From 2004-2011, the New Canaan boys lacrosse team came oh so close to winning the FCIAC championship, falling four times in the conference title game. The last two years, the Rams have taken home the title. Yes, something special is brewing in New Canaan, which won its ninth FCIAC championship Friday with an 8-5 victory over Greenwich at Brien McMahon High School’s Jack Casagande Field.
With the Rams and Cardinals almost matching each other goal for goal in a first quarter that saw New Canaan hold a 4-3 edge, it seemed like Friday’s game was going to be a high-scoring showdown. Yet as the game progressed, both teams clamped down defensively and opportunities to take clear shots on goal were few and far between. Here’s a look at the game.
OFFENSIVE FIRST QUARTER: Both teams executed pretty well offensively in the opening quarter, combining for seven goals. Greenwich, which received another strong performance from faceoff specialist Graham Savio, scored on three of its first five possessions, while New Canaan capitalized on some key ground balls it scooped up near the goal.
“I was really happy with the way we played offensively,” GHS coach Scott Bulkley said. “We had some good possessions, took some good shots. I thought our shot selection later in the game wasn’t where I wanted it to go. They capitalized on some mistakes we made in the middle of the field and we were able to get some quick goals to keep the game close and tied.”
After James Paradise gave Greenwich a 3-2 lead by converting his perimeter shot from 15 yards out with 5:11 to go in the first quarter, New Canaan scored a pair of goals in a 1:51 span to take the lead for good at 4-3. Senior Duke Repko scooped up a ground ball near the crease and stuffed a short shot home for the equalizer and game MVP Henry Stanton scored the go-ahead goal with 1:38 left in the quarter.
SCORELESS THIRD QUARTER: The Cardinals had several long possessions in the third quarter, but couldn’t draw even after going into halftime with a 6-5 deficit. The Rams’ short stick midfielders were the difference makes, holding off the Cardinals attackmen in the second half.
“They took our middies behind and tried to dodge on them,” New Canaan senior defensive standout Eric Persky said. “So we had four poles up top and that made it a little easier to keep them out of the middle. I thought our D middies did a great job of containing them and denying easy passing opportunities.” Along with Persky, Tommy Costigan, John Rhudy, Jack Gilio, Jack Isherwood and Graham Wagner sparked the Rams defensively.
STRIKING QUICKLY: Leading 4-3, the Rams scored twice in 15 seconds to open a 6-3 advantage — a spurt that proved to be one of the pivotal moments of the game. Stanton scored on a nice feed from behind from Puck Richardson at the 8:46 mark and Teddy Bossidy tallied 15 seconds later. Greenwich closed to within 6-5 at halftime, but never got over the hump.
GOOD GOALIES: This matchup featured two of the better goalies in the FCIAC in New Canaan’s Trent Nader and Greenwich’s William Waesche. Nader made 12 saves, seven of which came during the second half, while Waesche stopped nine shots.
DAZZLING DEBUT: A 1996 New Canaan High graduate, Chip Buzzeo, who was an All-American, All-state player for the Rams, took over as head coach this season, replacing Alex Whitten, who guided the Rams to the FCIAC crown a year ago. Whitten moved to North Carolina.
“Working with this group, especially this senior class — they welcomed me. For them to win this game the way they did, I couldn’t be more prouder of them,” Buzzeo said. “As a player I’ve been in some big games. But as a coach, this is a different feeling. It’s going to take a few days to sink in.”
CARDINALS BIT BY INJURY BUG: Greenwich wasn’t helped by the fact that leading scorer Kyle Foote, a junior midfielder, got hurt during the first half and was sidelined for the second. Greenwich was already without attackman Decker Curran.
“It limits us on certain things we can do,” Bulkley said. “It’s not an excuse, it just limits certain things we can run offensively.”
WHAT THEY HAD TO SAY: Chip Buzzeo: “Greenwich is a great team. They beat a great Ridgefield team and they are going to do well in the state tournament. Our defense stepped up in the second half, which is incredible with the guys they have on offense.”
Scott Bulkley: “This game could have gone either way, but they capitalized on their opportunities and we did not and that’s why they’re the FCIAC champions. You don’t like losing in a game like this, but hopefully this will motivate us to make a run in the state tournament. I thought we fought here today, we held together and played really well.”