Fairfield Prep senior Chris Brown, recently named a U.S. Lacrosse All-American, admitted it took a while to learn a new coaching system last season.
Graham Niemi took over for longtime coach Chris Smalkais who stepped down after the 2016 season.
“We had a new coach and had to learn a new system,” Brown said. “It was a little different, going from coach Smalkais to coach Niemi. But we bought into coach Niemi’s system. The focus was on the regular season and getting better during the regular season.
“Our energy was up and by the end of the regular season our team improved, developed and the team chemistry was there. The SCC playoffs (Southern Connecticut Conference tournament) was the first step in seeing how all the hard work would pay off. The SCC title and state title (CIAC Class L) have always been our ultimate team goals.”
The Jesuits went on to dominate SCC competition in the regular season, going 12-0 to win the regular-season title and earn the No. 1 seed for the SCC tournament. Brown, half of the Jesuits’ 1-2 scoring punch with Mitchell Savoca (65 goals, 26 assists), had four goals and five assists in a 12-8 win over Cheshire in the SCC championship game.
The Jesuits moved on to the Class L tournament where their season ended sooner than expected. Wilton defeated Prep 12-5 in the Class L quarterfinals.
The Jesuits ended up 16-4 overall.
Brown finished with 58 goals, 36 assists and 37 ground balls and for his effort this season has been named the Register All-Area boys lacrosse most valuable player.
While the loss in the Class L quarterfinals was tough for the Jesuits, Brown put the season in perspective.
“Everyone on our team wanted to end the season with a state championship,” Brown said. “The loss to Wilton was tough at the time. But looking back on it, the season overall was a success.
“Everyone played hard throughout the season including the postseason. I had a very good game that day in the SCC final, scoring four goals. It was great to contribute in that championship game.”
In a recent interview, Niemi couldn’t say enough good things about the impact Brown – and Savoca – had on the Jesuits’ season.
“It’s tough for me to talk about one of those guys without talking about the other guy,” Niemi said. “Both were incredible all year. Chris Brown had a big performance for us in the SCC championship game. He was also great in out-of-state games against St. Anthony’s (N.Y.) and Chaminade (N.Y.).”
Brown also was a standout ice hockey player for the Jesuits. He graduated Summa Cum Laude from Prep and will play lacrosse at Princeton.