GLASTONBURY — Opponents have tried to pick their poison when trying to slay the Stonington High girls lacrosse team's three-headed, goal-scoring monster of Kate Johnson, Hannah Lamb and Emma Sabbadini.
In the Class S state semifinals Monday, Canton face-guarded Johnson, the program's record holder for points in a season, and held her somewhat in check with two goals off of free positions.
But second-seeded Canton had no answer for Lamb, who scored the Bears' first four goals and five in all in No. 3 Stonington's 9-5 victory at Glastonbury High.
The five scores gave Lamb Stonington program records in career goals (229) and single-season goals (93), but more important, they helped propel the Bears into their first state final since 2014, when they won it all.
Stonington plays top-seeded New Fairfield on Saturday at Jonathan Law High in Milford at a time to be determined. Canton ended its season at 17-3.
"Johnson is the player who stirs the drink with her play-making," Canton coach Sean Cote said. "My best defender neutralized her, but it's tough to account for everyone. We tried to squeeze Lamb, but she got free and has a good shot."
Stonington (18-3) never trailed in the game. Lamb's two goals gave the Bears a 2-0 lead, although the edge could have been more if not for the strong goalkeeping from Canton's Courtney Lefave. The Bears took a 3-2 lead into halftime, with Lamb scoring all three.
"She was frustrating me on some shots early," Lamb said. "The key in lacrosse is to do things erratic with your stick and change things up so you aren't predictable. In the second half, we made her move her feet and gave her different looks than just straight-on shots."
The Warriors' Ashley Huff scored a minute into the second half to tie the score at 3. Stonington took control after that, holding the Warriors scoreless for the next 18 minutes. Stonington goalie Isabella McCarthy made three saves over a five-minute stretch when Canton possessed the ball, including a pair on free positions.
Lamb's goal with 20 minutes left gave Stonington a 4-3 lead, setting off a five-minute drought when both teams were unable to convert.
Stonington was missing two starters (Megan Detwiler, Kathryn Logel) because of concussion protocol. Canton also had key players missing, including injured All-America Abby Charron.
"There are no excuses as both teams were without players," Cote said. "Would Charron have greatly assisted us? Yes. Our defense was stellar but our offense was out of sync."
One of Stonington's replacement starters, freshman Ivy Goodman, broke the drought with a left-handed bouncer to make it 5-3 with 14:55 left.
Stonington's patient offense began to frustrate Canton into checking fouls, forcing a slew of free positions. Johnson sandwiched two free-position goals, rolling to her right to convert on both, around an Emma Sabbadini goal to make it 8-3 with 12:30 left. (Johnson's two goals extended her single-season record for points to 125.)
Lamb added her fifth goal, also rolling to her right to make Canton's goalie move her feet, to give the Bears a 9-3 lead. The Warriors scored twice in the last six minutes.
Stonington coach Jeff Medeiros credited his defense and McCarthy for frustrating Canton's offense for long stretches, including a shutout in the first 19 minutes. Canton has failed to get past the semifinals for three straight years.
"The longer they couldn't score, the more doubt Canton would have," Medeiros said. "In the second half, I didn't really make many adjustments. We just played our patient offense, drew defenders out and went past them, either drawing free possessions or creating scoring opportunities in the middle."
Stonington, which lost in the ECC championship game, played one of its best all-around games in the tournament in recent memory, Medeiros said.
"We are a happy crew," Medeiros said. "We had two freshmen step up and start and play huge. We really controlled this game from start to finish, and I couldn't be more pleased, to tell you the truth, if we won or lost here. New Fairfield is a great team, but we're thrilled to be in the final."
Lamb hopes she has more more gem of a game in her.
"We realize Kate, Emma and I are the mainstays of the offense, and it's been that way since the third grade," Lamb said. "We have to bring it and deliver. If I'm not on, Emma and Kate don't get assists. If they're not on, I don't see the ball to shoot. We all work together."