In many ways, the afternoon was over before it ever really started for No. 10 Brien McMahon in a 15-10 loss to No. 2 Newtown in the quarterfinals of the Class L state tournament on Saturday at Blue and Gold Stadium.
With help from senior midfielder Justin Brophy and junior attack Dan Hebert, the Nighthawks stormed out to a 5-0 lead after just one quarter. Brophy and Hebert either scored or assisted on all of the Nighthawks’ first quarter goals.
“We just came out and we were aggressive,” Hebert said. “We said, ‘Come out at them right away, take control of the game and we’ll keep control of it all day.’ That’s exactly what we did.”
*A few players attributed Newtown’s strong play in the state tournament to teamwork and a bond between the players that’s continuing to grow. One telling statistic: The Nighthawks recorded assists on six of their eight first-half goals.
“In the past few weeks we’ve really bonded together as a team,” said Hebert, who had four goals and five assists on the day. “We’ve become really compatible with each other and we just know where each other is going to be. It’s just great.”
“We started acting like a team, which we hadn’t done part of this season,” Brophy said of the Nighthawks’ first half. “We just started clicking on all cylinders.”
*One of the reasons for Newtown’s strong play early was its dominance in controlling face-offs. Sensing a change needed to be made, McMahon head coach Mike Epstein moved junior Drew D’Antonio into the face-off circle in the second quarter. D’Antonio did not start the afternoon in the circle due to a lingering hamstring injury, but he responded by winning 15 of his 16 face-offs.
“That’s how he hurt (his hamstring) the first time, so we were trying to avoid it,” Epstein said. “He said he wanted to do it, or we wouldn’t have done it. The kid’s got a lot of heart.”
*If there was storyline for McMahon’s season, it’s the injury bug that plagued the team. The Senators played at times without their top three scorers on attack (Zack Bartolo, D’Antonio and Ryan Scott) due to hamstring injuries and had other players banged up in other areas. Epstein indiciated that the team was healthier on Saturday, but still far from 100 percent.
“I don’t think that was the difference,” Epstein said. “I think the difference was the first seven minutes of the game.”
The Senators finished the year 11-7 overall, but that could’ve been a lot different if not for the string of bad luck.
*Sophomore Josh Miller played well in net for McMahon with 15 saves, but Newtown’s Evan Issacs was even better. The Nighthawks’ junior made 14 stops–many of which spoiled key possessions for McMahon.