Greenwich High boys laxmen fall to New Canaan in FCIAC finals, 8-5

It was easy to think that Friday night’s Fairfield County Interscholastic Athletic Conference championship game was going to get out of hand for Greenwich High School.

Back on May 2, Big Red traveled to Dunning Field for a game against the New Canaan High School and got blitzed 12-0. However, going by Friday night’s rematch against the Rams in the FCIAC finals at Brien McMahon’s Jack Casagrande Field, it’s evident that the Cards are a much-improved team.

After battling back-and-forth in the first half of the FCIAC title game, Greenwich was only trailing New Canaan 6-5. Although Greenwich’s defense only gave up two goals in the second half, the Rams stepped up their game and shut down the Cards the rest of the way, coming away with the 8-5 victory.

“We made it to the FCIAC championship game and we played pretty well,” Greenwich High School head coach Scott Bulkley said. “We could have played better, but I am really proud of my guys. They fought here. Although we started to lose guys and you worry that it will affect you mentally, but it didn’t. They held together and I thought we played really well. I tip my cap to New Canaan because they took care of what they needed to do to keep us not getting back getting into the game.”

Big Red was led by the duo of Will Gibian and James Paradise, who each scored two goals. The other goal for the Cards was scored by Kelley Jay. Kyle Foote and Alex Moeser each added one assist for Big Red.

“I am really proud,” Paradise said. “We made it a long way to the FCIAC championship and it was obviously a long journey, but we lost. We showed that we could play with them, but we couldn’t pull it together.”

New Canaan was led by FCIAC Finals MVP Henry Stanton, who finished with two goals. Duke Repko also added two goals, while the foursome of Griffin White, Peter Richardson, Teddy Bossidy and Michael Kraus each netted one goal.

“These are two good teams going at each other,” Bulkley said. “They capitalized on all our mistakes and that’s what good teams do. They did a good job playing good position defense on us. We thought we could beat their short sticks and we didn’t do a good job of it.”

The game couldn’t have started any better for Big Red, courtesy of Gibian, as the senior attacker scored both his goals to start the game. Off the opening faceoff victory, Greenwich kept the ball deep in the New Canaan zone and capitalized when Gibian fired a shot in the back of the net for the 1-0 lead only 1:48 into the game.

Although New Canaan came back with a goal with 8:48 to play, Big Red answered when Gibian gained control of the ball and blasted a 10-yard shot that eluded NCHS goalie Trent Nadar for the 2-1 lead.

The Rams were able to tie the game with 6:24 to play in the first, as Kraus got the ball off a Greenwich turnover deep in their zone, darted 10 yards towards the net and fired a shot for the 2-2 tie.

Greenwich had an answer less than a minute later. Working the ball around the New Canaan net, Moeser got the ball and dished off to Paradise, who found the open look and buried the side-arm shot for the 3-2 advantage.

“We had some really good possessions,” Paradise said. “The first half I thought we were solid finding the back of the net. The second half we really struggled finding the back of the net. That was a big problem for us and we have to work on finishing. The looks were there, but we didn’t execute.”

Capitalizing on another Greenwich turnover deep in the GHS zone, New Canaan scored the equalizer. While trying to push the ball up the field, a turnover led to a massive scramble with both teams desperately trying to gain possession. Repko got a stick on the ball, stepped back from the plethora of players and drilled the ball past GHS goalie William Waesche for the 4-4 tie with 3:29 to play in the opening quarter.

“They capitalized on a few mistakes that we made in the middle of the field and we were able capitalize on some quick ones to keep the game close,” Bulkley said. “They got some good man-ups and they moved the ball well and capitalized on them. In a game like there, where it’s tight, those are some of things that make or break a game.”

New Canaan added a wraparound goal with 1:38 to play in the first quarter to give them the 4-3 lead heading into the second quarter.

Midway through the second, New Canaan added to its lead when Stanton muscled his way through the GHS defense and was able to fire off the shot before he took the hit. The hit to Stanton gave the Rams control of the ball and it only took them 16 seconds to add another, as Bossidy made the score 6-3.

With 7:19 to play in the half, Paradise found the back of the net after charging down the middle of the and cut the deficit to 6-4.

Greenwich kept applying the pressure and was able to capitalize yet again with only 1:34 to play in the half. After a New Canaan attacker fired a shot at Waesche that hit the crossbar and bounced out, Jay picked up the loose ball and sprinted down the field. Going hard to the net, he unloaded a shot that hit Nadar had no chance to save.

Just like that, Big Red was only down 6-5 at the break.

“I was really happy with the way we played offensively,” Bulkley said. “I thought we had a good couple of possessions. We took a couple of good shots. I thought our shot selection in the latter part of the game was not where I wanted it to go.”

Although Big Red was unable to score in the second half, Greenwich’s Waesche was doing his best to keep the Rams off the scoreboard, only giving up one goal in the half and finishing with 10 saves on the day.

“Today was one of those days where things just weren’t clicking,” Waesche said. “It was a tight game, but we couldn’t get back those goals that we let up. We lost Kyle Foote in the first half (undisclosed injury) and we had to make some last minute changes to our offense. It didn’t go as we planned, but you can’t win them all.”

Despite the loss in the FCIAC championship game, there’s still more lacrosse for Greenwich High School.

The Cards enter the CIAC class L tournament with a 12-4 regular season record and took the No. 6 seed. Big Red beat out Southington High School for the sixth spot but just missed out on the No. 5 spot, taken up by Xavier High School. Although Greenwich, Xavier and Southington both had 12-4 records, Xavier had 198 power points, while Greenwich had 172. Southington finished with 154 points.

Greenwich’s first round opponent will be Newtown High School, who comes into the class L tourney with a 10-6 regular season record and netted the 11th seed. The game will be played Wednesday at 4:30 at Cardinal Stadium.

“I think we will be fine,” Bulkley said. “You don’t like to lose a game like this, but we were in it and now this will motivate us to make a nice run. We need to shoot better, play good defense execute our offense a little better. I think this team definitely could make a state tournament run. Tonight we played well for 36 minutes and we need to play a full 48 minutes.”

The winner of the first round game will move on to battle the winner of No. 3 seeded Staples High School and No. 14 Conard. If the Wreckers win, the winner of Greenwich vs. Newtown will travel up to Westport. If Conard pulls off the upset, both Newtown or Greenwich would get the home game in the second round, which gets underway Saturday at 3.

“We’ve come a long way since our first game against Ridgefield,” Waesche said. “We kept on progressing. Unfortunately tonight we kind of took a step backwards and it happens. Too bad it had to happen in our FCIAC championship game. We’re going to look towards States. I think this will motivate us because we know what it’s like to be so close and let it slip through our fingers. It’s going to give us a drive and I have complete faith that we are going to come out of the gate and keep rolling through States.”

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