SIMSBURY — That one loss the Southington girls lacrosse team suffered in the regular season? It has been avenged.
The Lady Knights defeated the Trojans of Simsbury 14-12 to win the CCC North championship on a breezy Thursday evening at Holden Field.
It was a see-saw battle. Southington built a 5-2 first half lead, suffered a 10-minute scoring drought in which Simsbury reeled off six unanswered goals to take the lead, then put together a 5-1 surge late in the game to secure the crown.
“We knew it was going to be an up-and-down game,” Southington coach Dave Sargent said of his team staying positive and withstanding Simsbury’s 6-0 run. “We knew they were incredibility talented on offense and we believed in our system.”
Sargent also credited his senior leadership for not letting the team put its head down.
One of those senior captains, Taylor Foresi, attributed the comeback to, “Resetting and getting our energy back; we needed to believe that we could do it.”
Nicole DePodesta led the Southington attack with four goals and Makayla Winegar added a hat trick. At the other end, goaltender Makenzie LeBarron made seven saves, including several that had a high degree of difficulty and were very timely.
Southington allowed just three goals in the final 24 minutes of the second half to a high-powered Simsbury offense. The last two Simsbury goals came late, when the game was already out of reach.
“I give all the credit to my defense,” LeBarron said. “We stuck with our defense and what we know. We wanted to keep the girls inside the eight locked off so they couldn’t get any passes and score.”
The victory puts the Lady Knights at 16-1 and has them flying high for the CIAC Class L tournament, which opens Friday. Southington, seeded No. 10, hosts No. 23 E.O. Smith (7-9) in a qualifying round game at 4:30 p.m.
While E.O. Smith is a fellow Central Connecticut Conference team, the Blue Knights did not play the Panthers in the regular season.
They did play Simsbury, losing in the regular-season finale last Friday 14-8 and watching an undefeated record dissolve in the process.
In Thursday’s rematch, the Blue Knights showed what they had learned from the defeat.
Southington struck first just 22 seconds into the game with a goal from Ella Huard on an assist from Lili Doran. Doran ran 70 yards down the middle of the field before dishing to Huard on the left side, where she was able to find the back of the net.
Simsbury answered with a goal from Elena Bontatibus four minutes into the contest.
Southington responded again with a goal from Winegar for a 2-1 lead. Minutes later, Simsbury goalie Faye Kaplinski made a great save on a backhand shot from Foresi taken just in front of the net to keep the margin at just one at the time.
With the score at 3-1 following DePodesta’s first goal of the night, Sofia Smith of Simsbury had a great cut to the front of the net coming off a feed from Taylor Truting to trim the lead to 3-2.
With Southington leading 4-2, Eliza Vecchio made a great hustle play in the Blue Knights end to win a battle for the ball, then quickly advanced it upfield, leading to a second goal from DePodesta.
Trailing 5-2 with just five minutes remaining in the first half, Simsbury seemed to be a little too unselfish, passing up some good opportunities for better ones, but on numerous occasions they couldn’t make the pass cleanly.
That would change quickly as the Trojans scored five goals in the final 4:48 of the first half, giving them all of the momentum heading into the second half after Southington had controlled the game for the first 20 minutes.
The Blue Knights had trouble defending when Simsbury had possession of the ball behind the net because they could not locate cutters diving to the front of the cage. This led to the majority of the Trojan goals.
Bontatibus was a huge part of the first half for Simsbury. She had three goals and an assist going into the break.
She and Trojans picked up right where they left off, scoring 40 seconds into the second half with a goal by Alex Loo.
The Lady Knights then finally snapped Simsbury’s 6-0 run and their almost 10-minute scoreless streak with a goal from Doran in which she went through two defenders before finding the back of the net.
Foresi scored her first goal of the game a minute later. Shortly after that, it was Julianne Bade, who tied the game up at 8-8 with 19:25 remaining.
Just like that, it was a brand-new ball game.
Simsbury didn’t waste any time regaining the lead. Bontatibus scored her fourth goal of the game 27 seconds later.
That would be the last lead for the Trojans. Southington tied it 9-9 on a strike by Auria Mullins, then regained the lead 10-9 with 12:43 remaining on a goal by Doran.
Simsbury won the ensuing faceoff, and LeBarron made a great save to keep the lead. Then she made a great outlet pass that led to a breakaway for DePodesta, who was able to get it through the five hole for her third goal of the game.
This goal gave the Blue Knights a two-goal lead at 11-9 and they never looked back.
DePodesta scored again, which was the dagger with a minute and a half remaining, on a wraparound shot to give the Lady Knights a 14-10 lead.
Over the course of the two minutes prior to DePodesta’s final goal, Southington had played keep-away with the ball to protect its three-goal lead. Simsbury scored two late goals, but it wasn’t enough to muster a comeback.