able to take the lead or even tie the game.
When the final buzzer sounded, Woodstock Academy coach Kathleen Johnson went running out on to the field, hands raised in a victory salute to her team.
“I’m so proud of these girls. (We had) scoring from everywhere, awesome goalie play, awesome defense. We preach team all the time and that’s what I told the girls, if we play together, we will take it. At the beginning of the season, it was all about putting a banner up in the gym,” Kathleen Johnson said.
The lacrosse team will join the Woodstock Academy girls volleyball, girls soccer, gymnastics and golf and boys soccer as teams that put up ECC tournament championship banners in the Alumni Fieldhouse this season.
“It’s so special. It’s the first ECC (tournament) win. Now, we get to go on the gym wall and it’s a first for girls lacrosse. It’s really fun for us and meant a lot for us to win,” senior Emma Ciquera said.
The Centaurs (15-3) started early against the Bears.
Stonington struck first when Emma Sabbadini came out from behind the Woodstock Academy goal, spun around two defenders, and tucked the ball into the net just 1 minutes, 5 seconds into the game.
The Centaurs tied the game when Ciquera went on a 40-yard gallop four minutes later and her solo effort produced the goal.
Woodstock Academy won the draw and just 12 seconds later, Ivy Gelhaus found Arielle Johnson for the goal that put the Centaurs ahead to stay.
Peyton Saracina followed with two consecutive goals within 24 seconds of one another off assists from Arielle Johnson and Ciquera.
Megan Detwiler briefly cut the lead to two, but Arielle Johnson answered to put the Centaurs back up, 5-2.
Arielle Johnson was strong not only in front of the net but in the middle of the field where she effectively battled both Kate Johnson and Kathryn Logel and won her share of draws.
“It helped our confidence to know that we could win some draws, because I knew they were strong there. We battled hard in the circle, did a great job there, and draw control is so key,” Kathleen Johnson said.
The two teams exchanged goals before the half with Gelhaus getting her only tally of the game to put the Centaurs ahead, 6-3, at the break.
“Our goal was just to come out strong,” Arielle Johnson said. “We had to set the pace. Stonington is very good at maintaining the ball and keeping possession. We knew we had to counter that and just come out fast. We have so many fast girls in the midfield, they are all so athletic, and we had to take advantage of that.”
One of those fast players, senior Aislin Tracey, gave the Centaurs their biggest lead coming out of the brief halftime.
Tracey scored her 17th and 18th goals of the season within 53 seconds of each other just minutes into the second half to put Woodstock Academy up, 8-3.
The expected comeback by the Bears (15-3) followed.
Kate Johnson scored two goals off free position opportunities and Sabbadini scored her second of the game and, all of a sudden, the Bears were back within two with plenty of time, 15 minutes, left on the game clock.
“Very concerned,” Kathleen Johnson said. “I told the girls it comes down to heart and guts.”
The Woodstock Academy coach said the joke in the timeout that followed Sabbadini’s goal was that the team does interval training at practice and the Centaurs should just consider it an extension of that.
“We got this,” Kathleen Johnson said she told her team.
Emma Redfield and Ciquera scored to boost the advantage to four goals again with 12 minutes left.
Kate Johnson and Sabbadini added goals to cut the Centaurs lead to two, but Ciquera scored her 66th goal of the season with 3:52 left to give the Centaurs the 3-goal advantage.
Ciquera, who finished with three goals and one assist, was named Most Valuable Player.
“I was surprised to be named MVP because I feel I couldn’t really do it without my teammates. I think a lot of other people should have got it,” Ciquera said.
Arielle Johnson disagreed with that.
“I’m so proud of Emma. MVP. She definitely deserves it and Kileigh played outstanding. We couldn’t have won without her,” Arielle Johnson said.
Four years ago, saying they wanted to win a title was just that, a saying, a lofty goal that was out of reach at the time.
The dream became reality on Thursday.
“I think it’s been a goal for us since freshman year,” senior Arielle Johnson said of the lacrosse title. “Every year, we have got better, made new goals and achieved them. At the beginning of the year, this was our goal and our motto is ‘Whatever it takes’ and we did whatever it takes to win.”
The Centaurs advanced to the final with a 16-5 semifinal victory over top-seeded Montville on Tuesday.
Ciquera scored four goals and added an assist to lead the Centaurs in scoring against the Indians.
Arielle Johnson (1 assist) and Gelhaus (61 goals this season) added three goals each.
Redfield tossed in a pair of goals while Tracey, Saracina, Rachel Canedy, and Eliza Dutson contributed a goal apiece.
Centaurs finish regular season on winning note
The Woodstock Academy girls lacrosse program celebrated Senior Day and the final game of the regular season in good fashion.
The Centaurs handed Montville a 14-8 loss at the Bentley Athletic Complex to finish the regular season with a 13-3 record.
"We have a great group of seniors so it's bittersweet, but it's just so awesome to see everyone come together and get a win on Senior Day," said one of those seniors, Arielle Johnson. "It's gone by so quick, I can't believe it. The regular season is over, but we're looking ahead to the postseason."
The Centaurs had a relatively long Senior Day celebration prior to the match since the lacrosse team has 11 on its roster.
All of them got a chance to play a lot of minutes against the Indians.
"What's great for me to see is how much these girls have developed since freshman year. I've had many of them for four years and to think about how they started, how far they've come in just their knowledge of lacrosse and their skills. Every day my mind is blown in just how well they continue to progress every day. They never plateau. They just keep working hard and that's the best thing you can ask for as a coach," Woodstock Academy coach Kathleen Johnson said.
Appropriately so, the seniors took center stage.
Emma Ciquera scored five goals with classmate Ivy Gelhaus getting four. Arielle Johnson finished with two and four assists while Aislin Tracey also tallied.
"It was incredible. I think we really connected in this game," Ciquera said. "I'm going to miss this team so much."
The Centaurs jumped out on top early.
Gelhaus had a hat trick just 11 minutes, 8 seconds into the game and the Centaurs were up 5-2.
Gelhaus would have her fourth before halftime and Ciquera would have her hat trick as well as Woodstock Academy went into the break up, 11-3.
"Getting the lead was very important," Ciquera said. "It boosted our confidence and, if we were down, it could have really changed the game."
Disaster, however, nearly struck early in the second half.
Gelhaus collided with a Montville player and went down to the ground.
She had to be helped off the field.
"It was so sad to see Ivy go down in our senior game," Kathleen Johnson said. "Ivy is just such a key part to our team. Fingers crossed that she will be able to come back. The news looks good so that's what we're hoping."
Gelhaus suffered a bruise just above her right knee and sat the remainder of the game.
Fortunately, the Centaurs didn't need her the remainder of the way against Montville.
The Centaurs went up 13-5 before the Indians (13-3) scored three of the final four goals.
"We're happy to be 13-3," Arielle Johnson said. "We had a great year, beating East Lyme for a first time, we keep saying it. But every year, we just keep getting better and better."