Falcons' post-season run comes to end

Tara McNamara (20) helped coach Kate Dawson’s Falcons take a step forward in the state tournament. (Photo by Bill Bloxsom)

Tara McNamara (20) helped coach Kate Dawson’s Falcons take a step forward in the state tournament.
(Photo by Bill Bloxsom)

After posting two straight upsets to open the Class LL state tournament, one more electrifying than the other, the 22nd-seeded Fairfield Ludlowe girls soccer team ran into a familiar foe in the quarterfinals, getting knocked out with a 3-1 setback against third-seeded and unbeaten St. Joseph Friday afternoon at the Dalling Athletic Complex.
Ludlowe had its back against the wall in the first half, facing a cold, strong wind and a potent St. Joseph offense which has produced a 21-game unbeaten streak.
The Falcons held their own early on, limiting the Cadets to just two shots over the first 15 minutes.
But St. Joseph would not be denied, getting goals from sophomore Marissa Grasso in the 21st minute and senior Sam Grasso off a cross from the right side by sophomore Jenna Bike with 6:38 left to take a 2-0 lead into halftime.
St. Joseph (20-0-1), which went on to beat No. 2 seed Glastonbury in the Class LL semifinals, made it 3-0 with 13:56 left in the second half after freshman Lindsey Savko finished a high service from Marissa Grasso out of the left corner.
“We knew coming in that this was going to be a great challenge,” Ludlowe head coach Kate Dawson said. “They are, from top to bottom, a very solid, very polished team. They’re talented at every position.
“We knew it was going to take a lot, and the girls gave their best effort. They played with a lot of heart and really left it all out on the field.”
Facing the wind in the first half, Ludlowe was just trying to focus on defense, hoping to hold off the Cadets until the second half.
The Falcons mustered one shot over the first 40 minutes. Ludlowe did a better job creating chances in the second half with the wind at its back, producing five shots and a goal by senior Sophie Butcher with 1:15 left.
By then, it was far too late.
“Going into the wind was tough,” Dawson said. “We really struggled with that, finding a rhythm and contending with the wind. They were a quicker opponent and definitely more aggressive in the first half. It took us a while to settle in and find our confidence.
“We just couldn’t get close enough. But we did manage to punch one in at the end, so I’m happy for Sophie Butcher. She’s a senior and she deserved it.”
The season ended three games short of what the storybook might have said, but that can’t take away from what the Falcons accomplished, finishing 10-8-1 overall with a brilliant end in the tournament.
After knocking off No. 11 Amity in the first round, Ludlowe pulled off an even bigger upset, defeating No. 6 Hall of West Hartford in penalty kicks.
“Ending on a positive note, this was a great thrill ride for us,” Dawson said. “Everyone called us a Cinderella team, and we kinda rode with that. To win in PKs against Hall, the girls showed a lot of resiliency. They’re a gritty, hard-nosed group of girls, and I’m very proud of that.”
Dawson took over as head coach last season looking to build a team that will contend for FCIAC and state titles for years to come. Right now, she thinks the Falcons are ahead of schedule.
“We’re making strides,” she said. “I want our MO to be a pure, progression soccer game. I think the girls are definitely catching on to that, trying to control the game at midfield.”
Sophomore goalie Caroline Serniak played well in defeat, stopping 8-of-15 shots by the Cadets.
The loss marked the final game in the career of seniors Molly Roach, captain Krissy Bradley, Rebecca Girouard, starting defender Kate Kovaleski, Sydney McArthur, Elizabeth MacPherson, starting midfielder Alison Gorab, Lindsay Zilling, Megan Cannella, starting defender Caroline Rooney, captain Alex Wykoff and Butler.

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