FAIRFIELD — The weather might as well have matched the mood along Fairfield Prep’s sidelines Wednesday.
On a wet, dreary evening at Rafferty Stadium, it was Hand that outplayed one of the state’s premier boys lacrosse programs from start to finish. The Tigers stunned No. 4 Prep 9-6 on Senior Night, handing the Jesuits their first loss to an in-state opponent this season.
“We’ve had close games all year,” Hand senior Nathaniel Palumbo said. “We’ve lost three games by one, actually. We know what it’s like to be in a close game. We know what it’s like to finish, and we also know what it’s like to lose. We were prepared for this, though.”
Palumbo helped the Tigers (11-5) fend off a last-ditch comeback attempt by Prep, scoring twice in the second half after their lead had been trimmed to one. He was one of three multi-goal scorers for the Tigers, joining Thomas Swank and Tyler Boris — both of whom had two goals. Mason Reale and Connor Boyle each had two goals to lead Prep.
“It was a big win for us,” Hand coach John Orlando said.
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With 2:42 remaining, Swank tallied his second goal of the game to give the Tigers a 9-6 lead and some much-needed breathing room. Up until that point, the largest lead held by either side had been two.
The Jesuits (10-5) had hoped to begin another winning streak with the SCC playoffs just around the corner. Instead, they were handed their first loss to an SCC opponent since the 2015 conference championship against Xavier, a span of 33 games. Before Wednesday, their only four losses this season were to out-of-state opponents: Chaminade (N.Y.) 9-5, Massapequa (N.Y.) 12-5, St. Anthony’s (N.Y.) 11-4, Boston College High School (Mass.) 11-8.
“They had long possessions. They had the ball a lot, so that hurt us,” Prep coach Graham Niemi said. “I don’t think we were smart when we had it. That’s what happens.”
The Tigers’ edge on faceoffs — a category in which they had an 11-6 advantage — made life difficult for Prep early. Unable to find any consistency on attack, the Jesuits watched their 3-2 lead after one quarter slip out of their hands. Second-quarter goals by Conner Bergere, Jack Flanagan and Boris (two) sent the Tigers into halftime up 6-4.
“We had this game circled all year,” Palumbo said. “Last year we took a loss to them, twice actually. We came back for redemption. Everybody played well today.”
Junior Griffin Fitzmaurice stepped up in net for Hand with nine saves. Finn O’Connor made seven stops for Prep.
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Nathaniel Palumbo, Hand: Two clutch goals in the second half by Palumbo, a senior captain, helped Hand pull off the upset.
“I just think in general, we just have to be more unselfish. That’s on me. If we don’t play well, it’s my fault. We certainly need to be more unselfish on offense and share the ball a little better. We did that when we beat New Canaan, and we haven’t done it since. We’ve got to get back to work in practice.” — Prep coach Graham Niemi
Fairfield Prep will close out the regular season on Saturday with a trip to Rutgers University to face Salesianum School (Del.). The Jesuits have yet to beat an out-of-state opponent this season in four tries.
DANIEL HAND 9, FAIRFIELD PREP 6
DANIEL HAND 2 4 1 2 — 9
FAIRFIELD PREP 3 1 1 1 — 6
Records: Hand 11-5; Prep 10-5. Scoring: H — Thomas Swank 2g, 1a; Tyler Boris 2g, 1a; Nathaniel Palumbo 2g, 2a; Mark Hartmann 1g; Conner Bergere 1g; Jack Flanagan 1g, 1a; Ryley Brohel 1a. P — Mason Reale 2g, 1a; Connor Boyle 2g; Thomas Walton 1g; Peter Kavanaugh 1g; Jae Young Stuhlman 1a. Goalies: H — Griffin Fitzmaurice (9 saves); P — Finn O’Connor (7). Shots: H — 23; P — 27.