By David Fierro
Greenwich has experienced its season coming to an end on numerous occasions and sustained some of its toughest losses, courtesy of the Fairfield Prep lacrosse team.
Though it certainly wasn't easy, the Cardinals gained a measure of revenge on Saturday.
Seizing a six-goal second-half lead, second-seeded Greenwich withstood a fierce fourth-quarter rally by 10th-seeded Fairfield Prep -- a team that entered Saturday's Class L tournament quarterfinals as the two-time defending state champions. After some tense moments in the frenetic final few minutes, the host Cardinals held on for a 9-8 victory.
The Cardinals (18-3) advanced to Wednesday's 7:15 p.m. Class L semifinals, where they will play third-seeded Ridgefield in a rematch of the FCIAC Tournament semifinal. Senior attack Luke Finneran registered four goals, sophomore midfielder Will Perry tallied two goals and two assists and junior attackman Decker Curran had one goal and one assist for Greenwich. Entering Saturday's showdown, the Jesuits had beaten the Cardinals four consecutive times dating back to 2011 and were 12-2 against GHS since 2005, including a 5-0 mark in the state tournament.
"It was definitely a crazy game," Finneran said. "Every time Greenwich and Fairfield Prep play it's a great game. Give Prep a lot of credit, they were down six goals, but rallied in the fourth quarter to make it interesting. But we came up strong and got the win."
Said Curran: "It feels good to come out on top today. They ended my season my freshman and sophomore years, so today we showed what our team has as juniors and seniors."
Senior Teddy Long recorded a hat trick and senior Austin Sims scored two goals for the Jesuits, who headed into the fourth quarter facing a 9-3 deficit.
"Unfortunately, lacrosse is a 48-minute game and we only played well for 12 minutes," said Fairfield Prep coach Chris Smalkais, whose squad posted a 12-11 regular-season victory against the Cards. "We were playing with energy, but they were winning every single matchup, every single loose ball and every defensive matchup."
Trailing 9-3, the Jesuits worked their way back into the game on goals by senior Burke Smith, Long and Sims. Senior Stephen Walsh tallied in transition and Long put a shot from close in past GHS goalie Tommy Rogan, making it 9-8 with 1:08 remaining in the final quarter. The Jesuits had an opportunity to tie the score, but the Cardinals forced a turnover with 22 seconds remaining, then ran out the clock.
"They made their run at the end because they are a good lacrosse team, but we didn't panic," GHS senior defender Jack Harrington said. "We weathered the storm and held on at the end. It was the opposite when we went up there. We tried to come back, but came up short. It was our turn today."
Junior Pat Lambert tallied and Sims scored off a catch-and-shoot off a feed from Smith, putting Fairfield Prep on top, 2-0, 3:13 into the opening quarter.
It was all Greenwich for the remainder of the first half. Perry scored on a dodge and junior attack James Tooher converted a shot off a feed from Sam Saleeby, tying the score at 2-2. The home team outscored the Jesuits 3-0 during the second quarter, getting a man-up goal from Curran and a pair of goals from Finneran to claim a 5-2 edge going into halftime. Mike Sullivan, a junior, helped the Cards have several time-consuming possessions by consistently winning his faceoffs.
"Sullivan did a good job on faceoffs, we spent a lot of time on it in practice," Greenwich coach Scott Bulkley said. "Finneran also came up big, he's played great in big games for us. We put him in situations to finish shots and he's come through." Read Full Article
Said Smalkais: "They were winning the faceoffs, so we didn't have possession and they were scoring."
Finneran scored two more goals in the third quarter, while Bobby Goggin and Perry also tallied, putting Prep in a 9-3 hole. The Cardinals would have enjoyed a larger advantage if not for the strong play of Jesuits goalie John O'Connor (17 saves). The sophomore prevented GHS from breaking the game open in the fourth quarter with several outstanding saves. Rogan also turned in an impressive performance, making 10 saves.
"He played fantastic," Smalkais said of O'Connor. "He will go down as one of the best goalies ever to play at Fairfield Prep."
Senior Jack Nail, junior Griffin Tiedy, Harrington, senior Cole Perry and sophomore Danny Colligan helped lead Greenwich's defensive effort.
"Prep has a great attack, but our short sticks did a great job throughout the game," Tiedy said. "Mike did great on the faceoffs and we pulled it together at the end."
Bulkley left the game knowing how significant the triumph was.
"This is a huge program win," Bulkley said. "They have ended our season a couple of times, so this win against a great team gets us over the hump."
Class L quarterfinals at Greenwich
Greenwich 9, Fairfield Prep 8
FAIRFIELD PREP 2 0 1 5--8
GREENWICH 2 3 4 0--9
Records: Greenwich 18-3; Fairfield Prep 14-6. Scoring: FP--Teddy Long (3 g); Austin Sims (2 g); Burke Smith (1 g, 1 a); Pat Lambert (1 g); Stephen Walsh (1 g); Chris Brown (2 a); G--Luke Finneran (4 g); Will Perry (2 g, 2 a); Bobby Goggin (1 g, 1 a); James Tooher (1 g); Decker Curran (1 g, 1 a); Jamie Paradise (1 a); Sam Saleeby (1 a). Goalies: FP--John O'Connor (17 saves); G--Tommy Rogan (10 saves).