Guys, the conference championships are in the books. That means that its time to take a look at the Connecticut state championships, which started yesterday with some outbracket matchups. Classes L and M are previewed below the fold, with an overview of Class S.
Connecticut state tournament schedule:
The Favorite: Darien
June 10, 2004. On that date, Darien lost its last state playoff game, an 8-6 heartbreaker to archrival New Canaan.
Since then, Brameiers boys have cast a long, wave-shaped shadow over Connecticut high school lacrosse, racking up a quartet of pristine CIAC postseasons and dispatching championship game opponents with ease. Its difficult to see this years squad breaking with tradition. Junior goalie Andrew West, Hofstra-bound Corey Caputo and Ohio State recruit Matt Gorski headline a suffocating defense; against instate competition, they have allowed on average just three goals per game. And with a fairly easy draw, the Blue Wave should coast to the June 13 finale. As they say in Darien: death, taxes, and Class M state championships.
The Challenger: New Canaan
Under Howard Benedict, New Canaan was renowned for physical, efficient defensive play. Under Alex Whitten, little has changed. Spearheaded by mighty mite Kevin Campbell (who allowed one goal in two tilts with Matt White), the Rams junior poles have kept New Canaan afloat through a turbulent regular season. With stud sophomore Joe Costigan and the offense coming to life, the Rams could be dangerous. The one caveat: their draw, which will pit them against New Fairfield in the quarters and Wilton in the semis.
The Wild Card: New Fairfield
New Fairfield was left for dead after the graduation of all-everything (and current Duke phenom) C.J. Costabile. But with grit, hustle and Andrew Fiamengos wizardry at attack, the Rebels have turned in yet another perfect regular season. Coach Marty Morgan pulled his first trick by transforming a quaint, blue collar village into a lacrosse hotbed; his second, a state championship run through Connecticuts Big Three, would be positively Houdiniesque.
The Dark Horse: Wilton
Dariens 11-3 dismantling of Wilton in the FCIAC semifinals certainly dulled the championship buzz. But dont count the Warriors out yet the talent is there. If the squads slew of sophomores (Dunn, Francia, Serpa and Melillo) can provide Bryant-bound attackman Pete McMahon some much-needed help on the offensive end, Year One of the John Wiseman reclamation project might yield CIAC hardware. And even if it doesnt, count on lockdown defenseman Joe LaSala and goalie James Fuller to guide the Warriors to their first final four since 2005.
Players to Watch
Nikki Dysenchuk, A (Darien) The Blue Waves offensive glue guy returned to action in the FCIAC quarterfinals. Bad news for opposing defenses, who must already cope with Bolton, Brickman, Foley and Matheis.
Jimmy Joe Granito, G (New Canaan) The Rams sophomore netminder has been stellar this season, ably replacing the departed Fergus Campbell. Should New Canaan meet Darien in the finals, Bolton & Co. will not intimidate him.
Matt Dunn, M (Wilton) The workhorse sophomore was the lone bright spot in last Junes blowout loss to Darien. His nose for groundballs and transition abilities will be an invaluable complement to go-to-guy McMahon.
The Favorite: Ridgefield
Roy Colseys Greatest Show on Turf scored early and often in 2009, fueled by four Division I-bound seniors and a devastating transition game. Much has been said of Matt White, of course, but the Tigers other two dervishes at attack Denver commit Colin Scott and junior Mike Galione merit attention. And at midfield, Brendan Walshs (Fairfield) athleticism and killer bounce shot have earned him a spot amongst the areas best. The most important piece in Ridgefields unfinished business puzzle, however, may very well be goalie Jake Hyatts switch from links to lax. His clutch saves and quick outlets have helped to preserve the Tigers perfect instate record.
The Challenger: Fairfield Prep
For longtime observers of Connecticut lacrosse, the Jesuits regular season travails are nothing new. Chris Smalkais squad wins when it counts, though, and Prep prefaced its pursuit of a fourpeat in 2009 by sailing through the SCC tournament. Look for Tucker Shanley, Chase Bailey and juniors Brendan Rotanz, Peter Gruppo and Mike Carey to continue the teams trademark offensive fireworks into the state playoffs. And circle this date: June 11. If Fairfield Prep and Ridgefield survive early challenges, a rematch of last seasons 15-14 barnburner will take place in the Class L semifinals.
The Best of the Rest:
Cheshire Past is prologue for the Rams, who sport a trio of familiar names: Heritage, Carisio and Gaudio. Doesnt ring a bell? All three had brothers with starring roles on Cheshires 2002 championship team. To reprise that feat, Rich Puliscianos bunch will need to hope that the third times the charm against the Jesuits, who have tamed the Rams twice this season.
Greenwich Plagued by injuries and inexperience, the Cardinals staggered to a 10-7 finish in 09. But with Connecticuts top goalie between the pipes, Greenwich should make noise. An easy draw will help matters.
Simsbury The Trojans shrugged off some high-profile graduations and notched a 13-5 record, including wins over Prep and McMahon. Salisbury-bound middie Paul Gallagher bears watching.
New Milford 64 dynamo Phil Dobson (Loyola) is the teams unquestioned star, but Drew Haig (Hartford) and junior Brandon Kuring can also light up the scoreboard. A shame, then, that Ridgefield awaits in Round 2.
Newtown The Nighthawks have one of Connecticuts most underrated talents in Delaware-bound pole Kyle McNamara, MVP of the teams upset victory over New Fairfield. That likely wont be enough. Scrappy Staples (skippered by former Wilton coach Paul McNulty) looms as a classic trap game in the first round.
Players to Watch
Matt Baker, M (Ridgefield) The Colgate commit does not get the publicity that White and Walsh do, but he does it all defense, groundballs, scoring and passing. His fast break assist sealed Ridgefields FCIAC championship victory.
Chase Bailey, A (Fairfield Prep) The Jesuits smooth attackman crushed Ridgefields title aspirations with an overtime goal in 2008. If Prep is going to spring the upset this year, Bailey will need to score in bunches.
Todd Heritage, A (Cheshire) Heritage has done everything for the Rams, tallying 66 goals and dishing out 56 assists. If Cheshire plays spoiler at states, this junior attackman will be a major reason why.
Class S Overview
With Westons Tom Montelli and New Fairfields C.J. Costabile safely ensconced in Durham, N.C., Class S returned to a state of relative parity this season. No preseason favorites. No all-world longpoles. And, presumably, no championship game routs. Instead, Connecticuts small school title sports a jumble of familiar names and new faces former champions, developing programs and young coaching talent.
Led by seniors Cody Hickock and Drew Scharf, Reddings Joel Barlow High looks to be the tentative favorite entering the postseason. Their likely championship game opponent? The battle-tested Weston Trojans, 5-4 upset victors over the Falcons in the SWC quarterfinals. Also in the mix are the St. Joes Cadets (three time semifinal losers), who notched quality wins over McMahon and Staples in the regular season, and the top-seeded Granby Bears, who amassed a gaudy record against featherweight competition. Expect a battle royale on June 11, when St. Joe’s seeks to end its finale futility against traditional power Barlow.
Comments? Insights? Predictions?
Reach Conor at email@example.com.
Posted In: Fairfield lacrosse