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Thursday, March 22 Sports

Fairfield's 5 Wonderful Winter Winners

To single out the top teams among Fairfield Ludlowe, Fairfield Warde, Fairfield Prep and Notre Dame-Fairfield from the past winter sports season is no easy task. And it is fraught with claims of subjective analysis, when the intention is to undergo this endeavor with an objective eye.

If these words have a familiar ring, that's because they are essentially what was written for this column's debut in the autumn for the Fall Fab Five.

Here we go:

High honorable mention (a complete honorable mention list would take up the entire sports section):

Notre Dame-Fairfield boys basketball (17-6). A 1-3 start wasn't unfathomable for the Lancers because veteran coach Vin Laczkoski had to replace a pair of 1,000-point scorers from 2013's graduation. Once the half-court offense was restructured, and the players became comfortable with the new look, Notre Dame hit its stride. The Lancers won 13 in a row from Jan. 7-Feb. 19. The Lancers were the No. 2 seed in Class M and beat Plainfield in the second round before being eliminated by No. 7 Waterford in the quarterfinals. Notre Dame was the No. 1 seed in the SWC tournament (13-1) but lost in the first round. Senior Jaylen Jennings was named All-SWC, and juniors CJ Davidson and Jake Heaton showed they could be candidates for all-conference honors in 2014-15.

Fairfield co-op skiing girls (19-0, Class L, State Open champs). The skiers from Ludlowe and Warde were defending State Open and Class L champions from 2013. The girls were led this winter by junior Sarah Mason, who placed fifth at the Open. Other top racers were Sydney Burton, Megan O'Hare, Lauren Craighead, Flossie Dewar and Kaylie Minogue.

Fairfield Warde girls basketball (16-7). The Mustangs enjoyed a pair of five-game winning streaks and another of four games, going 15-5 in the regular season and earning the No. 14 seed in Class LL. For the first time in five years, Warde both qualified for FCIAC tournament and won a CIAC state tournament game. The Mustangs, who lost their FCIAC quarterfinal, beat Trumbull in a first-round state game but were eliminated by No. 3 seed Mercy in the second round. Senior Kaitlin McKenna was named first-team All-FCIAC, and senior Tiara Fountain was a third-team choice.

Fairfield Ludlowe girls basketball (15-7). The Falcons, with just three seniors, earned a seven-game winning streak after their season had opened at 6-0. They were 15-5 in the regular season, but were eliminated in the first round of the conference and Class LL playoffs as the No. 15 seed. Senior Pauline Blatt and junior Caroline Pangallo were named second-team All-FCIAC.

Fairfield Ludlowe gymnastics (FCIAC runner-up, 3rd Class L). Junior Perry Kindel became the first gymnast in school history to qualify for the New England Championships, where she placed third on the beam, which she did at the State Open in a tie. Kindel, sophomore Nicole Huntsman and junior Jordan Feeney were all first-team All-FCIAC; juniors Cate Seymour and Kate Palmer were second-team all-conference. Kindel and Huntsman were named first-team All-State, Feeney second team.

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Fairfield Ludlowe wrestling (22-3; 4th FCIAC; 6th Class L; 15th State Open). Milestones across the board were achieved as far as overall record and team placing in championship meets, though they were sixth in L in 2008, too. Junior George Wales was sixth at the State Open at 106 pounds after winning Class L and finishing as runner-up at the FCIACs. Sophomore Chase Lind won the FCIAC championship at 145 pounds, and placed fifth in Class L. Senior Ben Batulanon was the conference and Class L runner-up at 120 pounds while placing fifth at the State Open. Senior Eric Kirchgasser placed third both in the FCIACs and Class L at 113. Sophomore Bobby Clark was fifth at 132 in Class L and fourth at the FCIACs. Sophomore Marcus Sherrod was fourth at 126 in the conference championships and in the state tournament.

The Fab Five

Wonderful Winter Winners:

5. Notre Dame-Fairfield boys ice hockey (18-5-1). No. 1 CIAC Division I state tournament. The Lancers' 11-game winning streak ended with two late goals in the state semifinals against Darien in a 3-1 loss. Notre Dame had won the inaugural Division I title of the new combined SCC/SWC conference. The Lancers took their No. 1 state seeding and beat No. 16 St. Joseph 7-2 in the first round. Their quarterfinal performance was dominant in a 11-1 thrashing of No. 8 East Haven. Senior forward Christian La Croix not only was named first-team All-State, he was also the Division I MVP, as selected by the Connecticut High School Coaches Association. He was a first-team choice for SCC/SWC postseason honors as well. The Lancers were 3-3-0 after a 5-2 loss to Fairfield Prep on Jan. 9, then went 4-1-1 before starting their 11-game spree.

