MADISON – For the third consecutive spring, Hand will be playing in the CIAC Class M boys’ lacrosse semifinals.
The sixth-seeded Tigers (12-7) made it look very easy Saturday afternoon in routing 19th-seeded Pomperaug, 16-0, at the Surf Club in the quarterfinals.
Hand will play 10th-seeded New Fairfield Wednesday in the semifinals at a site and time to be determined. New Fairfield shocked second-seeded Guilford, 10-9, in overtime Saturday afternoon.
“We’re in the semifinals, but the job isn’t done yet,” Hand coach Paul Deon said. “We were on the wrong side in the state championship game last year (a 10-5 loss to New Canaan) and we want to get back there.”
It was all Hand from the very start as the Tigers took advantage of the speed of their attack.
“From top to bottom, we played well,” Deon said. “They had five to six good looks. We did a tremendous job riding and clearing and we ran our offense.”
Pomperaug couldn’t stay with the wings on the sides of the field and the Panthers paid for it dearly. It was the first shutout for Hand this year and the first time the Panthers were shut out.
“They really dominated the ground balls,” Pomperaug coach Chris Grassi said. “On a hot day like this they were able to possess the ball throughout the first half and that was a big advantage.”
Lucas Mendicino, who scored four of his game-high five goals in the opening 12 minutes, was able to race out from in back of the net and beat Pomperaug goalkeeper John Funk four times. Meanwhile, George McGuirk had two assists and added a goal as Hand took a 6-0 lead after one quarter.
“We got going on the attack with me and George McGuirk,” Mendicino said. “We work a strong two-man game all around.”
Mendicino added that the Hand seniors were mentally ready to play a string game Saturday.
“We came out different mentally,” he said. “It’s the last game we’ll ever wear a white jersey and playing at Strong Field was special.”
In the second quarter, it became obvious there was a huge spread between the two teams as Pomperaug struggled to get possession of the ball. When the Panthers did, a Tiger defender was nearby to knock the ball away with a stick.
“We told them early to press and take risks by getting on their hands,” Deon said.
“It was tough to get the possessions we did,” Grassi said. “We weren’t capitalizing on our guys cutting backdoor and moving into opening space on the field. Their defense did a good job plugging up those gaps.”
Four different Hand players scored in the second quarter as the Tigers grabbed a 10-0 lead at halftime.
A pair of goals by the Tigers in the opening 3:11 of the third quarter pushed the lead to 12-0 and initiated the running clock to speed up the game.
Deon pulled his starters in the fourth quarter with the reserves getting most of the playing time.
Hand outshot Pomperaug, 31-21. Eric Lyons had 7 saves and Mason Feiner 1 for Hand, while John Funk recorded 5 saves for the Panthers.
Hand 16, Pomperaug 0
Pomperaug 0 0 0 0 — 0
Hand 6 4 2 4 — 16
Goals: (HD) Lucas Mendicino 5; Zach Santoemma 2; Liam Gottlick 2; George McGuirk 2; Chris Gallagher 1; Nate Palumbo 1; Michael Bartosic 1; Teg Cosgriff 1; Reid Sweitzer 1;
Assists: (HD) George McGuirk 3; Nate Palumbo 1;
Saves: (HD) Eric Lyons 7; Mason Feiner 1; (PM) John Funk 5;
Shots—PM: 21; HD: 31;
Team records—Hand 12-7; Pomperaug 9-10