Quite a day of lacrosse Saturday at McMahon’s Jack Casagrande Field: a comeback, a spectacular set of stops, and a near-comeback for the ages.
A few thoughts after three finals:
1) TAKEAWAY DELETED: Confession time: The one thing written for this spot Friday night was “We got the game of the year. Of course, we got it Wednesday in the semifinals.”
Forgive us, Ridgefield, we of little faith (and of “wouldn’t a ‘Division I,’ best-of-the-best tournament be the best, like, in all sports” faith). But after waiting since Darien moved up to Class L in 2015 for another Darien-New Canaan CIAC matchup… well, ctrl-A, delete.
Ridgefield’s 9-8 win over the Blue Wave in the Class L final, in which the Tigers stall-warninged their way to leads of 8-2 and 9-3 before Darien nearly came all the way back, was a beauty.
2) STALL/LIFT: Ridgefield could not have executed better for three quarters-plus before the Blue Wave’s desperate charge made it a game. The Tigers patiently ran the ball around the Darien end nearly every possession, waiting for a stall warning and beyond. One possession in the third quarter lasted over seven minutes.
“We came out with a plan to grind them down and to really make them feel the heat and feel the grind each possession, and we really stuck to our plan,” said Ridgefield midfielder Greg Gatto, and in the afternoon sun, with humidity and temperatures around 80, players on all six teams Saturday felt it.
“Everyone did their part. I’d say our team was greater than the sum of our parts.”
3) EVEN DARIEN CAN’T TURN THE BALL OVER: Through three quarters, Darien was credited with a 9-3 edge in faceoffs. But through three quarters, the Blue Wave had turned the ball over eight times against just two for Ridgefield. Throw in the Tigers’ waiting for the officials to yell “keep it in,” and an early fourth-quarter Blue Wave possession felt nearly euphoric just because they had the ball for more than a few seconds.
4) BEAUTIFUL DOWNTOWN… Kyle Burbank’s six first-quarter saves let St. Joseph get through 12 minutes with a 3-0 lead in the Class S final. Somers outshot the Cadets 11-4 in that quarter. Think the day might have been different without him? “That’s what a Division I goalie looks like,” St. Joseph defender Phil Pasmeg said after an 11-6 win. “That’s all I can say.”
5) DRAW: Hand built a 7-4 halftime lead on New Fairfield in the Class M final in no small part because an assortment of Rebels had no answer for All-SCC faceoff man Mark Hartmann. Their other close CIAC playoff game, in the quarters against Guilford, was close because of faceoffs.
Momentum swung in the third when they beat him four times.
“We knew I wasn’t really winning the clamp, because the guy was really good,” said New Fairfield freshman Matt Constantinides said. “So basically what we were doing was playing more of a defensive way, so he would win the clamp, and then we would have our wings clear the box and come down on the faceoff guy. I would make sure he wouldn’t go forward, or that he was having trouble going out.”
Hartmann was credited with seven of eight draws in the fourth, though Tigers turnovers after those wins were costly in New Fairfield’s 13-11 win.
6) UPPER HAND, STILL: Hand was already the first school in the CIAC-sanction era (since 1995) to reach three finals in a row without winning one. Saturday made four. Six other schools reached a fruitless final twice in a row. Two of them won the next year, Weston in Class S in 2010 and Fairfield Prep in Class L in 2012. (The Jesuits had won four before their two-year drought, then won twice in a row after.)
7) NO REPEAT: It’s the first time since 2014 that no champion repeated. Of course, it’s the first time since 2013 that Darien didn’t win, so, that’s kind of obvious. But all three 2016 winners won in 2017, too. (New Canaan’s move up, obviously, made three threepeats impossible.)
Somers’ loss means there are still just four CIAC championship streaks of more than two years: Darien’s runs of six (2005-10) and four (2014-17), Fairfield Prep’s four (2006-09) and New Canaan’s just-ended three.
8) ALVITI ALL OVER: Hand senior attackman Nate Palumbo had four goals in the quarterfinals and two in the semis. He had one Saturday, and that came while New Fairfield junior defender Nick Alviti was assigned elsewhere.
9) BRIGHT FUTURE: Seniors Jared Mallozzi and Matt Labash created offense as usual for St. Joseph in the Class S final, scoring four and three respectively. Mallozzi’s third goal, cutting in from the left on a six-on-seven (Somers was to be called for offside, so kept that man in the play), made it 6-4 Cadets, and he scored again off a Labash setup soon after. But the Cadets stretched that lead to 9-4 off two Declan McGinley setups, one to Cole daSilva, one to Jack Carpenter. That’s three sophomores there.
10) STREAKS: With Darien’s 76-game streak over, the longest active winning streak in the state goes to New Fairfield (22). St. Joseph and Ridgefield stand at four.
“I’ve visualized this moment every night before I went to bed the past four years,” Gatto said. “It’s unbelievable.”
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