4. Fairfield Warde wrestling (20-3). FCIAC runner-up; Class L runner-up; 3rd State Open. Senior heavyweight (285 pounds) Ahmed Hourani was one step from completing a perfect season. He lost the New England Championships to finish 2013-14 at 46-1 after winning titles at the State Open, Class L and the FCIAC Championships. His career record was 105-6 in three years of varsity competition. Freshman Tim Kane (40-5) won the FCIAC Championship at 113 pounds and was runner-up in Class L and the State Open. Junior Daniel Ebert (45-5) was conference runner-up at 126 pounds before winning Class L and finishing third at the State Open. Kane and Ebert qualified for the New Englands. Sophomore Jack Price (37-12) was third at the conference championship meet at 106 pounds and sixth in Class L. Senior Dylan Bender (38-7), who surpassed 100 career victories in January, was Class L silver medalist at 138 after winning it all at the FCIACs. Senior Colin Venura (33-12) won the FCIAC crown at 160 pounds, then placed fourth in Class L. Junior Aaron Beinstein (32-17) was fourth at the state tournament at 132 pounds. And senior Anthony Rotz (34-14) placed fourth both in the FCIACs and Class L at 152 pounds. The Mustangs were rated No. 5 in the final statewide poll.

3. Fairfield Prep boys swimming and diving (11-1). SCC champions; Class LL, State Open runner-up. The Jesuits dominated the SCC regular season, going undefeated and winning the conference championship meet. They lost to Greenwich in the Class LL championships and State Open, finishing runner-up in each. Eleven Jesuits were named All-SCC. Prep's 200-yard freestyle relay of seniors Nicholas Wargo, Brandon Cole and Bjorn Davis and junior Bryce Keblish won the State Open in a new state record after finishing second to Greenwich in the class meet. The 400 free relay (Wargo, Cole, Davis, Keblish) was runner-up to Greenwich in both state meets. Its Open time of 3:01.08 beat the previous state record. Prep's 200-yard medley relay of seniors John Hoin, Stuart Stritzel and Andrew McPhee and sophomore Guido Balderrama was runner-up to Greenwich in Class LL and fourth at the State Open. Wargo won the 200 free in both state meets and placed fourth in both in the 100 free. Keblish won the 200 individual medley in Class LL but was runner-up at the Open; he was second in the 100 butterfly in Class LL but won it at the State Open, with Hoin placing seventh. Cole was runner-up in Class LL in the 500 free and fourth at the State Open; he placed fifth in the LL and Open 200 IM. Davis fashioned similar places in both state meets in the 50 free (second) and 100 free (third).

2. Fairfield Prep ice hockey (16-4-3). No. 3 Divsion I state tournament. The Jesuits won their 16th state title with a 2-1 overtime victory over Darien on a goal by Vincent D'Amore, their third state championship in four years. They did it the hard way, by reloading after graduation claimed the bulk of their primary players from 2012-13. It took some growing pains. Prep stood 3-2-1 on Jan. 9 then finished out the regular season on a 9-2-2 run. The Jesuits beat No. 14 Hamden 5-1 in the first round, then No. 6 Glastonbury 4-3 in the quarterfinals. An overtime goal by Matt Wikman propelled Prep past Notre Dame-West Haven 4-3 in the semifinals. Junior defenseman Brendan Killoy and senior forward Wikman were named first-team All-State.

1. Fairfield Prep basketball (27-1). No. 1 seed SCC tournament, No.1 seed Class LL tournament. The Jesuits' mission this winter simply was to capture it all for their first Class LL state title since 1997 and third overall. After claiming their first SCC championship, they made it to the state finals, opened a 47-29 lead over Bridgeport Central at halftime, then fell apart in the third quarter, reacting to the Hilltoppers' 2-2-1 press as though they had no idea. Prep lost 76-73, a similar fate it encountered in the 2013 final against Hillhouse and the 2011 championship game against St. Joseph. Paschal Chukwu, a 7-foot-2 center headed to Providence next year, and Keith Pettway, a guard, were named first-team all-division in the SCC's Quinnipiac Division. Prep was considered the top team in Connecticut in the statewide poll from the season's start. Maybe an ingredient was missing, maybe Bridgeport Central is the only team in the state better, or maybe a different format such as a playoff series would have proven the Jesuits as the class of Connecticut.