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WALLINGFORD — The Lyman Hall girls lacrosse team was able to enjoy something that last year’s team could not: Senior Night.
After the Trojans bid farewell and said their thanks to their elder stateswomen, senior captain Claire Riccitelli-Pestana led the charge with six goals in Thursday night’s 10-6 win over Jonathan Law at Fitzgerald Field.
“It’s definitely a great feeling because we couldn’t play last year, so it’s nice being back out with the team and everything, and having it be on such a special night is also really special to me,” Riccitelli-Pestana said of her performance.
Riccitelli-Pestana is one of one seven graduating seniors on a Lyman Hall (3-1) team that starts six. Though she was just moments removed from what she called her “best game” as a Trojan, Riccitelli-Pestana had her classmates at the forefront of her mind.
“I think us as a whole, we’re just a great team all together,” she said. “We know how to have fun together on the field and off the field. We make the most of our time together while we have it.”
These Trojans know that their time together is all too valuable after losing the 2020 to the COVID-19 pandemic. The class of 2021 — Riccitelli-Pestana, Alexandra Vozzo, Caitlyn Diaz, Mackenzie Regan, Grace Chappell, Alyssa Cervero, Aleizabeth Mercer — was the first class to play its entire career for head coach Dave Palmer, something that he said he holds close to his heart.
“I’m so proud of this group,” Palmer said. “They didn’t have a year (last year). This is the first group I got to coach and to see them grow, to see them win — this is the first time the program has ever been 3-1, so it really is a testament to their work over the last couple of years.
“This is a huge win for us and it’s a lot of happiness for those kids out there.”
The evening began with plenty of happiness when Riccitelli-Pestana scored the game’s first goal 3:03 into the affair.
The Eagles were ready for a battle and responded with two goals in a 25-second span to quickly take charge, something that became a first-half theme.
A pattern of sorts began.
Riccitelli-Pestana scored; Law answered. Lyman Hall scored three straight courtesy of Casey Mordecai, Riccitelli-Pestana and Vozzo to take a two goal lead; Law answered back with three of its own.
By the end of the first half, the Eagles led 6-5 and the Trojans had a frustrated coach.
“Didn’t like the first half,” Palmer said. “We kind of came out and we were focused on I don’t know what. But in the second half, we came out, we rallied.”
Riccitelli-Pestana was there to set the tone early when she found the back of the net just 26 seconds after halftime for her fourth score.
“She is a senior leader, she’s a captain, and she showed it tonight why we chose her,” Palmer said of Riccitelli-Pestana. “She’s a leader on the field, off the field, and she’s everything you want in a teammate.”
The Trojans would rattle off four more goals in the second half while shutting out the Eagles completely. Even in the closing seconds, with the game well in hand, Riccitelli-Pestana was hunting for a seventh goal.
“Always keep your head in the game no matter how far ahead, how far behind you are,” Riccitelli-Pestana said. “Just make sure it's always pushing to the end, doing your best at all times.”
With the offense rolling, Lauren Cretella shined in net in the second half. At the 19:05 mark and with LH holding just a single-goal lead, the junior netminder stood tall when she stuffed an Eagle shot from point-blank range.
Later, with under 10 minutes to play, Cretella found herself running down field with the ball and ultimately turned it over. Not losing sight of the play, she hustled back to the net and made a strong save to her right on a one-hop.
“Lauren’s the heart of our team on defense and organizing everybody, but also she’s amazing in goal,” Palmer said. “She’s a great player, probably one of the best goalies in our division, and she really holds the team together.”
The Trojans put together a strong second half after a shaky first 25 minutes of action. Riccitelli-Pestana said they’ll need to start their next game, a Friday night bout with Sacred Heart Academy, the way they finished Thursday.
“Start really strong from the beginning and I think we’ll be a lot better off,” Riccitelli-Pestana said.