It’s the year they’ve been waiting for.
For a group of more than a dozen New Fairfield seniors, 2019 will represent the end of a remarkable journey that produced the best lacrosse team the town has ever seen. The majority of the group will head off to college to compete across the country.
Eight seniors — Goalie Brennan Hart (Bryant), defensemen Zach Buffington (Hartford) and Nick Alviti (Vermont), midfielders James Leary (Robert Morris) and Liam Ford (Cortland), and attackers John Morgan (Sacred Heart), Brett Tenaglia (Furman) and Dylan Hanley (Western New England) — will continue their careers after June.
“It’s just awesome,” Alviti said. “I think why its so amazing is we’ve just been together for so long. I look around I see my best buds since I remember. There’s always been a lacrosse season and this being our last one is really special.”
That doesn’t count outstanding faceoff man Matt Constantinides, who will likely follow. One of the best in the state as a sophomore, Constantinides has the potential to be an impact player once winning the draw.
“It’s a commitment,” Morgan said. “You’re on your own, you’re not with your team. He’s taken the reins and gone to so many of these clinics and worked his butt off. Guys will tell you (that you) have to do 100-150 reps every day.”
It’s something that’s an annual tradition for its Gold Coast counterparts, but in Morgan’s 25-plus year run with the program, this is a class that may not be seen again for quite some time.
All but one starter (Matt Carlucci) returns for New Fairfield, which won the SWC and Class M championships a year ago. More than a decade’s worth of experience playing with one another has led to more wins than losses.
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Alviti and Leary were each named CHSLCA all-Americans last season as the Rebels went 22-0. Seven from last year’s squad were first team All-State.
The Rebels — who finished No. 2 in last year’s state poll as the only undefeated team — will have a chance to prove their mettle against several strong opponents and earn the monicker as ‘the top team in the state.’ That includes a season-opening visit to Lincoln-Sudbury (Mass), which won three straight state championships from 2015-17.
“You can’t let your guard down, everybody wants to beat you now,” said Morgan. “It’s hard to defend a title; I tell them all the time every game is going be someone else’s championship. I can honestly say for the last two years these guys have gone above and beyond. Their effort has always exceeded everything.”
Perhaps the game of the season comes April 4 when nationally-ranked Anthony’s travels to Sacred Heart University for a neutral-site game at John Morgan’s future home. Matchups against Staples, Glastonbury and Stepinac (New York) also dot the schedule.
“We’ve been saying for how long that we’re just as good as anyone,” Alviti said. “In youth we played all the teams we can’t play against in high school; we’ve beat them. We’re just happy getting the strength of the schedule coach Morgan has worked so hard to put together.”
Having many of these showdowns early in the season could benefit the Rebels, who likely have reached maximum chemistry.
“We’re definitely in a better position preseason than most teams because of all the guys I have returning,” Morgan said. “But I don’t take anything for granted … we are playing against a lot of great teams.”
The SWC and Class M tournament may seem an anticlimax after a brutal schedule, but the chance to sign off careers with three conference and two state titles would be quite the legacy.
“We look at it that last year was last year,” Alviti said. “It was amazing obviously we didn’t lose a game but we’re in the same mindset of going into every game trying to win. We’re more hungry with the schedule that we have.”