Greenwich boys lax starts FCIAC tourney run with win over Warde

Greenwich High School's Matt Ellsworth chases down the ball during Friday's FCIAC opening round game against Fairfield Warde High School. — Avery Belicka photo

Greenwich High School’s Matt Ellsworth chases down the ball during Friday’s FCIAC opening round game against Fairfield Warde High School. — Avery Belicka photo

The start of Friday’s Fairfield County Interscholastic Athletic Conference opening round game against Fairfield Warde High School was like a new chapter for the Greenwich High School boys lacrosse team.

After a regular season that included tough practices, hard-fought games and competition against some of the premier squads from the tri-state area, the battle tested Cardinals are more than ready for the tournament portion of its lacrosse team.

Under the lights at Cardinal Stadium, Big Red, seeded No. 2 in the FCIAC playoffs, took on the seventh seed Mustangs and came away with the 14-5 victory.

“We got a scouting report from them and we have been following them all year,” Greenwich High head coach Scott Bulkley said. “(Tom Cunningham) does a great job. They are well-coached and tough. To get into the FCIAC tournament, regardless of your record, is an accomplishment. All the teams are very hard. For Warde to get in there, it shows they are getting better every year.”

Greenwich, which was in a close contest with Fairfield throughout the first quarter, exploded with eight goals in just under 13 minutes to put the game out of reach.

The Greenwich High boys lacrosse team celebrates a goal during its FCIAC opening round victory against Fairfield Warde. — Avery Belicka photo

The Greenwich High boys lacrosse team celebrates a goal during its FCIAC opening round victory against Fairfield Warde. — Avery Belicka photo

“It was a big goal for us to get into the FCIAC tournament,” Warde head coach Tom Cunningham said. “We didn’t want it to end in the first round. No matter who you play in the top four teams here, it’s going to be tough. We like where we came from and it was a good showing from our guys. They didn’t stop playing and they worked hard. Greenwich is a great team and has a lot of talented players.”

Decker Curran, who finished with five goals and an assist, led Greenwich.

“This is an awesome opportunity,” Curran said. “To be out here with my team and getting to the playoffs is a whole different level. It’s a new season. We start off 0-0 and today we are 1-0 over Warde. Warde is a great team. We came out with the win and that’s the most important thing.”

Not to be outdone were Will Perry, Kyle Foote and Sam Saleeby, who each finished with two goals. Ryan Flippin, Luke Finneran and Jaime Paradise each added a goal and an assist, while John Tooher scored a goal.

The Mustangs were paced by Kyle Scheetz, who led the team with two goals. Brendan King netted a goal and an assist, while Jack Potenza and Austin Armas finished with one goal each.

Early one, it appeared that Big Red would run away with the contest, as Finneran, Saleeby, Flippin and Perry each found the back of the net for the quick 4-0 lead with five minutes to play in the opening quarter.

However that’s when the Mustangs fought back. Less than a minute later, Scheetz found the back of the net to cut the deficit to 4-1. Fighting back, Fairfield broke through the GHS defense and King took the shot in the top corner of the net to make the score 4-2.

But the momentum didn’t last long, as Greenwich’s Curran quickly broke through and beat the FWHS goalie for the 5-2 advantage.

“We realized that there’s a lot of time on the clock and they are a good team,” Curran said. “(Fairfield) is a good team and we need to wake up, do what our game plan was with the ball, get shots on net and balls will finally drop in the goal.”

From there it was all Greenwich, as the Cardinals got two goals from Foote and solo goals from Curran, Paradise and Perry to extend the lead to 10-2.

“I think we made a few mistakes turning the ball over when we shouldn’t have, but their defense is really good,” Cunningham said. “We got some good looks and had some chances. We hit some pipes. It was tough on our defense because we played a lot of defense today. Their faceoff guys did a really good job and got quite a few possessions for them there.”

While the offense was firing on all cylinder, the Greenwich defense was unbreakable. Fairfield Warde was able to get only a few looks at the net. Big Red forced turnovers and applied heavy pressure on the FWHS attack.

“We have been working all year on finishing games,” Bulkley said. “We got a lot of good looks and I think we accomplished a lot of the things we were looking to do. For the most part I think we moved the ball, were unselfish, ran our offense the way we wanted to and played good defense.”

With the victory, Greenwich High School advanced to the FCIAC semifinal game, which will be played Tuesday at Brien McMahon’s Jack Casagrande Field.

“We are taking every game one game at a time,” Bulkley said. “It’s going to be hard, but we anticipate our next game to be really good. We will be ready. It’s always fun when you put so much on the table. Our guys really enjoy this. We worked all year for this time of the year.”

For Warde, it’s on to the class L postseason. Most likely the Mustangs will be seeded 11th in the tourney and Cunningham is looking forward to his team to make some noise.

“I am really proud of this team and the program has grown so much,” Cunningham said. “Four years ago when our seniors were freshmen, we were 1-15. To come here and get to the first round of FCIACs and 11th seed in the state tournament means a lot. It means a lot these guys who stuck with the program and worked hard to get to this point. An 11-5 regular season is nothing to look down on.”

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