Greenwich High boys lacrosse ready for bounce back season

Big Red’s Michael Ellsworth races down the field during last year’s CIAC class L quarterfinal game against Staples High School. — Paul Silverfarb photo

Big Red’s Michael Ellsworth races down the field during last year’s CIAC class L quarterfinal game against Staples High School. — Paul Silverfarb photo

With a lot of the talent back from last year’s impressive season, the Greenwich High School boys lacrosse team is ready to make another push towards a championship season.

“We have a lot of experience back and a lot of desire to do well,” said Greenwich High School head coach Scott Bulkley, entering his fifth year at the helm. “They like each other and have done a lot of stuff as a team. They have been pushing each other to get better every day and that is a huge asset to have as a team.”

Last season, Big Red finished with an stellar 12-4 regular season and advanced to the Fairfield County Interscholastic Athletic Conference championship game, losing to New Canaan High School 8-5. In the CIAC class L state tournament, Greenwich was the No. 6 seed and took care of Newtown 11-5. However, GHS was unable to beat Staples High School for a third time in the year, as the Cardinals fell to the Wreckers in the quarterfinal round, 6-5 to end its season.

In addition to the loss, Big Red also lost talented players like Alex Moeser, William Waesche, Will Gibian, Graham Savio, Shawn Dunster and Jake Cabrera to graduation.

“The way the season ended was rough for us,” Bulkley said. “The fact that we were unable to show everybody how hard we worked throughout the season really stuck with the team as they prepared for this season. We are going into the season not really satisfied with how worked out last year and we want to rectify that. I think they will carry that throughout the season. If that motivates them, then great.”

Since the 2013 season ended, the team has been working hard throughout the offseason in preparation for this year. When the  players weren’t playing fall sports like soccer or football, they were in the gym getting ready for lacrosse. Same thing when athletes weren’t playing basketball, hockey or indoor track in the winter.

“They worked out three or four times a week,” Bulkley said. “They had about 35 percent of the team working out in the offseason at any given time and that is great. It’s huge. You work out together, you play hard together and you’ll fight for each other in the season. They are all in right now during practice.”

Greenwich will be paced by five senior captains. Kyle Foote and Ryan Flippin will be playing the midfield, while Cole Perry and Jack Harrington play defense. Jaime Paradise will be returning to his attack position. All five have been on the team for at least three years and Bulkley loves their desire to be successful.

“Their love for their teammates and the sport of lacrosse is amazing,” Bulkley said. “They are all hard workers and have high expectations for themselves and the team. They have done a great job bringing this team together and they all want to win so badly, not only for themselves but for their teammates. It’s made practices and coaching them a lot of fun. Kyle and Ryan are middies that run up and down the field, playing offense and defense. Jack and Cole anchor the team’s defense and on the opposite side, you have Jaime anchoring the team’s offense. There is a huge connection with the offense and defense because of these captains.”

Joining Perry and Harrington at the defense will be very familiar faces to the positions. Senior Jack Nail, junior Griffin Tiedy and senior Nick Schepis will be a part of the close defense, while Perry and junior Danny Colligan will be the long stick middies. Pretty much the players starting at defense for Big Red have been there for over two years, so experience is key.

“It’s rare to have a unit that’s been playing together for three years in high school,” Bulkley said. “You see that a lot in college, but rarely in high school. The experience these guys have is great. As freshmen and sophomores, they were pushed around a bit. As juniors they were closer physically to their opponents. Now they are all mature and work hard. I expect them to be a very aggressive and dominant defense. We are not going to let other teams run their stuff. We are going to go out and get them.”

Big Red’s defense will be backing up starting goalie Tommy Rogan, a junior, who is replacing Waesche between the pipes. Bulkley said that Rogan is loud in the cage and is a very strong communicator. Although Rogan hasn’t been in the starting role, Bulkley said that he’s been on the team for three years and knows the system.

“He learned a lot from William’s leadership,” Bulkley said. “It’s been a pretty easy transition from William to Tommy and I expect big things from him this year. He has great hands and great vision. He’s a good ball stopper and makes really good decisions with the ball out of the cage. He’s a very solid all-around goalie.”

Just like Greenwich’s experience at defense, the team’s midfielders will be paced by a plethora of veterans. In addition to Foote and Flippin, junior Decker Curran, William Perry, senior Sam Saleeby and John Tooher are athletes that can play midfield quite well, but also fill in at attack.

“Their stick skills are all exceptional and have been playing as a unit for a long time now,” Bulkley said. “When you play with a lot of guys for a long time, you can start to anticipate where they are going to be before they get there. Having that experience will help us out in hard-fought games. I anticipate them all stepping up and ready to play, no matter who the opponent is.”

At the attack, the Cardinals will be led by Paradise and senior Luke Finneran, while sophomore newcomers Bobby Goggin and Scooter Harrington will come in and add some depth to the position. In addition, Curran and Tooher could jump in at any time to play attack. Taking over for Savio at faceoffs will be junior Michael Sullivan.

“Overall, this team has a lot of experience and I think that will be our biggest strength,” Bulkley said. “You can’t put a price on experience. They’ve won those tight games and lose those tight games. They know how close it is between an win and a loss and how important it is to make sure they are working hard. One guy isn’t going to make or break a game. It’s a collective unit. Hopefully at the end of the season they are still playing for each other, working really hard and are still extremely hungry.”

As usual, the competition in the FCIAC is going to be some of the toughest in the state. In addition to Greenwich, Darien, Ridgefield, Wilton, New Canaan and Staples, Bulkley said that teams like St. Joseph, Fairfield Ludlowe, Brien McMahon or Norwalk high school can surprise people.

“I love it and wouldn’t want it any other way,” Bulkley said. “I think athletics in general is great if you can go up against teams that are equal or better. When two teams bring their best game, it’s great to see. With all the teams in the FCIAC, that’s all you see. It’s not fun to go out and get crushed or to crush an opponent. It’s fun to be in a game that’s tight and you get to put yourself up, game in and game out, against the best to see how good you are.”

Regardless of the fact that GHS is considered one of the contenders for the FCIAC championship, Bulkley knows that his team still has plenty of work to get done.

“At the end of the day, you have to show up and play hard,” Bulkley said. “You also have to be extremely humble, regardless or wins or losses throughout the season. We have to get better every day and after every game. We have to play our best lacrosse, and stay healthy, come playoffs. If we can do that, then we will see what happens. I like our chances. But we need to get a lot better if we are going to do anything in the playoffs.”

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