RIDGEFIELD — Led by goalie Timmy Luciano, defense has been the spine of the Staples boys lacrosse team this season.
But after the Wreckers allowed five goals in the opening half of Saturday’s Class L state quarterfinal game against reigning champion Ridgefield, first-year coach Will Koshansky turned chiropractor.
“We needed an adjustment,” Koshansky said. “We switched a couple of matchups and settled in on defense and made the plays we had to.”
Staples held top-seed Ridgefield to one goal in the final two quarters, rallying from a 5-3 halftime deficit to beat the Tigers 8-6 and advance to the final four.
The eighth-seeded Wreckers will now face fourth-seed Darien in a semifinal game Wednesday at a site and time to be announced.
“I’ve got a big senior class,” Koshansky said. “I’ve got 20 seniors that … they talk about it in practice … want to earn more time together. They weren’t going to have the season end today.”
Charlie Howard’s goal off a loose ball, hot-potato sequence that included a kick pass cut Ridgefield’s lead to 5-4 with 9:24 left in the third quarter. Teammate Kyle Hines followed with the tying goal just over two minutes later.
Shortly after he zinged a shot off the crossbar, Weston Carpenter took a pass from Ryan Colsey and cranked a low shot into the Staples net to put Ridgefield ahead 6-5 with 5:02 left in the third.
The Tigers didn’t score again, and one big reason was the play of Staples senior defenseman Donny Macaluso.
“Donny Macaluso … in my opinion he’s an All-American defenseman,” Koshansky said. “We made a switch and put him on one of their guys for the second half and Donny turned him over four or five times. They struggled to generate looks because any time Donny’s guy got the ball he was going after it.”
“We weren’t happy with how we played on defense in the first half,” Macaluso said. “We knew we had to tighten up and not give Ridgefield as much space to shoot, and I thought we did a good job with that in the second half.”
Staples tied the score at 6-6 on Hines’ second goal with 9.1 seconds left in the third period. The Wreckers then controlled the opening faceoff of the fourth quarter and went ahead when Henry Beck converted a pass from Hines less than a minute into the period.
After both goalies — Ridgefield’s Dan Parson and Staples’ Luciano — made impressive saves, William Stack got past a defender and scored to give the Wreckers an 8-6 lead with 4:47 to play.
Continuing a game-long trend, Staples and Ridgefield treated ball possession as if it were merely one-tenth of the law in the final few minutes. Following two turnovers by each team, Staples called a timeout with 53.4 seconds remaining. Ridgefield forced one last turnover but then gifted the ball back to the Wreckers, who ran out the clock.
“We were just so sloppy,” Ridgefield coach Roy Colsey said. “We lacked the ability to make even medium-sized plays. In these tight games you have to make them … when it came down to it, Staples made more of them than we did.
“We had the two-goal lead but we came out of the locker room knowing we had to win another 24 minutes. And we didn’t. We won 24 minutes and they won 24 minutes .. we just won our 24 minutes by less.”
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Donny Macaluso, Staples: The senior was a beast on defense in the second half, forcing several turnovers as the Wreckers held Ridgefield to one goal over the final two quarters.
“Tiger Hollow (Ridgefield’s home stadium) is always a tough place to play at, but in that last game (Ridgefield’s 5-4 regular-season win over Staples on April 23) we were so close that I wasn’t nervous today. Even when we were down two at halftime I knew we could come back.” — Staples coach Will Koshansky