Choose your overused cliché because each would be an appropriate summation of today’s “Battle of the Sound” opener between Manhasset and host Darien.
When it was over, the Indians celebrated like they had just won a state championship. The Blue Wave, on the other hand, had the look of a boxer who had just gone the distance in a title bout but couldn’t believe the final scorecards.
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That’s because Connor English’s fifth goal of the game, with 1:51 remaining, lifted Manhasset, the No. 5 team in this week’s LaxLessons Top 25 regional rankings, to a 14-13 win over No. 2 Darien.
This game had a little bit of everything, but that shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise considering it marked the third high-scoring one-goal game in the last four years between the two national powers.
“That’s the way lacrosse was designed to be played — up-tempo with a lot of up and down the field,” Darien coach Jeff Brameier said. “There was a lot of great talent on both sides of the ball for both teams.”
But to hear English say it, from the Manhasset standpoint, Saturday’s game was all about getting back on the horse that bucked ya. Manhasset (5-1) was coming off an 11-10 overtime loss to Comeswogue, a game the Indians think they should have won.
“Comeswogue was a good team, but it was sort of a trap game for us. We may have been looking ahead to today,” said English, who has 24 goals in six games this season. “This is a really nice win for us. To beat a top team in the country like Darien leaves you feeling pretty good. This goes way beyond my expectations. After they put a whoopin’ on us last year, we knew we had to play four hard quarters today.”
English was a one-man wrecking crew in the first half, scoring four goals. Both Manhasset coach Bill Cherry and Darien’s Brameier said they were basically in awe of the University of Virginia-bound attackman.
“Connor is the most complete player I have ever seen,” Cherry said. “He is our heart and soul and you would be hard-pressed to name a player who can change a game better than he can.”
Added Brameier: “Connor was the man today. We had no answers to stop him.”
Against most teams, English’s first-half explosion would probably have been more than enough to lead to a win, but Darien (1-1) isn’t most teams. Middie John Bolton scored his fourth goal of the first half with 37 seconds left and the teams went into the break tied at 7.
Enter Case Matheis, freshman attackman extraordinaire. You know, the little kid who is trying to fill the gigantic shoes of All-State attackman Nikki Dysenchuk, who is probably going to miss at least the entire regular season with a torn ACL suffered during football season.
Two things had been constant in the 25 seasons prior to 2009: Brameier was Darien’s coach and no freshman had ever started for the Blue Wave. Well, so much for Year 26 of the Brameier regime because Matheis is off to the kind of start that may one day be remembered as a blip in an extraordinary high school career.
Matheis’ 24 incredible minutes pretty much got the Blue Wave faithful worrying less about when Dysenchuk’s likely return date will be and thinking more about a tiny kid who floats around the crease and leaves little doubt when the ball lands in his stick.
Matheis matched English with five goals, only his last four came in the second half as his team battled to take back the momentum Manhasset appeared to grab in the third quarter. The Indians built leads of 10-8, 11-9 and 12-10, but Matheis twice pulled the Blue Wave to within one and then tied the game at 13 with 2:35 to play in the fourth.
Matheis, all of two games as a varsity starter, is a keeper and soon-to-be a household name in Fairfield lacrosse circles and beyond. He has eight goals in his two varsity appearances and is quickly developing into just the target teammate Tyler Foley will need going forward.
Foley, though, didn’t do much today as Manhasset pole Bradley Cappellini locked things down and held him scoreless.
Cappellini was one of the best players on the field. Besides holding Foley at bay, the Harvard-bound defender scored a rare goal, taking a looping pass from goalie Jack Meyer and lasering a righty blast into the upper right corner of the cage midway through the fourth to give Manhasset its 12-10 lead.
Then, with Manhasset up one in the final seconds, Cappellini stripped Foley as the Loyola-bound attackman drove to the cage.
“We got work done today,” Cappellini said. “We learned a little more about who we are. This was a must-win game and we did what we had to do to pull it out.”
Jeff Molinari (Harvard) added three goals and was basically a nuisance all over the field all day for Manhasset, which pleased Cherry with its mental toughness following the loss to Comeswogue.
“We knew that one loss wasn’t going to end our season,” Cherry said.
On the contrary, one win may have completely changed it.
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