GREENWICH — Friday marked the Brunswick School lacrosse team’s season-opener, but it already resembled a squad in midseason-form.
Following a training trip to Florida, the Bruins showed they were primed to pick up right where they left off last season, when they proved they were one of the elite teams in the nation.
Entering halftime with an eight-goal lead, while not yielding a single tally, Brunswick began its season in eye-opening fashion, rolling to a 13-2 win over visiting William Penn Charter School from Philadelphia.
“Our season-opener was great, it was better than I anticipated,” Brunswick coach David Bruce said. “We played pretty well in Florida leading up to this game. We have a lot of speed this year and it showed.”
Outstanding goaltending, crisp ball movement, effective defensive play — a lot of the Bruins’ strengths surfaced in their first game of their 2019 campaign.
“I feel like we started off really well, the defense was lock down throughout the game and the offense was moving the ball well and cutting for each other well,” Brunswick senior tri-captain Christian Ronda said. “Everyone works for each other’s shots. No one is selfish with the ball and that made the offense flow really well.”
Brunswick finished its dominant 2018 season with a record of 16-1, earning them a No. 5 ranking nationally in the US Lacrosse poll. The Bruins also claimed a share of the Western New England Division I title.
“We are very determined to have another great season,” Ronda said. “Our team wants to keep the tradition going every year.”
Ronda, an attackman, registered two goals and two assists, junior attack Michael Mauricio recorded a hat trick and Coulter Mackesy (sophomore attack) and Brody Firestein (junior midfielder) each tallied twice for the victors.
The Bruins were especially sparked by senior goalie/tri-captain Christian Barnard, who made eight saves in three shutout quarters of action.
Barnard, who is beginning his first season as the squad’s starting goalie, credited the defenders in front of him for their support.
“They are very important, obviously I wouldn’t have had the shutout if they didn’t give up those outside shots, which are easy to see and save,” Barnard said. “I feel I am well-prepared to save those shots from 15 yards out. Today was a good day, we were all pumped up and everyone did a really nice job.”
Added senior defender/tri-captain Ian Murray: “We have a fantastic defense this year. Having a great goalie gives us the confidence to push out the attack on every offense we see. We believe we can put our good athletes on any attack in the nation.”
Ranked No. 11 in the Under Armour/Inside Lacrosse national poll, the Bruins received goals from Firestein and Mauricio in the first quarter on Friday. In the second quarter, six different players got shots past Penn Charter’s goalie and Brunswick went into halftime with a commanding 8-0 advantage.
“Our team did a really good job of getting ground balls, swarming and on offense, we started to connect on passes later in the game,” Bruce said. “We moved the ball well and scored a bunch of goals in transition.”
AT THE HELM
Since taking over as coach of the Bruins in 2007, Bruce has guided the team to a 157-51 record, while playing a formidable schedule. Besides finishing 16-1 overall, Brunswick went 10-1 in Western New England Division I play. Numerous players have continued their lacrosse careers in college after competing at Brunswick.
Goalie Patrick Burkinshaw (120 saves last season), who earned All-America honors, graduated, as did All-America defenseman Wilson Stephenson (45 ground balls).
Also among some of the graduates from last season’s successful squad were attackman Xander Dickson (40 goals, 43 assists in 2018), midfielder Jack Ocken (16 goals, 43 ground balls), defender Chris Burdick, attack Jack Montinaro, defender Matt Restieri and faceoff specialist Jordan Ginder.
Ronda, Mackesy, Mauricio and Jeffrey Matthews are a group that should help spark the squad offensively.
Senior Cooper Moore (26 goals, eight assists, 27 ground balls in 2018), senior Michael Gottlieb and junior Liam Fairback should help anchor the midfield.
Murray, Packard, junior Logan Darrin and junior Clayton Ostrover will be relied upon to keep the opposition’s attackmen at bay.
Barnard (eight saves) had a standout game in net Friday, while senior Will Prout stopped four shots in the fourth quarter.
Like last season, when Burkinshaw was in goal, scoring on the Bruins and Barnard will be tough for the opposition.
“Barnard, our goalie, was the best player on the field today, he came up with some huge saves,” Bruce said. “Same thing as last year, it gives our defense. They can take some chances and he makes that last line of defense count.”
The Bruins should have a diversified offense, with a lot of options at attack and midfield.
QUOTABLE: “Last year we were one win away from being the best team in the country and we want to be at that No. 1 spot this year,” Ronda said.
Said Barnard: “Our team chemistry got built in Florida this past week, we did a lot of team-bonding. The practices were super intense and I was impressed with how much effort the guys were giving, which carried over into today’s game.”